In all the debate about the umpire’s move from the offensive to the defensive side of the ball, one significant point has been lost.
When the umpire’s on the defensive side of the ball and spots it, it’s not as if the quarterback can hike the ball immediately. The umpire has to back out and get into the clear the same way he does if he’s spotting it from the offensive side.
We shouldn’t be talking about a five- or six-second difference the way some critics are suggesting.
An offense generally waits for the umpire on the defensive side to get behind a linebacker, who’s 3 or 5 yards off the line of scrimmage. Try to snap it before he gets out of there and he’s really in the line of fire. He’d typically blow that attempted snap dead.
Now during the first 28 minutes of the first half and the first 25 minutes of the second half, the umpire is spotting the ball and backing out to get behind the deepest player in the offensive backfield. A running back is usually 6 or 7 yards deep.
So the time difference we are talking about is the time it takes the umpire to clear a linebacker 3 or 5 yards away and the time it takes the umpire to clear a running back 6 or 7 yards away. That shouldn't be major, should it?
I’m not a mathemagician, but I think the difference in those equations is being exaggerated.
Yes, it’s an alteration that it’s happening over a signal-caller’s shoulder as opposed to right in front of him, but it’s an adjustment that can be made. I bet it won’t be long before QBs can sense when the ump is clear or it’s second nature to peripherally see the hand signal from an official on the sideline.
On one other element being debated here: I agree with Bill Polian that calling a 5-yard penalty for an illegal snap is excessive. If the quarterback is too quick and the play is blown dead because the umpire wasn’t sufficiently backed out, the stoppage of play amounts to enough of a penalty for the offense.
Spot the ball again with as little delay as possible, get the umpire out and let the offense get right back to work.