League announces Rule Changes for Season 22
After the first season of SFL football on 4K23, the league has reviewed and analyzed its core positives and negatives of on the field play from Season 21 and with that has adjustments to gameplay to roll out for Season 22. Here are some of the highlights from the past season, what the league will be looking to improve in on the field in 2024 and what the league will be electing to continue to build data on for future adjustments:
SOME OF THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES What worked
- SFL quarterbacks threw 12,904 passes in Season 20. Of those throws, 774 or 5.9% of those throws were intercepted. This season in the NFL, of 11,144 passes thrown, only 265 or 2.3% of those throws were intercepted. In Season 21, SFL quarterbacks threw 8,873 passes, throwing 382 interceptions - 4.3%. Smarter QB AI and a wider variety of play-calling thanks to expanded playbook regulations helped bring these numbers to a more realistic level. Interceptions were much closer to true-to-life football numbers than the previous era and that helped make games and box scores feel more realistic.
- With the game switch, teams had the ability to choose from 33 unique playbook identities for their team. Every single playbook was used at least twice this season and the most popular playbook was used just 32 times over a 14-week period and was never used by more than four teams in a given game week. Of the 32 times the playbook was used, it generated an 18-14 record for the teams that used it. No one book had a distinct advantage over another, meaning how your playbook and roster are constructed and how they compliment each other is more important than choosing a 'good' or 'bad' base.
What we're tracking CLOSELY
- There were 9,320 dropbacks this season because on 8,873 pass attempts, there were 447 sacks. That means a sack occurred about every 4.7% of dropbacks. In the NFL this season, quarterbacks are sacked on 7.1% of dropbacks. This is a complex issue, and the league wants to see how coaching and player progression - plus an increase in pass plays called - develops in this area before it can identify if any necessary changes need to be made.
- SFL kickers made 522/538 field goals this season (97%). In the NFL, 579/668 kicks have been made in 2023 (86.7%). All 16 of those field goals were missed in the second half of the season after wind speeds were increased, indicating the true percentage of missed kicks could have hovered somewhere around 94% in actuality. While the made field goals number is high, the league wants to collect more data on how teams allocate cap money, how raised progression prices on valuable kicker attributes effects % make growth and how the adjustments in wind over the course of a full season impacts these numbers before lowering player maximums on any attributes.
- This season there was a lack of diversity in penalty calls with almost all penalties being called on the defense. The league has had some early success in getting a better balance of penalty calls and there will be updated penalty sliders for Season 22. Those are still in development and will be released at a later date.
What is getting fixed FOR SEASON 22
- 98 times this season a starting running back had 30 or more carries in a SFL game. In the NFL this season, only six teams average 30 rushes per game and not a single player averages over 20. In a league with over 800 players all hoping to make a difference, that large number of touches going to starting running backs (which makes up about 3.1% of the total player pool) is unjustified. After weeks of testing all teams, custom playbooks, generic playbooks, replayed and random matchups the unequivocal best results for Season 22 came from tuning running back and fullback stamina to 0.
- Tuning stamina for running backs and fullbacks down to 0 doesn't mean they have lost all ability to move forward. Rather, stamina is the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. In-game fatigue - which is determined by workload - is the gas mileage of that vehicle. During testing, running backs still had 100-yard+ games, broke tackles, broke out for big touchdown runs, etc - tuning stamina to 0 does not effect a RB/FB overall rating. In every game tested, not a single time did a running back break the 30 carry threshold in regulation - making all teams more reliant on a run-game-by-committee approach that we see in modern football especially those with run-heavy gameplans or advantages in roster construction.
- Any running back or fullback that progressed stamina this season (there was a small amount) will receive the money back this off-season, which will not count against the team's salary cap. With stamina now a non-progressable attribute for RB/FB, the cost comes off the books for teams. Those attribute points will not be reallocated in any way other than money returned to the player's progression bank for progressing it in Season 21.
- At times this season, the league saw substandard gameplay as a result of adding formations. Offensively, adding formations often rewrote the identity of the playbook, causing multiple formations and/or packages from getting called at the times they normally would. Bad coaching made playbooks perform worse and good coaching made playbooks perform better - these matchups often resulted in blowouts. While adding formations to playbooks can add further variety to gameplans, the juice is not worth the squeeze: teams will no longer be able to add formations on either side of the ball to base playbooks.
- Adding formations to the defensive playbook widely contributed to the 'All Blitz 0' occurrence this season, in which the defense will send all players into the backfield, often giving up wide open touchdowns. After further testing, 'All Blitz 0' occurs when a play is selected from an added defensive formation and then the AI attempts to audible out of the play. Since the added formation is not a part of the original playbook construction, it's attempt to audible out fails and the defense defaults into everyone running forward into the backfield.
- Adding formations to the offensive playbook at times this season resulted in the same play getting called over 40 times, goal line offense being called repeatedly on first and second down and a lack of diversity in offensive package useage, allowing teams to stash and store plays to exploit the 230 play minimum rule, which exists to create balance and diversity in gameplanning, required to simulate football.
- Teams will still be able to add plays from other playbooks into formations that exist within their selected base. There are often hundreds of plays available to choose from in any given formation when added across the 33 eligible books.
- From a competition angle, it is important that teams be able to have the ability to properly scout an opponent. In Season 21, teams were given the ability to have unlimited offensive and defensive changes and unlimited base book changes - during the regular season and throughout the playoffs. This was done to ensure that all teams would have ample time to get to know each playbook and see how it played out on the field with their team. With a full season under the belt, those freedoms will only be further exploited and manipulated by the strong and bring the weak a lack of direction learning and a crutch. In Season 22, teams will have a regular season base playbook restriction of four. Once a team has used all four base playbooks once, they'll only be able to select from those four base books for the remainder of the season. Once teams make the playoffs, they will only be able to select from the base playbooks that were selected in the regular season, even if they didn't use the max of four bases in the regular season.
- Base playbooks are not selected prior to the season - their usage is tracked each week a playbook is turned in. Once a team has used a base then they can use that base an unlimited amount of times. There is no max number of times any particular base can be used across the league.
- Just because a team selects a base playbook, doesn't mean they have to use any exact playbook submitted previously. Each week, unlimited changes of plays within the formations of the base playbook is still permitted and encouraged. Diversity makes teams harder to scout for.