As a parent, I know that just because a rule is unpopular that doesn't make it wrong.
The NFL made taunting a point of emphasis for this season and even though the penalty is incredibly, deeply unpopular that doesn't make it necessarily wrong.
Could the NFL just abandon the whole concept of a taunting penalty and embrace an emotional sport is being played by emotional athletes who occasionally stray across an invisible line but for the most part do a good job of policing themselves?
Sure, but you and I both know that's not the world we live in.
I understand logically speaking the NFL's desire to eliminate unnecessary inflammatory behavior that could lead to acts of provocation and even injury. But their current enforcement is truly a detriment to the game.
Last night we saw while the taunting penalty is a scourge for the NFL.
There's zero reason for that action to warrant that punishment in a close, important game for both teams. Its a disproportionate response to a very minor infraction. 15 yards is a big deal. It can flip field position, swing momentum and even directly influence the outcome of a game. There's no reason to empower officials to subjectively interpret behavior when they have a hard enough time interpreting black and white rule infractions.
So here's the solution to the taunting penalty that could make everyone happy. Hell it could be the solution for every personal foul penalty in the league.
The NFL should have the card system that soccer uses.
Yellow card is a first warning and a 5 yard penalty. A second yellow card is a 15 yard penalty and an ejection. A red card is an immediate 15 yard penalty. Red cards are reviewable. Yellow cards aren't.
You can't tell me NFL officials wouldn't LOVE the chance to write names indignantly on the back of a card. You can't tell me players and coaches wouldn't appreciate a warning before a penalty completely chances the complexion of a game. And you can't tell me fans wouldn't be satisfied with a system that puts a buffer in place before officials become the reason for every game being lost forever.
The only downside is the NFL would have to swallow their pride and take something from soccer.
Bring in the cards and take out the controversy.