After a very strange weekend in the NFL, I got to thinking about a way to spruce up, what many believe to be, a very mundane part of the game. No one likes extra points in football. Everyone else I know flips to another game or heads to the bathroom. Me, I am riveted.
Where else can you see continued perfection in sports the way you can with an NFL kicker, the most derided of athletic species. These guys are excellent at their jobs.
The field goal percentage has increased over my lifetime. Jan Stenerud, the only kicker in the NFL Hall of Fame, has a percentage that would get him released nowadays. He made 67 percent of his career field goals, ranking him 101 on the career list, right behind Uwe van Schamann, Ray Wershing, Garo Yepremian, Tony Franklin (who kicked barefoot), and John Smith. (I love these guys.) Of the top 20 kickers in terms of field goal accuracy, 12 are still active including NFL leader Justin Tucker, who makes 90 percent of his field goals.
Even the play itself is a masterpiece of timing and execution, from the snap to the hold (I will rave about punters, who are usually holders, in a later post), to the timing of the boot under pressure. Even when the play breaks down, that’s exciting to watch. A defensive player vaulting the lineman, or flying in from the wing to block a kick, and then the utter confusion when the holder and the kicker now have to, you know, play football. It’s great.
However, I do think the extra point needs some additional improvements, so what I am about to suggest completely contradicts my feelings for the kicker. I like the current increase in distance for the attempt. The point after touchdown is an extra thing, a reward, and as such it shouldn’t be a gimme. Backing the kickers up to where it isn’t such a slam dunk is inherently interesting. We are seeing more misses, which is a good thing. It changes the scoring of a game. And, it creates a great back story for a week – your guy misses a couple and all of a sudden you see the blurb on Rotoworld that they are bringing in other kickers for a tryout. (I always wonder how that works – you show up to work that day and there are three guys doing your job? Could you imagine? I would plotz if I walked into my office and there were a few other guys there writing press releases.)
So, they are getting that right. But, I would take this all one step further.
I would change the rules so that the guy who scores the touchdown has to try the extra point, kicked from the 20. Imagine the possibilities.
Sure, some guys would be able to pop through an easy one (looking at Tom Brady.) But say you get a linebacker who picks up a fumble and runs it in for a touchdown – that’s some good TV right there. He might line his attempt right back into the center. It means that every try becomes something different, something exciting. And, you just might find that a touchdown machine has another skill, making them all the more dangerous. Imagine the fantasy football implications!
And, if you decide that you want to use your regular kicker – because the last thing I would want in this world is for these guys to lose their jobs – he has to be a 45 or 50 yard try. If you want to use a regular, you have to adjust for their skill.
An NFL coach would now have a bunch of decisions to make every time a team scores instead of just choosing whether to kick it or go for two. Could break their orderly minds. Might also just break your television set.