Monday, December 7, 2020

Kickers Running Roughshod Over NFL

By Anthony Brancato

In 1977, NFL kickers made just 58.3% of their field goal attempts.

That's exactly 7 out of 12.

In 2019, that percentage was 81.6%.

Clearly, something needs to be done about this.

How many times does a team get a takeaway or kick return, only to see their offense come onto the field and go three and out, yet the ball is nonetheless in good enough field position to make a long field goal? It unfairly makes the defense look bad for "allowing" the field goal.

Doing these four things will make kickers less dominant:

First, narrow the goal posts, from the current 18 1/2 feet to 15 feet.

Second, raise the crossbar, from the current 10 feet off the ground to 12 feet.

Third, extend the goal posts from the current 35 feet up from the crossbar to at least 40 feet, if not 45 feet, the idea being that this will produce more "doinks," and therefore, more missed field goals.

And leaving the best, and most "radical," for last, change the rule governing where the ball is spotted following a missed field goal, which has already been done twice within the last 46 years:

Prior to 1974, a missed field goal was a touchback unless the opposing team attempted to return it; that year, the rule was changed so that the ball would be spotted at the line of scrimmage, from where the ball was snapped (the goal posts themselves were also concomitantly moved from the crossbar being situated directly above the goal line to the crossbar being situated directly above the end line, as it is today).

This was changed again, two decades later, to missed field goals getting spotted where the ball was kicked.

To encourage teams to "go for it" on fourth down more often, spot the ball at the 50-yard line following a missed field goal, unless the unsuccessful attempt was from more than 60 yards out, in which case the spot of the kick would continue to be used.

Do we really need a repeat of Garo Yepremian's 6 field goals that enabled the Lions to edge the Vikings 32-31 in a game in 1966, prompting Minnesota head coach Norm Van Brocklin, who made baseball's Gene Mauch, who managed the Phillies at that time, seem like Clark Kent (and not Superman) by comparison, to famously wonder aloud that "maybe we should tighten the immigration laws?"

Van Brocklin's frustration seems perfectly understandable in retrospect, even if his choice of words most decidedly wasn't.

It's time for the NFL's Competition Committee to say to these kickers, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it."

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