Kickers Running Roughshod Over NFL

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."

Comments and Conversation

December 7, 2020


I think all the ideas are good, except for spotting the ball at the 50. If the premise is that kickers matter too much, then adopting such a harsh measure for missed field goals would mean that having Justin Tucker instead of Michael Badgley would be worth even more than it is today. Better just to incentivize going for it by narrowing the goal posts - maybe even further than you suggest, to 12 feet or so.

In the Arena League, the goal posts were 9 feet wide and the crossbar was 15 feet off the ground, which really incentivized going for it.

December 7, 2020

D. Dude:

And, see tied games go up tremendously.

Kicking rewards teams that can get to the 32 yard line, by giving them a chance to get 3 points. It also, in a fair way, reduces ties.

Field goals also are 2.33 worth a touchdown’s 7 points. Seems like a pretty big incentive to make touchdowns over field goals already.

Minnesota head coach Norm Van Brocklin lost because the Lions more consistently kept Minnesota out of their end of the field. Which means the opposing team had a better defense overall (not just a redzone defense). Brocklin’s team allowed the Lions near their endzone 10 times (2 missed FG, 6 made FG & 2 TD’s). The Lions only allowed Minnesota near their endzone 5 times (1 FG and 4 TD’s). If your team can’t consistently stop the opposing team from going down the field 70% of the way, you deserve to lose.

December 7, 2020

D. Dude:

Also, Don’t blame the kickers. The NFL has hamstrung the defenses in the last years. Automatic first downs (50+ yard fouls?). Don’t touch the quarterback. Don’t let your helmet touch the opposing player. Don’t hit a receiver too hard when he’s catching the ball, till he’s had a chance to get ready for the hit (what happened to don’t make dangerous throws?).

The NFL weakening the defense for ‘safety’ and increased scoring has made field goals much more common, by allowing almost every team the ability to move downfield and get within field goal distance.

Field goals aren’t ruining the game, its the reduced ability of defenses to make hard tackles and make the other teams EARN those ten yards.

You want to limit injuries in the NFL, reduce the time clock to 20 seconds, get rid of time outs, no commercial break timeouts, and incomplete/out of bounds does not stop the clock. Instead of 5-7 second plays every 1-2 minutes you would have 5-7 second plays every 30 seconds. All the bigger players would have to drop 20 to 50 pounds to keep up with the faster pace and the size discrepancy on the field would diminish, which would result in less injuries, especially serious injuries. And oh yeah, the game would be much more exciting to watch.

December 10, 2020

Anthony Brancato:

And what’s wrong with more tie games?

Wouldn’t you rather see division titles and/or playoff spots get decided by half a game; e.g., 10-6 over 9-6-1, rather than these arcane tie-breaking procedures that as often as not give the division title or playoff spot to the wrong team?

As of now, for example, the AFC leads the NFC in the interconference season series 27-22-1. If that holds up, and two NFC teams who didn’t play each other this season finish with the same record, such as Arizona and Minnesota, the tie-breaker would be record within the conference - thus rewarding the team that did better against weaker competition!

On what planet is that fair?

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