Saturday, September 18, 2010

8 comments Field Goals Must Die!

I got an email from reader Tom providing me with a link to a Frank Deford article (thanks for the link, I always appreciate a heads-up on a bad article) with the heading "Where To Begin." I clicked on the link and read the article by Frank Deford about why field goals, punting and extra points should be permanently removed from football. The first thought I had going through my head as I read it was "where the hell do I start with this article?" So Tom not only provided the link for the article, but he also provided my introduction with the title of his email, because this article is so nonsensical and bad I really don't know exactly where to begin.

The article is a vigorous rant against field goals. What startles me is his anger at field goals does not even begin to match the enormity of the problem, especially since there is no problem. Imagine I wrote 1,000 words about how the NBA needs to use a blue basketball from now on and explained why the traditional brown ball stunk so much. It would be a lot of anger for a little problem. So without more writing and really knowing how to cover this is the article.

Hey, I got a kick coming.

This article was written and posted on the NPR site. Maybe that explains something?

I think field goals are really lousing up football. Punts too.

Yes, the traditional elements of football are really screwing up the right way the sport is supposed to be played.

I feel the same way about that damn rosin bag in baseball! What the hell is that thing? Outlaw it from baseball because it serves no purpose! Same thing with the pine tar on a bat. That's what gloves are for. If you can't grip the bat, then buy better gloves! Pine tar sucks and the rosin bag is the cause for the decreased attendance in baseball! (begins cutting his wrists with a credit card)

Football coaches, who by nature are conservative executives, are just entirely too foot-dependent.

I absolutely agree. I think instead of kick-offs a team should throw the ball down the field. It will be like neighborhood flag football, except a whole lot more stupid because it is professional athletes in uniforms doing it.

I don't think Frank Deford thought about kick-offs when he was writing this article. There is not a better solution than kicking the ball off. I just think throwing the ball would look ridiculous.

Let me place two caveats in here:

1. I agree coaches in the NFL are too conservative and play for field goals when they should possibly go for it on fourth down. Coaches should change their mindset, rather than the NFL change the way the game is played.

2. The extra point attempt is a foregone conclusion, but it is a part of football. There is really no reason to just make a touchdown count 7 points or eliminate the extra point attempt. It's a part of football and it works.

OK, field goals first. They’re too easy to make. For some time now, in the NFL, kickers have been succeeding on more than four out of every five field goal attempts

See how this rant is a little more vigorous than the problem? Did someone steal Frank Deford's meds or something? I don't usually have a problem with him, but there is a fly in his Brylcreem and he is just plain pissed off right now.

I am a little confused as to why due to the fact kickers in the NFL are good at kicking field goals this is a bad thing. Shouldn't the fact they are good at their jobs be celebrated instead of used as a way of getting rid of field goals?

Yes, it seems to be true that kickers seem to be getting more accurate, but I don't see this as a bad thing. What is the appropriate percentage for kickers to make field goals at? 65%? 70%?

and, of course, extra points are pointless because they’re so seldom missed that they’re beside the point.

Should the NBA outlaw dunks because they are so infrequently missed? Last year out of every kicker that attempted an extra point (which there were 41), there were 19 missed extra point attempts. That is a high percentage of makes to misses, but extra points are supposed to be difficult. I haven't looked into the history of field goal attempts and why they are a part of the game of football (so I am not sure their original purpose), but I see no reason to get rid of them.

But field goals.

And we are immediately back to field goals. Of any point, Deford made in this article, the only one that has some merit is eliminating the extra point attempt. Naturally, he doesn't focus on that very much.

I don’t know exactly at what percentage it is when something in sport is so easy that it becomes too good for the good of the game, but certainly 80 percent is way too high.

Frank doesn't know when the "good of the game" question comes into play, but he does know it is below 80%. Any field goal percentage over 80% is just an abomination to the sport, while 76% seems much more reasonable. For most field goal kickers this amounts to a difference in less than one more missed field goal a year. The average kicker kicks 20-30 field goals a year, so the percentage of field goals made and missed can rise and fall pretty quickly if a kicker has a good or bad day.

So its fine for a kicker who attempts 25 field goals to miss 6 field goals, but only missing 5 field goals is way too high and ruins the sport of football for not only ourselves, but future generations of football fans?

I kept asking two questions while reading this article:

1. But why do this?

2. What purpose would this serve?

These questions came up in my mind over and over and they never gets answered.

If you want to be entertained by perfection instead of competition, go watch Meryl Streep doing an accent or a good magician doing card tricks.

There is competition when it comes to field goals. Both teams are hitting field goals and extra points at the same pace, or near to the same pace. It is not like one team has a huge advantage over another (in regard to one team having an unfair advantage, obviously some kickers are better than others). There is an even playing field, so there is competition.

It’s easier to kick a field goal in the NFL than to make a free throw in the NBA –– and free throws are just that: free. Nobody is contesting you.

There is really no comparison here. It's easier to complete a pass to a receiver in the NFL than it is for an ice skater to perform a triple lutz triple loop, but no one wants to outlaw the forward pass. My head is hurting from this comparison even being made.

If field goals, contested, are guaranteed, better than 80 percent good, then, I’m sorry, but the game is lacking.

This standard that has been set for why the game of football is lacking is easily the dumbest standard I have ever heard of. Field goal kickers are too good at their job and this is a bad thing. That's the premise of this article.

Now, in the NFL, even better than half the field goals from beyond 50 yards split –– as they always say –– the uprights.

There were 102 attempts (by my count) from 50+ yards last year. Of those, 55 were made. That's a percentage of a little under 54%. Again, it is a percentage over the arbitrary percentage that Frank Deford set as the standard, but it is a sign these kickers are good at their job, which isn't a bad thing.

Excuse me, couldn’t we at least get a new cliche for making field goals besides "split the uprights"?

They are uprights and the kick goes between them. Therefore the ball does split the uprights.

How ‘bout "cleave the verticals"? After a century of split the uprights, couldn’t we at least say cleave the verticals?

It sounds like a sexual term. No we can't do this.

If we can’t improve the game, at least let’s improve the cliche. Thank you.

How the hell would outlawing field goals improve the game? I know there is a section of people who wants to go for it on fourth down on every play, but I don't think moving from kickers being an intregal part of the game to no punting or field goals at all would improve the game. If anything, it would cause the score in games to increase because of improved field position for the offenses of each team due to the "no punting" rule. Then the quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers will have more touchdowns because of the better field position and the next thing we know Frank Deford is writing that touchdowns are too easy to achieve and they should be worth only 4 points.

Because field goals are so cheap now, the easiest thing is simply to devalue them, like a currency that’s over-inflated. Field goals should only count two points.

This would do absolutely nothing to improve the game. So the game of football would improve if every field goal counted one point less? Is Frank Deford overly worried about inflated scoring in football? Is that the real problem here? It sounds like it.

If it took three field goals to equal a touchdown, instead of just two, cowardly coaches would have to actually play more pass-ball and run-ball and actually try to score more touchdowns.

Not necessarily, but it is possible. So it may have some effect that causes coaches to go for it on fourth down more often (is that the point of this article? how to make coaches go for it on fourth down more often?), but it would also increase the value of the extra point if the field goal is devalued. I thought Frank Deford thought extra points were pointless, but now he wants to increase their value. This is writing idiocy at its best.

Then we have this other fourth-down problem. If coaches don’t give up and send in the field-goal kicker, they surrender and send in the punter. Is there anything worse than wimp coaches punting instead of going for it on fourth-and-one?

It depends on the situation. Punting isn't always a bad move because it changes field position for the other team. Punting is overused, but it also serves a purpose in certain situations on fourth down.

Various baseball-type statistical nuts have proven that it’s really more advantageous, in the long run, to try for short yardage on fourth down rather than punting.

So instead of changing the sport of football around, wouldn't it be easier to convince coaches it is worthwhile to go for it on fourth down more often?

I am not sure what Frank Deford's opinion on modern statistics is, though I can guess from him calling them "statistical nuts," so I think it is pretty ironic a guy who probably doesn't enjoy the use of modern baseball statistics is citing these same people who come up with the statistics as proof of why his "get rid of field goals" idea is right. So the "statistic nuts" are really only useful when they prove a point he wants to make.

Today’s stronger field-goal kickers and punters are the human equivalent of modern technology-advanced golf clubs. Golf courses have been modified to accept this reality, so it’s time for football to do the same and make adjustments before football becomes kickball.

What is the solution? Make the field longer?

The difference in golfers using modern technology in the form of clubs to hit the ball further is that there is no technology being used by the kickers in the NFL. Kickers aren't using an advanced form of the human leg, but they are just specially trained to kick the ball longer and more accurate than kickers have in the past. Tennis has also had modern technology advance in their sport in regard to the rackets being used and they have done nothing to change the sport around. So while golfers and tennis players use a technological tool to improve their game, kickers are merely specializing and focusing on their tool (their leg) to get better at their job.

Get some guts, coaches, and stop punting, and if you must try a field goal –– OK, but only two points if you do cleave the verticals.

Which would overvalue the extra point, which is pointless according to Frank Deford.

I don't get it. Devaluing the field goal only serves to overvalue the other ways of scoring in football. It is not as if kickers getting better at making field goals is a competitive issue since the trend seems to be league wide. I just don't get this article at all.


HH said...

I haven't looked into the history of field goal attempts and why they are a part of the game of football (so I am not sure their original purpose), but I see no reason to get rid of them.

Allow me.

Football arose in the English-speaking world around 130 years ago. There were a few different variations, but all based on kicking a ball across a line. These different variation diverged into what I'll call football and soccer: football kept the goal as getting the ball over a line, while soccer narrowed the target area, first with posts, then a crossbar, a net, a goalie, etc. The soccer variations were eliminated by the Football Association of England, which standardized rules [hence SOCcer, from aSOCiation]. For football, different strains survived: some made crossing the line the point of the game and kept the kick as a bonus [NFL], others made crossing the line a prerequisite to try the more-important kick, as in rugby or Australian rules.

Knowledge is power.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, I feel like I could have looked that up but I was too lazy to do so. Did you just know that or did you have to look it up?

Well, either way I guess Frank Deford hates field goals. I am surprised he wasn't more focused on the extra point being useless than he was.

rich said...

The extra point attempt is a foregone conclusion, but it is a part of football.

Tony Romo disagrees. Are they basically guaranteed? Yes, it's really hard to miss one. However, when you do miss one, it actually impacts the dynamic of the game. For instance: Tony Romo fumbled the snap and the Cowboys lost by one point.

They’re too easy to make. For some time now, in the NFL, kickers have been succeeding on more than four out of every five field goal attempts

Here's the thing, if a guy makes a 50 yard FG... they deserve the 3 points. That's not an easy kick. This stat includes a ton of the shorter kicks. Just because teams kick a lot of 20 yard FGs doesn't make it easy.

80 percent is way too high

So FGs should be outlawed. As should the game of baseball. There are pitchers 70-75% successful range. That's too high too!

If you want to be entertained by perfection instead of competition

Part of competition is field position. I really don't want to see teams going for 4th and 10 at their own 15. Imagine the SB being decided because on 4th and 20 a team had to go for it instead of kicking a game winning FG. That would not be interesting or fun.

cowardly coaches would have to actually play more pass-ball and run-ball and actually try to score more touchdowns.

No offense, but no. If NFL coaches are as cowardly as this article suggests, a lot of FG attempts will turn into punts.

Is there anything worse than wimp coaches punting instead of going for it on fourth-and-one?

Didn't the Patriots lose a game they went for it on 4th and short? Didn't that give Indianapolis a short field? Didn't Indianapolis then score the game winning TD?

Now would punting have preserved the victory? Maybe not, probably not the way the Colts' offense was playing in the 4th, but it's stupid and shortsighted to say that punting on 4th and short or kicking a short FG are "cowardly." Sometimes they are, but there are also times when the course of the game dictates that they're the more likely to lead to a positive outcome.

ivn said...

you know, there are a lot of things that are "ruining football" or at least have the potential to: ridiculous rookie contracts, the rash of concussions and other injuries, the strife between the players union and the owners and the internal strife between some owners (think Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder) who feel like they're subsidizing other owners (Ralph Wilson and the guy who owns the Jags) who aren't carrying their weight--both of which could lead to a lockout, but I'm pretty sure the kicking game is having no ill effect on the overall product. big misfire of a column all around.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I don't get exactly why the fact kickers are good at their job means the field goal should be outlawed. Good call on the Romo/extra point thing. I missed that connection. You are right that the situation sometimes calls for going for it on fourth down and sometimes it doesn't. I don't see where punting should be outlawed.

Ivn, yep. I agree with what you said. Those are all major issues that should probably are more pressing than whether field goals are too easy to make.

HH said...

To play devil's advocate for a minute, it's actually not unreasonable to argue against the field goal. It's along the same lines of arguing against bigger rosters in football and baseball, because increased specialization leads to increased predictability, and we generally watch sports of its unpredictability. Increased specialization has given us bullpens who make the game very predictable in the 8th and 9th. Similarly, kickers' increased accuracy has increased predictability in a lot of game situations - overtime, for example. It's fair to say that you don't pay much attention to field goals under 40 yards since they're for all intents and purposes automatic. [As a counter argument, a miss is such a big deal that perhaps this offsets predictability.] It's fair to argue that if kickers are converting field goals today at the rate they converted extra points in the 70s, maybe the game is due for some changes.

Having become a fan in the age of accurate kickers, I'm just fine with the balance of the game as it is, but I can see how someone would wish that more of the game was about offense & defense. It makes sense to devalue the kick to make it less attractive in that situation. I don't think tradition will permit this, but this is not the most unreasonable idea. It just happens to be poorly written: "I don't like field goals, therefore they should be banned." It's just the latest in a long line of arguments being made today that follow the reasoning of "Everything I do and like should be mandatory; everything I don't do or like should be banned."

rich said...


To play devil's advocate to your devil's advocate.

The very nature of things becoming predictable, actually makes it more unpredictable.

If everyone sucks at their job, it's expected that they're going to suck; if they're good at it, the expectation is that they're going to not fail.

Using your baseball example, what's more exciting than watching your team come back against an otherwise reliable closer in the 9th? Now you can ask, rightfully so, what makes this so unpredictable as I hinted at earlier. It's the fact that no one will ever be perfect at their job. So there's always a question, no matter how good someone performs their job, of when that failure is going to come.

Think back to when the Diamondbacks won the WS by beating around an otherwise perfect Rivera. The fact that it was so absolutely and undeniably game over for the Yankees and then, in 5 minutes the Diamondbacks win on a bloop hit, made it all the more memorable.

For football, think back to the Cowboys game I alluded to. Everyone thought that game was going into overtime. Cowboys fans were excited that they had a chance to win their first playoff game in a decade; Seahawks fans were pissed that they should've stopped the Cowboys. Then Romo drops the snap and the emotional rollercoaster switched again.

RuleBook said...

As the resident Cowboys fan, though it doesn't greatly affect the argument, the snap Romo dropped was not an extra point. It was a FG from extra point range. It was not about going to overtime, it was about winning the game. Added to the pain of the Cowboys fans was that it was 4th and 1, meaning that if Romo had made it a little further on his scramble, they would have had a first down, even if they didn't get the TD.