It was announced on Tuesday that veteran head coaches Jeff Fisher and Ken Whisenhunt have been appointed as the newest members of the NFL competition committee, joining Richie McKay, Ozzie Newsome, Rick Smith, Stephen Jones and Marvin Lewis on the governing body that oversees rule changes for the upcoming NFL season.
The competition committee made headlines last season after recommending to move the kickoff up five yards in hopes of reducing the number injuries sustained on kickoff returns. That controversial ruling came on the heals of other recent changes to the NFL rulebook, including the removal of the five-yard facemask and the increased emphasis on roughing the passer.
When the committee meets this off-season at the owners meetings they will likely review controversial rules like helmet-to-helmet hits and down-by-contact plays. In addition to those rules, I hope that they consider making what could be the single biggest change to the game since the adoption of the forward pass: eliminating field goals.
As the ultimate team game that requires all 11 players working in unison to move the ball down field to score a touchdown, it has always struck me as odd that some of the most pivotal moments of a game rest solely on the leg of a skinny, un-athletic soccer reject who spends 99% of his time sitting on the sidelines.
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To address this issue, I propose eliminating field goals and replacing extra points with a new two-tiered conversion option. The scoring team is given the option to convert a one-point play from the two-yard line, or they can opt for a two-point conversion from ten yards away. The new conversion rule would add an extra level of excitement after each score while removing the mundane and predictable standard extra point.
The absence of the current three-point field goal option would force teams to attempt more fourth down conversions, which are arguably the most entertaining plays in football. In addition, teams who struggle to convert in the red zone will no longer be rewarded for their offensive futility with a chip-shot field goal. Removing the safety net of consolation scores will force both offenses and defenses to play their best in high-pressure situations like red zone and late game possessions.
Perhaps most importantly, eliminating field goals from the NFL would place the outcome of the contest back on the collective shoulders of the teams involved instead of on the foot of a kicker. Ask members of the 2011 Ravens and players from other teams who failed to win a game because of late game antics of an inaccurate kicker. I would venture to say that they would prefer to have the last few plays rest on their shoulders. At least they would not spend the entire off-season wondering what could have been.
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Football purists will argue that special teams are a vital leg of a three-legged foundation of the NFL, and field goals are an important aspect of the game. I would counter that field goals take away from the excitement of the game and turn the quintessential team sport into a solo spectacle of kicking skill.