Get Rid of Field Goals?

Perhaps you've heard that Bill Belichick, legendary coach of the New England Patriots, wants to get rid of the kick for an extra point after a touchdown. I think it's a great idea, at least given the way it's taken from the middle of the field, only three yards out from the goal line. It's a relic from an older football rule book, out of date for a hundred years now.

Well, it's a great idea to get rid of them if we have to keep them as they are. The problem is the way the kicks are taken.

Rugby conversions are kicked from wherever the scorer crossed the goal line. You're allowed to back up as far as you'd like to create a better angle, but of course, the farther back you go the harder you have to kick. So a conversion can look like this.

In the two major codes of rugby conversions are worth two or three points, reflecting the added difficulty. A try (touchdown) and a conversion add up to seven, just as in American football.

Extra points in football are practically superfluous, and there's no need to risk injury on unnecessary plays. Kids playing in the back yard already count by sevens, the NFL and other leagues can as well.

But listen, lads...let's not get too crazy.

On this Super Bowl week ESPN's Skip Bayless suggests getting rid of field goals entirely. His selling point is simple: you wouldn't want something as awesome as the Super Bowl being decided by a couple of lousy kickers, would you?

I think outlawing field goals would warp the game unacceptably (and lead to illogical 21-14 scoreboads that should read like soccer 3-1 scores), turning teams into unbalanced monstrosities that specialized heavily in either running or passing, since they'd have to be built to maximize finishing in the red zone.

Bayless would also get rid of kickoffs, by the way, so that each team would just start at the 25, turning the game into one massive college overtime.

But the impact on gameplay isn't even my biggest objection. I object philosophically. Darn tootin'! Philosophically, I said!

Managing the foot part of football is one of the most elegant aspects of the game. Handling field position, getting in range for kicks, and clock management are all great parts of the game. Football would be a lot less fun if your team were down two with twenty seconds left on their own forty-yard line. A couple of hail marys and that's all she wrote.

Field goals reward balance and consistency. That's why I love 'em. Teams with a good defence and a balanced offense can garner consistent rewards out of field position and field goals. Getting rid of goals would take away a huge part of the team aspect of American football and continue the offense-defense over-specialization that has been going on for decades.

That, by the way, is why we hate kickers. Because they're not football players. They're not part of the team. Instead of getting rid of field goals, how 'bout we make a rule to make sure football players are taking these kicks. It would be a skill you'd have to practice, but if your kicker had to start the first offensive play of the game, or play in at least ten downs barring injury, we'd dislike kickers and kicking less.

I do not want to watch four teams playing (two offenses and two defenses). I'd like to see my boys playing your boys. Two football teams. Is it too much to ask to go back to players playing both ways? Yes, I know it is.

Picture what have athletic kickers could look like! I loved seeing this play, even though it happened against my Gators a couple of years ago. Apparently this kicker is an Australian kid who grew up playing Australian Rules Football.

The solution, I'd suggest, is not to make kicking less a part of the game. It's to make it more a part. Not by having more kicking, but by having it be less specialized.

A lot of the old rules are still on the books, by the way. Remember this? (skip to 1:55)

Or Doug Flutie's made drop kick for the Patriots? Or Drew Brees' attempt at a drop goal in a Pro Bowl? Here's video of a high school kid making one in 1960.

Imagine more pooch kicks or drop goals. Or if you have the rugby knowledge, imagine grubbers or garryowens in American football. Imagine kicking that's more fun. Which it would be, if it were less abstracted from the rest of the game. More and more varied kicking would actually make the game much more exciting. It only sucks because we're already trying to hide it away.

So here's my call: Football kicking for football players! Put the foot back in football!

Just like QB Randall Cunningham did in 1989.