The NFL has been looking for a way to make the kicking game matter now that field goals have basically become automatic, especially from inside 40 yards.
The average field goal success percentage, league-wide, in 2013 was 86.5, which was actually up 2.6 points from last season. There were only six misses on 242 attempts inside 30 yards, and kickers hit 93 percent of their kicks inside 40 yards. It’s not even a challenge anymore. In fact, they hit 67 percent of their field goals from beyond 50 yards. That’s a mark that had never been reached on field goals of any length until the 1981 season. A record 99.6 extra points were converted this year.
They’re toying with longer extra points or the elimination of PATs altogether, and there have been some reasonable and zany proposals regarding field goals themselves. But nobody seems willing to budge on the current 222-inch gap that separates the two goal posts.
That has to change.
New York Giants co-owner John Mara seems to understand that. From Giants.com:
“You see a lot of discussion about the extra point and what we’re going to do with that, and I think there’s a general feeling that we need to do something there,” Mara said. “The kickers have gotten so good, there’s some discussion about whether we should make the goal posts, the uprights, narrower at some point in the future. We’re not ready to do that just yet but you could see that at some point in the future if the accuracy continues to improve.”
I know the league doesn’t want to make scoring too much harder. I get that more points means more viewers. Scoring is entertaining. But don’t look past the idea that making field goals harder could actually result in more points by causing coaches to gamble more on fourth down inside opposing territory.
You wonder if a change like this could mean more touchdowns and fewer field goals.
We talk about the extreme growth in scoring over the years, but consider this: If we compare 2011-2013 with 1981-1983, scoring has increased by 9.1 percent, but touchdowns have increased by only 1.5 percent. The difference? Field goal kickers are 22.6 percent more accurate.
Forcing kickers to be more accurate makes a hell of a lot of sense, because boring field goal attempts aren’t helping the league’s cause.