NFL RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS
I have noticed something about this current NFL season. If you are a faithful watcher of many of the games, chances are you have noticed it too.
NFL coaches have completely changed their mindset from just a couple years ago, and have gotten far more gutsy than they used to be.
Just a few short years ago (think the Dick Jauron years in Buffalo), the thought of going for a first down on a 4th down situation on the opponents 35-45 yard line was given about as much thought as Tom Cruise deciding whether to be in "Porky's 4". If a team was 4th and a couple yards at any point in the game, the mindset was "60%--punt, 39.999%--attempt a long field goal, and .001%--leave your offense on the field and go for the first down.
Same thing goes for a 4th down situation on the opponents one or two yard line. A team has a 4th and goal at the one or two, and the prevailing thought was "we need to come away from this drive with SOME points. We have to kick a field goal".
That is no longer the case
You see it every game. Teams faced with these situations and instead of playing conservative, coaches are deciding to let it ride and go for the first down. In some cases, even shocked fans are questioning these decisions.
I'm not saying I am against this new way of thinking either. I am just saying that I have noticed the change and am puzzled by it.
Some friends and I were out at a local watering hole last night watching the Saints dismantle the Panthers, and I mentioned that I had noticed this trend. The results of the discussion were varied.
We decided that there were a number of reasons for this change in philosophy. One of them was that many creative coaches in the league, like Bill Belichick and Sean Payton, have shown that they are not afraid to gamble, buck the old "here's what the book says you do", and have had success with it. Other caiches notice this, and mimic the philosophy, hoping for similar success.
Another reason for this is that the rules favoring the offenses, combined with the enforcement of player safety, makes it more of an offensive league. Getting first downs is easier because of this. Teams try to outscore each other more often than they try to "out-defense" them. That puts more of a premium on points, and since seven is more than three, forces them to think differently.
The other reason we could think of is that there is much more focus on percentages now. This "sabrmetric" approach says that there is a 70% chance of scoring a touchdown from the one yard linefor example, or 60% chance from the two, and coaches like thaat better than the 95% chance of getting the sure three points. Same thing goes for a 4th and 1 from the 40 yard line. If the chance of getting a first down is 65 percent, and the chances of punting and the ball going into the endzone is 75 percent, and the other team chances of scoring on that subsequent drive is 35 percent, then they feel the odds are better to go for it.
So anyways, there is a trend of coaches to be more liberal. I would like to propose some ideas to counteract that thinking and make coaches think even more.....
Firstly, how about moving the extra point try from the ten to the 35. Watching that Eagles-Lions game yesterday where the conditions were so bad for kicking that only one extra point or field goal was attempted the whole game, made me think how fun it was that both teams had to go for two every time. So, if you move
the extra point try to a kick that is more of a 70-75% chance of accuracy instead of 99% makes it a much tougher choice for coaches.
Here is my other idea, and this is a bit radical, but it sure would be fun, is to eliminate the kicker from the game entirely! Think about it. Every situation, you would have to have a position player attempt a field goal if you wanted to go that route, or make "going for it" in every situation much more expected. Also, whenever a team scored a touchdown, whatever player scored the touchdown had to be the player who had to kick the extra
point (if they keep the extra point at the ten), or the team could go for two. Wouldn't THAT be interesting!
Either way, I think those two choices would make watching NFL games even more fun and interesting for fans, players and coaches.
Of course, neither of those things will ever happen, but it is fun to think about. What do you think?