So there's a new NFL rule being discussed that would move extra point attempts back to the 25-yard line, forcing teams that have just scored touchdowns to choose between a 42-yard kick worth one point and an attempt at a two-point conversion from the 2-yard line. NFL.com reported Monday that the competition committee is considering experimenting with this in the preseason, and it's great. Great idea.
The extra point as it stands is horribly outdated. There were 1,267 of them attempted in the NFL this year and 1,262 were successful, rendering it as boring as anything that happens in sports. And the NFL doesn't like to be boring. Boring doesn't sell. What the league has right now is a 19-yard kick that serves no purpose other than to delay commercials. And the NFL doesn't like to delay commercials.
So, yeah, I'm all for figuring out new ways to award points after touchdowns and bring some more strategy into the proceedings. Make the extra point automatic (i.e., you don't have to kick it -- you just automatically get seven points unless you want to try for the two). Or how about offering a chance to kick from a longer distance for more points? Say you're down nine points and you score a touchdown, you're allowed to try, say, a 60-yard kick for three points to tie the game as opposed to a 40-yard kick that would be worth only one point. Lots of ideas about this; all worth considering.
But while dumb, the extra point isn't the dumbest thing the NFL does. So while we're opening up a discussion here about unnecessary things the NFL should consider changing, let's also take a look at ...
... The first-down chains. This is the single stupidest thing in any sport, anywhere. You ask your official to eyeball the spot of the ball, sometimes from 20 or so yards away, put it down on the field as quickly as possible in conjunction with his visual guess, then you haul out a 10-yard length of chain and measure to the centimeter. (And then the officials pick the ball up again and move it to a hash mark! Measure it again! Maybe it changed!) These chains are treated as pure gospel, and yes, games have been decided because of them. It's insane. Tennis has technology that can show you the exact spot on the field where a ball hit the ground to determine line calls. You're telling me that, in 2014, there's no technology that can tell the officials exactly where the football is on the field? They put a computer-generated first-down line on television then spend every close call telling you that line's not official. And why isn't it? Well, because we've got these chains, you see. Please. Join us here in the 21st century. The chains should be collecting dust with the leather helmets.
... Pass interference. Not the rule itself; I'm not suggesting defenders get to mug receivers every chance they get. But does it have to be a spot foul? If you're a defensive back who bumps into a receiver on a 45-yard pass because you were a second late turning your head to look at the ball, does your team really deserve a 45-yard penalty? And why are we assuming all of a sudden that that ball would have been caught? And if we are, why aren't we assuming the same in the end zone? This is a spot foul everywhere on the field, but if it happens in the end zone, the ball goes on the 1-yard line. Some consistency is all we're looking for here, people.
... Players lobbying officials. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Not just receivers popping up and asking for a pass-interference call on every single incomplete pass the way Derek Jeter argues every single strike that's ever been called against him. I'd threaten a 5-yard penalty for that. But I'd come down real hard on the guys who are leaning in and listening to the officials' conversations when they're trying to get the call right after the play. I'm officiating an NFL game in front of 80,000 people with millions watching on TV who all think I'm an idiot already, the last thing I need is a couple of amped-up, 300-pound football players sticking their huge heads in there and telling me what they think the call should be. Ten yards, attempting to influence an official's call through intimidation. That'd get the thing stopped right quick.
... The inactives list. I mean, why? You have 53 guys practicing together all week and then you pick seven who can't play on Sunday. There's already an eight-man practice squad that can't play. What's this layer for? Make seven guys who busted their rear ends for you all week feel inadequate? It's one thing if they're hurt, don't give them a uniform. But to announce to the world, "These guys aren't good enough to play for us this week?" Just seems kind of mean. And if I have 53 healthy guys and my opponent has only 49? Well, why shouldn't that work to my advantage?
... Spiking the ball to stop the clock. This rule tells us, "Intentional grounding is against the rules, except when you're in a really big hurry. Then you are allowed to do it in the most dopey-looking and obvious way possible." Might as well just tell teams that are behind in the final minute that they can have an extra timeout. Or add 10 seconds to the clock if they want. Get to the line and run a play. It's not our fault you're down three points with 10 seconds to go and no timeouts. Sounds to me like you messed up at some point earlier in the game.
... Replay challenges and reviews. The call is obviously wrong, but we're only going to look into changing it if one of the coaches throws his little red flag onto the field in time. Seriously? What happened, did the telegraph machine break? The NFL has the resources to establish a centralized replay review and buzz officials when a call needs to be looked at and changed. Either you want to get the calls right or you want to make it all part of the theater. But don't tell us it's one when it's obviously the other.
Oh, I've got a million of these. And don't even get me started on the scouting combine. The only time an offensive tackle's ever going to have to run 40 yards as fast as he can is if the stadium catches fire. But this will do for now. I'm glad the NFL has decided to take a look at dumb things it does that should be changed or eliminated. I just hope it doesn't stop after it's done picking on those poor kickers again.