Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Take Two!

Much has been made (or missed, ha!) of the "Timeout right before the kicker attempts a critical field goal" scenario in the NFL. The tactic has seen success and failure so far - the Broncos made the Raiders do-over and Janikowski missed. The Raiders took the hint and used a time out against the Browns the following week to force a second kick, which they blocked. On Monday night the Bills made Cowboys kicker Nick Folk do it twice...and he made it twice.

Initially I considered myself a member of the change-this-scenario crowd. I found it a bit over the top - an annoying and sleazy tactic. But The Professor has had a change of heart. I heard an interview with Dolphins kicker Jay Feeley last night on Fox Game Time Live with Andrew Siciliano which provided a new slant to the idea.

Feeley said that providing the kicker two chances to make one kick is akin to allowing a golfer two attempts at a putt. In an extremely scientific experiment conducted by myself and a friend over many rounds of golf this summer, I can attest that the second putt is almost always more accurate than the first.

Feeley claims the same thing is true with kicking. While a couple of times the scenario has not played out exactly this way, he claims that if you a give a kicker two chances to make the same field goal more often than not he can nail the second one. Taking into account the wind, the trajectory, the distance, blah blah blah...the kicker can fine-tune his kick based on the results of the first one. These being professional kickers, giving them basically a practice kick is not a good idea (in the long run) according to Feeley.

His argument is a compelling one, seeing as he's a kicker and should know a bit about these things. I also find such arguments as "They should change the rule" a bit misleading. There isn't a specific rule that allows coaches to do this sort of thing. In fact, one would have to significantly alter the current rules to allow for a "No-Time-Out-Right-Before-The-Kick" situation. On any play the coach (or a player) is allowed to call a time out right up to the snap of the ball. In an article today Michael Smith argues for a change that would state "... any time a team lines up in a field goal formation, the opposing team may not call timeout after the play clock reaches 10 seconds."

I must point out the insanity behind this idea. Let's say a team lines up for a field goal and with nine seconds left on the play clock flips into a different formation, ala a fake field goal or a blatant non-field goal formation. Is it ok to call a time out now? What if a team lines up in field goal formation and then has the QB, who may be positioned to hold the ball for the kick, stand up with 11 seconds left and position himself for a shotgun snap? The rule would have to have addenda such as "The opposing may team may not call a time with ten seconds or less on the play clock unless the formation changes to a certain extent as to significantly alter the purpose of the play or complete mayhem ensues and we have no idea what is going on and therefore all bets are off and a naked man runs across the field."

Leave the rule the same. The fans know the second one is gonna count (as you cannot call time outs on consecutive plays with no play having been run) and the thrill will still be there. Heck, maybe the kicker will ask his own coach to call a time out so he gets one free practice shot. Well, maybe not.

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