Friday, January 28, 2011

Coffins are boring. Give me a live one anyday

Pro football keeps tweaking its rules. Sometimes it's for the safety of the players, such as clamping down on helmet-to-helmet contact, or outlawing "horse-collar" tackles and crack-back and chop blocks.
Other times, it's to make the game more interesting. Field goals were getting too easy with the advent of soccer style kickers, so they moved the goal posts back 10 yards. That was so more teams would try for touchdowns, rather than take the easy 3. 
Kickoffs used to come from the 50 yard line, but stronger kickers were booming it out of the end zone. So they moved it back to the 40, then the 35, and now it's at the 30. All of this was meant to ensure the kick returners would get a chance to actually run the ball, rather than the offensive team automatically taking it at their own 20, because returning kicks is a crap shoot. Sometimes very little happens, but once in a while, the guy just might break free and go all the way.
Knowing this, the NFL rule makers put in another penalty. If the kickoff goes out of bounds, then the receiving team gets the option of taking the ball at their own 40. That could conceivably be a 39 yard penalty. Pretty severe.  But they wanted, just like the fans, to see what might happen when a really fast guy started sprinting upfield into the oncoming herd. Maybe he gets blown up at the 10, or maybe he "takes it to the house". Only one way to find out so, for the most part, nowadays when a kickoff goes out of bounds, it's a mistake.
That said, how come punts are treated so differently? They're similar to kickoffs, given some dude with a strong leg boots it way up in the air, another fast guy waits for it to come down, risks his life, or at least a few body parts, and attempts to return it, while the same thundering herd heads downfield with malice aforethought.
If a punter kicks the ball out of bounds, intentionally or not, there's no penalty, but there should be. It denies the punt returner, another potential game-changer, and the fans, a chance at yet another electrifying play. Ya never know. If this happens, the receiving team should have options. They can take the ball where it went out of bounds, or at their own 40, like kickoffs, or given better field position, have a 15 yard penalty assessed from where it went out of bounds in the first place.
Put another way, if the punter is booting it out of his own end zone and the ball goes out of bounds at midfield, then the receiving team gets it at the 35. They're already in field goal position without even having to run a play. Teams might rethink this strategy and we get to see a return. More action.
Besides, the ultimate punt winds up in the "coffin corner". That's probably because most teams are dead once they get the ball there. Usually they'll run 3 plays for short yardage just to get enough room for their OWN punter. Boring. 
Sure, 99 drives yards have occurred, but they're about as rare as Peyton Manning turning down a TV ad.
Weird bounces happen close to the sidelines, you say? I don't care. It's 11 on 11 and they're called "special teams". If they're so special, then handle it. Punt it down the middle and let's see what happens.
C'mon, Lions' fans. Own up. When you see Devin Hester of the Bears waiting on a punt to come down -- don't you get a little nervous? Bet you wish he played for your team.
That's what I'm talking about. Ya never know. 

1 comment: