Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 22, 2014

No extra point in the NFL? It is called ‘foot’-ball

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Which is crazier? A football game where the foot is being de-emphasized or giving a baseball player nearly $31 million a year to play about 33 games, and Clayton Kershaw will rarely have to actually finish what he starts.

Six innings, three runs or less and that is a quality start. Good money if you can get it. Leave the rest to the bullpen. That is how it is now done in baseball.

Whew. Tough call.

I would go with the extra point. Throwing money at players is nothing unusual, but eliminating one of the staples of football is like taking wrestling out of the Olympics.

Oh, they already did that (although it is coming back in 2020). Why did it ever leave?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has suggested abolishing the extra point, and just giving teams seven points for a touchdown instead of wasting time by kicking what has become an almost automatic point.

Perhaps he needs more time for commercials after touchdowns.

Really? It is called football for a reason. Every kick is not made. Remember John Carney, who missed an extra point kick that cost the Saints a playoff spot in 2003. There have been numerous other instances where a game is decided by one point and that is from a missed extra point sometime in the game.

Goodell is the same person who would like to end kickoffs as we know them as well. Just put the ball on the 20 and let's play offense, and good luck to the defense.

No wonder Richard Sherman had to go on a rant. It always amuses me to hear folks talk about the pressure quarterbacks are under. How about the defense, the rules are fixed to make them fail.

Under Goodell's proposal, touchdowns would count as seven points. Teams would then have the option to run a play — but apparently not with a kick — to get another point. Score and that is eight points, get stopped and lose a point. Yes, lose a point.

How many NFL coaches are going to risk ever losing a point?

Sounds like something that would be done in the XFL or Arena Football League.

Football, especially in the NFL, is about scoring points, not losing them. Defense is nice, but the rules have changed dramatically to favor the offense, which is why quarterbacks are now given win-loss records like pitchers in baseball.

At least pitchers also hit — at least in the National League and in Interleague play — and they all also play defense. Quarterbacks do nothing on defense, but stand there and watch, yet they are praised by NFL folks as playing the most important position in all of sports.

The kicker, even the 'idiot' kicker, as Peyton Manning called Mike Vanderjagt, is a vital part of the game. Even without extra points and kickoffs — if Goodell has his way — they will still be called upon to kick field goals.

If extra points are so automatic, make them harder. Push the ball back to the 20 and make it a 30-yard try. Put them kick at an angle like in college with the wide hash marks kicking from an angle, or narrow the space between the goal posts.

You and I could make some of these short straight-on kicks if we weren't scared to death of getting run over by a behemoth. Hey, why not in the case of a blocked extra point, give the defense a point and take a point away from the offense.

It took literally decades for the NFL to finally approve the two-point conversion attempt, which is rarely tried unless absolutely necessary. No coach wants to give up the sure point.

It will probably take just as long for something like the extra point to be kicked out of the game. Do that, and let's just change the name to Quarterball or Throwball.

Back to Kershaw. I still remember when Alex Rodriguez left the Mariners and signed his contract with the Rangers that initially paid him $25.2 million a season. We were all just stunned that a baseball player would be paid that much money.

I did an interview a few days later with Hank Banner, the baseball coach at the University of Virginia's College at Wise.

His first reaction. 'And it he isn’t even a pitcher'.

He was incredulous that the Rangers would give A-Rod that much money, and pitching is 90 percent of the game.

Wonder what Banner thinks now?

Kershaw might be the best pitcher in baseball, but is any player who sits out nearly 130 games in a season really worth that kind of money?

Why not?

It always amuses me that folks talk about the money athletes make, but never say a word about Hollywood types who might make that much for one movie, or the cast of Seinfeld that near the end of the show's run were making $1 million for a 30-minute (minus the commercials) episode.

Kershaw was 16-9 last season with a 1.89 ERA in 33 starts. He struck out 232 batters in 236 innings, and completed three games. He was, however, 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in the NLCS loss to the Cardinals.

There is another former Dodgers' left-handed pitcher who must be shaking his head. He was 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA in 41 starts in his final season in Los Angeles. He had 27 complete games, striking out 317 batters in 323 innings.

That were the numbers for Sandy Koufax. His final game came in the 1966 World Series, a shocking sweep by the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched one game, allowing one earned run and lost 1-0.

Did you know Koufax — and fellow Hall of Famer pitcher Don Drysdale — had to hold out for to get six figures. He made $125,000 in his final season and had to retire before his arm nearly fell off.

Koufax must be envious of being born about 40 years too soon. What could he have made in today's market which will pay Kershaw around $909,091 per start beginning in 2015.

OK, now which is crazier, all that money or no extra points?

Let's kick that one around for a while. Just don’t take any extra time doing it.

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at bwoodson@bdtonline.com or via Twitter @bdtwoodson.