Yesterday, Time magazine hit newsstands with our favorite professional sports commissioner on the cover looking as though he just conquered most of Europe. A reference to Napoleon you ask? Perhaps, although I know Napoleon was shorter, the ego is still the same.
Roger Goodell once again followed his passive-aggressive nature by floating more ideas on how to ‘make the game safer’ from behind the pen of a writer. Rather than being a true leader where he could have called a press conference and announced these ideas in person, Goodell chose to hide behind a magazine article. This is the same tactic he has used in dealing with the Saints on ‘Bounty-Gate’ and the same way he hands down suspensions and fines. He hides behind the very shield he claims to be protecting.
Let’s be clear; Goodell is not interested in saving the game he loves as is claimed in the article. He is trying to save the owners money because of legal action brought by thousands of former players. You know this and so do I.
Quarterbacks are already more heavily protected than the President’s children and if your last name is Brady or Manning, you’ve been given a protective force field that no player may come within three yards of. The league has gone to no end to help players with concussions during games which I whole-heartedly agree with if their health were actually the true reason.
Defenders are consistently penalized for hits that are deemed ‘illegal’ when in fact many are as textbook as they can get. Yes, there are certainly guys who still go head-to-head but the majority of players are leading with their shoulder which is what the league wants.
Now comes the Goodell article which has floated drastic changes if not the total elimination of kickoffs. Despite the fact that about 85% of all kickoffs today end up as touchbacks, Goodell is still concerned for the safety of players on these often violent plays and I will admit they are violent. The problem is that he has floated an idea, which was apparently the brain-child of Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano, to completely eliminate the kickoff.
Schiano’s plan calls for the team that has just scored to be given the ball on their own 30-yard. They would immediately face a 4th and 15. They would then have to decide whether or not to go for it and risk turning the ball over in their territory or they could punt the ball away.
Would this change end the violence of full-speed collisions on kickoffs? Absolutely it would but it would also drastically alter the game of football itself. Here are a couple of variables to consider…
- This rule change would clearly implore teams to improve their offenses and make them even more wide-open than they currently are. We already know that fantasy football is responsible for billions, yes BILLIONS of dollars and keeping those folks interested is best done by scoring more points. Goodbye defensive showdowns.
- The way pass interference is currently called, why wouldn’t a team with a good defense try tossing up hail marys? You catch it, you get interference on the defense or its incomplete and they get the ball on your thirty. Maybe you give up three points or maybe none at all.
- Punters are already important to the game of football but now they will become even more crucial. No longer will guys be expected to bang it deep, they’ll be expected to get it high as well to eliminate returns altogether.
My point is that why not just give the ball to the team who was just scored on at their own 20? That’s what happens 85% of the time anyway right? Why is there a need to create such a huge alteration in the game itself? Well, I know why and it isn’t player safety. It’s money.
Everyone agrees that the game has changed. Players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever and the game can become safer, but Goodell doesn’t have to change the integrity and basic fundamental element of the game in the process.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.