Storin: Goodell has good point about PATs

storapse@aol.comJanuary 30, 2014 

LSU Alabama Football

Footballs lie on the field during the first half of an NCAA college football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

BUTCH DILL — File -- The Associated Press

If the outcome of Sunday's Super Bowl is determined by either a successful or missed extra point kick it will be the first time in the 48- year history of the game.

There was one Super Bowl decided by a single point -- the New York Giants beat Buffalo, 20-19, in 1991 -- but it was a safety and not a PAT that made it a one-point game.

All of which leads me to Commissioner Roger Goodell's comments last week that the NFL competition committee could decide to do away with the extra point kick following touchdowns.

Goodell pointed out that there were only five missed conversions in 1,267 PATs this season.

"It is a very small fraction of play, and you want to add excitement with every play," Goodell told Rich Eisen of the NFL network.

The proposal received mixed reviews.

Naturally many placekickers, active and retired, voiced strong objections via blogs on Twitter. So did "long snappers" (centers who pitch the ball to holders).

Can't blame them for feeling their roles would be diminished (and perhaps their paychecks).

Former New England Patriots kicker John Smith, who lives part-time in Sea Pines, doesn't agree. "To me, it is all too automatic today," Smith said Wednesday. "I prefer the two-point conversion."

Smith will be forever known as the kicker who won the "Snowplow Game" against the Miami Dolphins in 1982.

With the score 0-0, just as John was getting ready to kick, a grounds keeper drove a snowplow across the field to clear a spot for the ball. The kick was good and resulted in the only points in the game.

Dolphins coach Don Shula was furious and, as a member of the NFL rules committee, was instrumental in getting a rule change that banned the use of snowplows during NFL games.

Smith has no hard feelings about that. He calls Shula "one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met."

Smith, who was a soccer star in Britain before signing on with the Patriots, helped televise five Super Bowls back to the UK and Shula was his guest in the booth four times.

In discussing Goodell's proposal, Smith points out that the emphasis on kicking has changed since his days with the Patriots.

"We didn't have specialist long snappers and holders," he said. "I had a hard time finding someone at practice to snap or hold the ball. Now they pay long snappers a million or more dollars.

"Now when I go to Patriot practices, I see a greater emphasis on kicking by Coach Bill Belichick."

Belichick and Smith are in full agreement that PATs are "virtually automatic" in today's game.

"That's just not the way the extra point was put in the game," Belichick says. "It was an extra point that you had to execute and it was executed by players that were not specialists, they were position players. It was a lot harder for them to do."

One of those "position players" who also kicked was Green Bay's Paul Hornung, who in 1960 scored a then-record 176 points -- 15 touchdowns, 15 field goals and all of his 41 conversion attempts.

"Not many kickers are going to miss an extra point today," Hornung said last week. "About the only way you're going to do it is get it blocked. It's superfluous the way it is. It's a boring play."

That is exactly Goodell's point and he mentioned several alternatives when discussing the subject with Eisen.

There is one that I find appealing.

Instead of placing the ball on the 2-yard line for PATs, move it back to the 25- or 30-yard line for kicks and retain the option of a two-point try from the 2.

One way or another, I think a change is coming very soon. ... Unless Denver or Seattle messes up a PAT on Sunday.

Forget it.

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