Wild Card Weekend has come to a close, and I am not here to provide full recaps of the four games. I would, however, like to cover five thoughts from the weekend. Yes, most of them deal with kickers. Let us dive right in.
- Maybe teams should activate second kickers for playoff games.
Yes, Seattle did overcome the loss of Sebastian Janikowski by converting the team’s fourth downs and two-point conversions. However, the Seahawks had no chance at an onside kick and gave the Cowboys good field position on the regular kickoffs. Furthermore, had Seattle recovered the onside kick in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks would have unlikely been able to attempt a field goal at all, though the team was down by only 2. This got me to thinking….What is more important, carrying a last depth linebacker or special-teams guy or making sure that an injury does not end your entire kicking game? While I never like to overreact to the worst-case scenario (which occurred to Seattle), the debate has merit.
- Coaches should not be able to call timeouts.
It has now been more than ten years since the league changed the rule to allow coaches to call timeouts. Before that, only players could call timeouts. I believe that it was an unintended consequence of this rule change that coaches now call timeouts as kickers are kicking game-winning field goals, but all coaches use this tactic. Sometimes the kicker makes the nullified kick and misses the second (as Cody Parkey did). Sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes, the kicker misses both. Sometimes, he makes both. It does not matter – I cannot stand this rule. If you are a sports fan at all, it does not feel right when the timeout is called as the kicker is striking the football. You cannot call a timeout mid-free throw or mid-penalty shot. You should not be able to do it as a kicker approaches a field goal either. Thus, leave timeouts to the people on the field. Yes, teams could still ice kickers under my rule change, but at least teams would have to ice the kickers before they boot field-goal attempts that end up not counting.
- Do not ask kickers what happened when they missed a field goal.
As if it was not tough enough for Cody Parkey to miss a do-or-die playoff field goal, he then had to answer questions from a million media members about how he missed the field goal. The simple answer is that, when people try to kick an oblong object 43 yards through the air and between two goalposts, even the best people are not perfect. We all watched Parkey miss the field goal, and we all saw him strike the ball like any field-goal kicker does. We have all seen kickers miss field goals, and this was another such case. It happens. There is no magical explanation.
- It is funny how athletes’ narratives change based on things completely out of their control.
The classic case of this is how Mike Mussina is not considered a “winner” as a Yankee, yet, had Mariano Rivera closed the door on the DBacks in the Bottom of the 9th Inning, Mussina would be considered a “winner”. The same thing is true right now with Nick Foles. Look, I love Nick Foles. I would love Nick Foles to be the Giants’ starting QB next year. However, he did lead the Eagles to only 16 points on Sunday. If Cody Parkey’s kick were an inch to the right, we are all talking today about how Carson Wentz would have been able to lead the Eagles to more than 16 points. Instead, we are discussing Foles’s magic in leading the Eagles on another game-winning drive. At least Foles did lead a dramatic game-winning drive and lead Philly to more than 10 points. The most egregious example of my “narrative” point came three years ago with the Blair Walsh Seattle/Minnesota miss. Seattle won that game because Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal to give the Seahawks a 10-9 win. People are unfairly treating Parkey’s 43-yard attempt as a chip shot. It was not. Blair Walsh’s, however, was a chip shot….and he missed it. What happened immediately after the game? The FOX NFL crew (Terry Bradshaw and pals) praised Russell Wilson for doing enough to win. Yes, I am sure that is exactly what they would have been saying had Walsh made a kick that kickers make 98% of the time to give the Seahawks a 12-10 loss.
- Who foresaw the “Allen Robinson catch/no catch” issue coming? This guy.
Last year, I responded to the Jesse James play by saying that the issue was not that it is wrong to have to complete the catch to the ground. After all, if a guy is tumbling to the ground, he might take three steps and have the ball pop out. If that receiver has never actually gained his footing, it seems wrong to call a fumble. That was the case with Anthony Miller. We have all seen many plays like this, and we know these passes are incomplete. With James, however, he clearly planted two feet before diving for the end zone and then having the ball pop out. We all knew that should have been a touchdown. Therefore, it is a bit arbitrary to decide when receivers must complete the catch to the ground and when they need not. That is why I proposed last year to leave the catch rule alone but to limit reviews to one minute. This way, the obvious bad calls are reversed, but we do not end up with ridiculous overturns like with Jesse James. Furthermore, the Anthony Miller play would have ended up “incomplete” as it should have been.
That sums up my key thoughts from Wild-Card Weekend.