Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin argues for pass interference as they take on the Dolphins in the third quarter of a game alst season at Heinz Field.
By Gene Collier / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Real, live, reasonably authentic football returns to your televisions tonight, America, and you've really, really missed it, right?
Well, me neither.
The NFL is the perfect new illustration of that old country lyric: "How can I miss you when you won't go away?"
Commanding the sports calendar on every cable, digital and social media platform year-round with its interminable draft buildup, OTA buildup, minicamp buildup, maxicamp buildup, not to mention enslaving millions within a parallel fantasy universe, Roger Goodell's product only grows more voraciously ubiquitous with each passing season.
Why, we're still even writing about it in the newspaper.
Most Americans walk around filled to the neck with NFL info, but if you're planning your own live look-in tonight, you should be aware of some things for which you are perhaps unsuspecting.
First, the Dallas Cowboys are not on.
NBC's "Sunday Night Football," television's most-watched prime-time program (thought it was Swamp People, but OK) does not put the Cowboys or the Steelers on every week, much as it would love to. But fear not, the Cowboys will appear a league-high three times on this showcase in the coming season, as will the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.
Now which of those things is not like the other?
Let's just say that five of those teams won eight times as many playoff games last year as the Cowboys have since 1997 -- one.
That's what makes the Cowboys America's (Most Over-covered) Team.
Tonight's annual Hall of Fame Game matches your Still the Buffalo Bills (pending a sale) and the New York Giants, and together they are the first lab rats to endure the NFL's experimental extra-point protocols.
In case you missed it, the line of scrimmage for the extra-point attempt, at least through the preseason's first couple of weeks, will be the 15-yard line instead of the 2, where it has been since before facemasks. The idea is that the extra-point try is too predictable (99 percent of 'em are good), so now the PAT will have the same degree of difficulty as a 33-yard field goal (92 percent of which are good).
It's experimental because the NFL evidently thinks any more than a 7 percent increase in your uncertainty over this play might be too much a shock to your central nervous system, a judgment so ridiculous that I'm instead endorsing the set of recommendations I received via email from Mr. Josh Winschel, whose reforms are more dramatic and, I might say, refreshingly so.
"The Ultimate Football Scoring system would allow for anywhere from 0-9 offensive points on a given possession," Josh wrote. "It would add far more strategy to the field goal and [to] post-touchdown decision-making. It would eliminate the useless extra point and add extreme excitement to the field-goal attempt. It would also make late-game strategy and scoring decisions very significant.
"The touchdown is still worth 6 points. There is no kicked extra point. The attempt for the extra point will come from either the 1, the 5, or the 10-yard line. They are worth 1, 2, or 3 points respectively.
"The field-goal attempt is now worth anywhere from 1-5.
"This is achieved with a unique goal post, which looks like this."
And that's where Josh included an illustration of the new goal post, which is a giant nine-pronged pitchfork-like structure. If the kick hits the center fork, it's worth 5 points, with decreasing values the farther off center the kick sails.
This is where Ultimate Scoring runs into some trouble, because goal-post manufacturers have already expressed trepidation about the relatively simple additions to goal posts that you alert observers of end-zone furniture will note tonight: The uprights are 5 feet higher, extending 35 feet above the crossbar, the better for referees to judge their worthiness.
Also tonight, you might note some real, non-experimental rule changes, such as that the clock no longer stops after a sack, that the referee can now speak to someone in replay command in New York rather than just stare "under the hood," that recovery of a loose ball is now reviewable, and that a blocker can no longer hit an opponent on the side of his legs in addition to on the back of his legs.
But I think Josh's graduated values for extra points and field goals is an idea that could be expanded for intense preseason experimentation, at the minimum.
How about this? No extra points are kicked, but instead, all successful conversions are worth a number of points equal to the distance in yards from the goal line.
Run it in from the 1?
That's one point.
Pass it in from the 10?
That's 10 points.
Down, 55-0, in the fourth quarter?
All you need is a touchdown (6) and a conversion attempt from the 50 (50) and you're ahead!
You don't have to be trailing to take advantage of this.
Say you take the opening kickoff and drive for a touchdown. Make the conversion from the 35 and you're up 41-0.
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