As NFL/funny commercial/Bruno Mars(?) fans count down to Super Bowl Sunday, I’m reminded of one of my own pet NFL causes: going back to just one week between Championship weekend and the Super Bowl. It’s probably never going to happen, as the NFL has demonstrated a desire to be relevant for as many weeks as possible throughout the year. But two weeks is such a pointless buildup, as there’s only so many times talking heads can debate Richard Sherman’s antics and/or Peyton Manning’s legacy. Beyond the media factor, I feel like a forced bye week can dull the proceedings a bit once the game actually starts. Teams lose some of their sharpness. Not to the same degree that college teams do in the layoff from the end of their regular season to the bowl season, but it’s still there. Ah well. It’s probably not going to change, so there’s not much point in hoping.
- Something that might be changing? The extra point. Roger Goodell told the NFL Network on Tuesday that the league’s competition committee might look at removing it from the game, as it’s basically become an automatic result. Indeed, as ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert notes in his analysis of the proposition, teams attempted 1,267 extra points in 2013, and missed just 5. That’s a 99.8% conversion rate. It’s also 1,267 plays that could have been removed, which would in theory benefit player safety (linemen still bang into each other) and also help to speed the game along. On that second point, I think it’s the sort of change that could help the in-game experience, as it takes some time to get the field goal teams out to the field, more time to set up for the play, and then more time to rotate out, go to the other end of the field, and kickoff. Cutting out that middle section could very well save a lot of time, and the game experience for fans who physically attend can certainly use that. And considering how rare the misses are, I don’t think the league would be demonstrably changing the look of the sport.
- But what of the two-point conversion? Goodell covered that too, noting that under the new system, touchdowns would be worth seven points, but teams could elect to try a conversion for an extra point (an eighth) but if they failed on that conversion attempt, they’d lose a point, leaving them with six. In essence, it works out the same as the current system. The only wrinkle it eliminates is a potential fake on a traditional extra point attempt, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen. I don’t think teams would go for two less often, a potential concern cited by Goodell; it seems like teams treat the current extra point as a certainty in their decision-making process, which is understandable given the numbers. I wouldn’t be upset by this change, if it is indeed enacted; I think it makes more sense than trying to make a PAT more difficult, or something along those lines. That would be a departure from the game to which we’ve grown accustomed.
- Along the same lines, and as mentioned in the Seifert piece I linked to above, field goals are also becoming more bankable. Steve Politi of the New Jersey Star-Ledger thinks the NFL should consider narrowing the goalposts to combat the trend. I guess I’m not sure what the problem really is in this case; who cares if kickers are more accurate than ever? As 49ers kicker Phil Dawson noted on Twitter, NFL offenses have become a lot more efficient as well. But no one is arguing that the league should make the balls heavier so they’re harder to throw. I’m all for outside-the-box thinking, and appeals to tradition don’t carry a lot of weight for me. But it just doesn’t seem like there’s much here to debate.
- If you’re a Bears fan and a fan of HBO’s Hard Knocks program, there’s a chance Chicago could be the featured team this summer. As Deadspin noted (and I’m kicking myself, because I’d noticed this was a possibility a few months ago, but the Bears were still in the playoff race) Chicago is one of eight teams that could be compelled to appear on Hard Knocks, regardless of the team’s wishes. This is a new thing, as HBO struggled to get a team to volunteer last season, so owners passed a rule that says a team can be forced onto the program as long as they don’t have a new coach, they didn’t make the playoffs in either of the two seasons prior to the offseason in question, and haven’t been on the show within the last ten years.
- If you’re wondering which teams fall into those categories, here they are: the Bears, Bills, Cardinals, Giants, Jaguars, Raiders, Rams, and Steelers. Of course, a team can volunteer to be on the show that wouldn’t otherwise qualify, but this isn’t an opportunity teams have jumped at lately. If HBO does decide to use one of those eight teams, I’d think the Bears are a very strong candidate, along with the Giants and the Steelers, for fairly obvious reasons. (Market size, large fan base, and compelling characters.) ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright notes that Phil Emery is on record as not wanting to be on the program, due to the potential for distraction.
- It’s a story that has circulated for a few days in rumor form, but Rich Campbell reported for the Tribune that the Bears have hired Paul Pasqualoni to their defensive coaching staff. Pasqualoni will coach either linebackers or the defensive line; apparently that hasn’t been determined. He has a bevy of college and pro coaching experience, and I’d guess that’s what made him an attractive candidate.
- Kyle Long will play for the Pro Bowl team coached by Deion Sanders; he was selected as part of the new draft process on Tuesday. That process concludes today, and the other Bears have yet to be chosen.
- CBS Chicago’s Adam Hoge is at the Senior Bowl, and he profiles Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garappolo (Hoge notes the Bears have scouted him) in this piece. It’s an interesting look at a player from a smaller program (EIU is an FCS school), albeit one not without an NFL quarterback pedigree (Tony Romo played there.)