The NFL is pondering a longer extra point—42 yards?—but don't expect anything to happen quickly. Plus, why Jimmy Graham will remain a Saint, a Patriots-Texans trade scenario and reader reaction to the n-word debate
Three hot topics and then your mail, in a league that never sleeps:
For now, the extra point’s not going anywhere, though it should.
Judy Battista of the NFL Digital Media Group wrote Monday that the Competition Committee, at its Florida meeting, is considering a proposal to move the extra point to the 25-yard line, effectively making the extra point a 42-yard field goal, and could experiment with the new way in the preseason. As I wrote in the fall, there’s a very, very slight chance the owners would pass such a rule this year for the regular season, and nothing has changed.
Even in the unlikely event the Competition Committee approves the move and recommends it to the owners, there’s no way 24 of 32 owners will approve a rule that is seen as if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it about the game. So this is a great debate to start, but I don’t believe we’ll see a change in the current mode of the PAT for three or four years. Owners need time to be convinced of something that isn’t pressing (it happened in instant replay, which languished for years before being passed), and the extra point is no different.
Many have asked why the PAT must be changed, and the answer is simple: It’s not even remotely a competitive football play any more. In the past three seasons, kickers have made 3,691 of 3,709 PATs. That’s one extra point missed per 207 kicks tried … one PAT missed per 43 games. The point has been around since 1912, and my stance is simple: If you invented the game today, would you include a play worth one point that was designed to be so lopsided in favor of the offense? I doubt it. Which is why the league eventually has to fix it.
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The fate of Jimmy Graham.
Lots of discussion Monday about what will happen to tight end Jimmy Graham in free agency. It’s an intriguing question. Will someone, probably picking near the end of the first round, surrender first-round picks in 2014 and 2015, plus make Graham, 28, the highest-paid tight end in NFL history (at $12 million or $13 million per year)?
First, I would never do it. Let’s say Seattle—with a tight end need—was interested in Graham. The Seahawks have about $15 million in cap room, which shouldn’t be the big reason why they would either sign Graham or not sign him. Remember the important thing: In one year, three of the top players on the roster—Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas—are all eligible to negotiate new deals. Sherman and Thomas would be free agents; Wilson would have a year left on his rookie deal but likely will seek to re-do a contract he has vastly outperformed. The question is not whether Seattle could do the deal for Graham; the question is, with all the big-money deals coming due, whether Seattle GM John Schneider would be smart to sign a player who has hardly been at his best in the postseason, which is where Seattle expects to play for years. (Graham caught one ball for eight yards in his last six playoff quarters of the postseason just past.)
Finally, there is the question of salary management for very good players. Those two first-round picks likely would be key contributors for several years, and Seattle would have them at a team-friendly average of about $1.7 million per year. So you’re not only adding a salary of $12 million per year in Graham; you’re subtracting two top prospects, likely starters, at a favorable salary. Graham would be great, and the Seahawks or Patriots or another team with a crying tight end need would love having him … but the cost is excessive, if you ask me.
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Always find some good info in the Super Bowl DVD, and this one’s no different.
“Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Seattle Seahawks” is out this morning, produced by NFL Films and Cinedigm. It’s available on DVD and iTunes—here's the trailer. Other than some colorful stuff from Richard Sherman throughout the season—surprise: he was miked often—the star of the show was Russell Wilson. We did find out that when Sherman tipped the pass away from Michael Crabtree on the decisive play of the NFC title game, these were his words when he finally chased Crabtree down: “Hell of a game! Hell of a game!” But a couple of things in the Super Bowl rout of the Broncos really brought Wilson into focus.
Before halftime, when the Seahawks had built a 22-0 lead, Wilson was taking nothing for granted. He said to his offensive mates: “We gotta have a great second half! Get your mind tuned in. Let’s go be world champions!” And later, with Seattle up 43-8 as the clock wound down, he said to an unseen teammate on the bench: “I’m locked in, you know? Just being in the moment. Just checking the play. Just going up to the line of scrimmage and knowing what I’m doing. What’s my reads? What’s my checks? What’s my possible alerts?’’ You come away from the DVD thinking Wilson’s got the respect and the pulse of the team, and his team trusts him implicitly.
The other interesting thing to me about the Super Bowl footage is how dejected the Broncos looked and acted often during the game. Shellshocked too, from Peyton Manning to Champ Bailey to John Fox. After the Malcolm Smith tipped pick returned for a touchdown, Manning came to the sideline and, bewildered, asked offensive coordinator Adam Gase: “What happened?’’ As usual, the ghost of Steve Sabol shone through the DVD. It’s continuing evidence NFL Films is still very much on its A-game.
Now for your email:
A TEXANS-PATRIOTS TRADE PROPOSAL. Bill O'Brien was offensive coordinator of New England when they drafted Ryan Mallett. O'Brien spent more than a year tutoring Mallett. Mallett is a free agent after next year and will likely push to find a club where he can start. Mallett knows O'Brien's offense. As a veteran with several years of training, Mallett is a better option than a rookie for a team ready to win now. O'Brien and Belichick remain friends. Wouldn't it make sense for O'Brien to trade for Mallett?
—Oxana and Damien
It would make sense if Bill O’Brien thought Ryan Mallett was a playoff-caliber quarterback. And maybe he is. But in Mallett’s three years in the NFL, I have no idea how you would judge that he’s done enough to convince you that he would solve your problems at quarterback. I would be much more inclined to be enthusiastic about trading a high second-round pick for Kirk Cousins, for example. Ryan Mallett has thrown four passes in three years, since being the 74th pick in the 2011 draft. That wouldn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me to hand someone a starting job in the NFL.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER SLURS? As a middle-aged white guy, I don't feel qualified to debate Harry Carson and Richard Sherman about the meaning of various pronunciations of the n-word. But I do have one question: where would it end? We're not really only talking about a single word, are we? Because there are plenty of other words that are equally offensive. The NFL's first openly gay player may be on the field this year. Is the league going to say it's OK for someone to call him something derogatory, but not use the n-word? That would be moronic. Seriously.
Rob, you ask a question a lot of players are asking about this idea. Although the n-word is particularly egregious, I don’t believe many players view it as the only word that is so damaging that it should be banned singularly. That is the crux of this issue for many people. And that is why I believe it will be difficult for the NFL to make the use of this word on the field a 15-yard penalty.
THE N-WORD WON A GRAMMY. I think this whole conversation illustrates a gaping contradiction in society. If the n-word is so offensive, then why did the song “Niggas in Paris” by Kanye West and Jay-Z win two Grammy Awards in 2013? The NFL is stuck in the middle because society is stuck in the middle.
—Kevin Kuechler, Needham, Mass.
Great question, Kevin. As I see it, many young African-Americans feel that the use of the word with an “a" on the end is the same thing as me saying to a friend, ‘Hey buddy.’ To me, any use of the word seems racist, but to so many players, and to many people in the African American community, it’s not a racist term. That’s where the disconnect is.
PLAYERS SHOULD POLICE. I don't think the NFL has the ability to mandate that the word be removed from the game. I think it is up to the players. I think they need to set the tone, and to be examples for our young people, just like the rest of us do. It needs to start somewhere, and the word simply needs to go away. I think they need to be men, and stand up and say that no matter who you are, what color you are, or who your friends are, this word is foul, and you should not be using it. They need to listen to the men who came before them, and recognize that if it's not OK for everyone, then it's not OK for anyone.
Mike, I'm confused by the entire issue. If my ancestors had a word said to them that was the worst word imaginable, and if it represented everything about the oppressed way that they had to live their lives, there’s no way that I would use a close relative of that word in common language years later. But that’s where the disconnect comes in. Richard Sherman does not want me or Roger Goodell or the competition committee dictating the words he uses on the field or dictating the definition of a word he has no problem with. I feel the way you do—that if a word is offensive to some, then it probably shouldn’t be used. That’s one of the reasons I stopped using the term ‘Redskins’ this year. I think this is a good debate to have, but I don’t expect the NFL to resolve it with a hard and fast rule.
JERRY THE GM. I'll tell you what Jerry Jones was doing at the Oscars on Sunday night. He was wasting the time of long-time Cowboy fans. He was proving once again why he should not be a GM. He should have a singular focus as a GM. He should not be going to the Oscars one day, scheduling soccer matches, boxing matches, and college football games the next day. He should not be buying art for his stadium. He should be focusing on how to draft good college players and sign good free agents. He should be figuring out how to correctly manage a salary cap. He should be learning how to stop giving insane contract extensions to aging veterans. He should be concerned that a young generation of potential Cowboy fans has grown up since the mid-90s not knowing that the Dallas Cowboys football team has ever been relevant. The sad thing is, none of this bothers him as long as he is making money.
—Robert Emmet, North Richland Hills, Texas
But Robert, does that mean on Sunday night Jerry Jones should be in class with some capologist, or studying tape 10 weeks out from the draft on a weekend? Should Jerry Jones, regardless of his ability as a GM, be allowed to live his life away from football a little bit? I know you don’t like him as a GM, and there is ample reason to criticize him there, but I think it’s okay if every once in a while he walks outside of Valley Ranch and has a night out with his wife.
THE HIGHER THE CAP, THE HIGHER THE TICKET PRICE. I am going to have to disagree with you regarding the explosion of the salary cap. It may be good for players, but certainly not for fans. The cap is raised on the backs of the fans. I understand the popularity of football and believe the players should get every penny they can. But the price of tickets has made it almost impossible to see a game in person. If the owners want more fans in the seats, why don't they cut some seat pricing after getting a new TV deal?
—Tom McManus, Gurnee, Ill.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way the sports business works. I understand your frustration. Tickets have skyrocketed out of sight in most cities. I think it’s disgraceful that the concept of personal seat licenses has gained as much traction as it has, but so many fans are so into their teams that they make huge sacrifices to continue to go. There’s a lesson about the golden goose in here somewhere, which I’m not sure the NFL has learned.