Don’t Grow Attached to the NFL’s New PAT Rule
When the time came at the league meetings in San Francisco to discuss changing the extra point, there wasn't much debate. Insiders say the discussion lasted less than a half hour. In the end the owners were ready for a change in the way the NFL treats the extra point and two-point conversion—and they clearly are not finished tinkering with the points after touchdown.
Owners voted 30-2 (only Washington and Oakland were negative) to move the extra-point line of scrimmage from the 2-yard line to the 15, and to keep the two-point conversion at the 2, and to allow the defense to be able to score two points by running back failed PATs or two-point plays. That's the biggest change in the NFL scoring system in the 95-year history of the league.
And I'm told the owners could change the system again in 2016. One of the significant and salient points made during Tuesday's vote was this: The measure passed for one season only. That means teams wanted a change to what's become a gimme—99.5 percent of all PAT kicks have been made in the past four seasons—but wanted to see how the new system worked before doing something revolutionary. The league wants to promote exciting plays after touchdown; just 59 two-point plays were attempted in 2014. If the new extra point doesn't motivate coaches to go for two more, look for the owners next offseason to vote to push the PAT back eight or 10 yards further so some drama is created in the touchdown conversion.
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Future Super Bowls. Of all the factoids that surfaced at the NFL spring meetings Monday, this one emerged unnoticed but may be the most surprising long-term: Los Angeles will not host a Super Bowl for at least six years. The next three Super Bowls have been awarded to Santa Clara, Houston and Minnesota. Late Tuesday, four markets—South Florida, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta—were told they'd be able to bid for Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020. That means the next Super Bowl eligible to be played somewhere in greater Los Angeles will be the 2021 game.
Not a shock, but a surprise. The NFL is going to put a team—and maybe two—in the Los Angeles area sometime in in the next year or so. The NFL also wants the Los Angeles area to be in the regular Super Bowl rotation, because of the glitz and the weather and the populace and the desire to make L.A. a major NFL hub. Why did this happen? Well, a couple of reasons. New Orleans desperately wanted a Super Bowl in the last round of bidding. South Florida last hosted a Super Bowl in 2010, and the area has always been in the Super Bowl rotation. It's been 15 years since Atlanta hosted a Super Bowl. The curious pick in this group is Tampa, which hosted a Super Bowl in 2009. I would have thought Los Angeles would have gotten the nod before Tampa.
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Kraft and Deflategate. So, why did New England owner Robert Kraft capitulate Tuesday and say he'd accept the NFL's punishment in the Brady/deflated-footballs case?
Two reasons: He didn't have the stomach to go rogue, a la Al Davis, in the courts; Kraft, though bitterly disappointed in the NFL's sanction of his team, doesn't have the stomach to battle the league in what would be an ugly case. And Kraft's a league guy.
The one thing I don't know is whether something about Tom Brady's defense, or Brady's word, bothers Kraft. Only he would know that. But in the past two or three days, it's become apparent Kraft would not challenge the league—much to the chagrin of so many Patriots fans.
Now onto your email:
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ARE THE PATRIOTS PERENNIAL CHEATERS? I am a Rams fan. And with “Deflategate” a hot topic, I can’t help but think about how this all started with the Patriots and where it went from there. The Super Bowl between the Pats and Rams in 2002 brought up questions about how the Pats seemed to know plays that the Rams had never used before. These questions were brought up by players like Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, who to this day haven’t changed their minds at all. The investigation ended when the NFL found “no evidence” and then destroyed the tape they had without making it public. Then there was “Spygate” and the Pats were found guilty. Now there is the latest scandal, in which there is only “circumstantial evidence” of guilt. I feel that the constant in all of this is the Patriots. So tell me, if other teams are cheating also, as has been alleged, then are the Patriots just too stupid to figure out how to cheat and not get caught? And since they’ve been accused so many times, how can they be so arrogant as to think they are being railroaded when the very nature of their team reeks of cheating for the past 15 years?
—Dennis F., Warrenton, Mo.
There is an overwhelming thought among some in the media and certainly among some fans. Patriots cheat, Patriots cheat some more, Patriots cheat even more after that. It has been fashionable to call the Patriots cheaters after Spygate. That made it open season. If anything, fans of the 31 other teams looked at any small instance—say, for instance, coaches’ headsets all going out at Gillette Stadium—and accused the Patriots of cheating. Sideline headsets go out in every stadium in the NFL. Does that mean that Cincinnati and Minnesota and San Diego are cheating when headsets go out in their stadiums?
The Patriots deserve the vitriol for Spygate, and they may deserve the anger and skepticism of NFL fandom for the more recent ball-deflation scandal. I still don’t think it has been proven. But there is a mania in America that says any time there is a scintilla of evidence that something is fishy in Foxboro that the Patriots are cheaters. You can choose to believe that. I don’t.
NO BRADY, NO BANNER. After your conversation with Bob Kraft, I am curious as to whether you were left with any impression as to what his plans are for the opening night game. Should Brady’s suspension be upheld, is there any way that Mr. Kraft would defer the banner raising and festivities until Brady returns? I’m sure you know that the war cry of “No Brady, No Banner” is running rampant around New England. How realistic is that?
—Caitlin Bell, Brockton, Mass.
Probably very realistic. I think it’s a great idea. Let’s say Brady is suspended for the first two games of the season, instead of four. It would make a non-descript home game against Jacksonville on Sept. 27 one of the most anticipated Patriots games in history. Sounds like a great idea to me.
MORE QUESTIONS FOR KRAFT. I enjoyed your Robert Kraft story, but would like to know if he addressed the question as to why Tom Brady did not cooperate with the investigation; why Brady never fully professed his innocence; and why the Pats didn't let the employees meet with Wells again to answer follow-up questions. These don't seem like actions that would be taken by a team that has nothing to hide.
—Neil B., Yardley, Pa.
I did not ask him those questions. If I had an unlimited time to speak with Kraft (I wasn’t sure whether I was going to have five minutes or 50 minutes) I would have gotten to the topics that you had mentioned. But my feeling about asking Kraft about Brady’s comportment in the wake of the Wells Report is that he’s not going to know why Brady didn’t come out strong. The lawyer for the Patriots, Dan Goldberg, made it clear that he and the organization felt that four interviews with Jim McNally were enough. NFL investigators talked to him three times and then the Wells group had McNally for a long time as well in a single session. I agree with you: McNally should have been made available again. But at the end of the day, I kind of knew what Kraft’s point on that was going to be. He would have said basically what Goldberg said.
TOO MUCH POWER FOR GOODELL. Why does it seem like Roger Goodell always hands out punishment that is either too light or too extreme? I am a Steelers fan, and I do not rejoice over the Patriots situation. Fans of other teams should be very afraid of his unlimited power. What happens if another team experiences a violation in the gray area of NFL rules, and the commissioner brings Thor's Hammer down anyway? Would the owners ever consider taking away or reducing the disciplinary powers of Roger Goodell?
—Joe J., Raeford, N.C.
The owners have had the chance to do that on several occasions—each time the players union brings it up in collective bargaining negotiations. Each commissioner that I have covered—Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue and now Goodell—have felt it’s an important tool for the commissioner to maintain control of the integrity of the game. Although I believe Goodell went too far in this particular case, and although I believe that he was heavy-handed in a year-long suspension for Sean Payton in 2012, I do believe that a commissioner needs to have the ability to rule about the integrity of his game.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOTE. What happened to the idea of simply making the extra-point automatic (no kick at all), with the option of going for two and the point coming off the board if they don't convert? If the extra point is the most boring play in football, won't it be equally boring if all they do is kick it from a little further back?
—Allan, Boulder, Colo.
Good observation. I think several teams in the NFL would have preferred your idea. The problem is, there hasn’t been a single idea that could generate agreement from the needed three-quarters of the teams. There are many ideas with merit and yours is one of them. But the NFL went ahead with a plan that it felt had the best chance to do something about the problem and could get 24 out of 32 owners to agree.
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