By Ernie Palladino
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The term “status quo” apparently does not appear in the NFL’s competitive lexicon.
Things always change in that league, somewhere. Whether it’s new rules designed to add more offense, make players safer or create added and unwanted decisions for head coaches, the brains behind the organization are always finding new ways to juice or goose the game.
This year is no different. The Competition Committee, of which Giants president John Mara plays no small part, is considering which of the 13 proposed rules changes it will pass along to the owners for a passage vote. They range from expanding the current 12-team playoff format by adding a third wild-card entry in each conference to tinkering with what has become an automatic point-after touchdown placement.
That first issue probably won’t get out of committee. Not yet, anyway. But Mara said a bigger playoff format with a seeding system based on record rather than division championships will come sooner than later.
But the extra-point thing could be voted upon at the owners’ Spring Meeting at the end of May. It’s just a matter of what form of it the committee wants to put before the general assembly.
Readers should know that Mara’s coach probably won’t celebrate tinkering of any kind.
Tom Coughlin is a traditionalist on just about every level. He likes to keep conversations short and to the point. He’d rather go back to the days when players didn’t feel obliged to spin, gyrate and flip after crossing the goal line.
And he likes his point-after placements at the 2.
So imagine how he might greet a rule that requires the ball to be moved back to the 15, ostensibly turning a chip shot into a still makeable, but riskier 33-yard kick. Worse, imagine if another proposal that will tighten the goal posts from their current 18-feet, six inches to 16 or 14 feet gains steam.
The poor man has had a tough month already. At the last owners’ meeting in Phoenix, we learned of his consternation when he couldn’t get his iPhone’s navigation system to shut up after it directed him to his grandson’s roller-hockey game in a New Jersey suburb.
Having survived that assault on his senses — an attack many others of his generation have fallen victim to, by the way — he was greeted a couple of days ago with the news that Odell Beckham, Jr. and Victor Cruz are working on a dual end-zone dance. For a coach who detests the “Look at me!” philosophy of the modern football player, this could not have come as glad tidings. Cruz’s promise that the celebration would be executed so carefully that it would not draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty probably offered little comfort. Coughlin still has the vision of that flag flying in when Beckham spun his ball and danced against the Rams.
Now the league wants to mess with the extra-point setup Coughlin has been perfectly content with since he began his pro coaching career in Jacksonville.
At least Coughlin has the draft to distract him.
As for the kick, he probably has some company. Though the current rule makes it more ceremonial than anything else, what with only eight misses in 1,230 placements in 2014, a move back to the 15 would make things more difficult for cold-weather kickers. At last glance, the field the Giants and Jets share sits out in the open. So are the home fields of the Patriots, Eagles, Bears, Ravens, Bills, Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Redskins, Packers and Seahawks. It’s hard to imagine that those cold-weather coaches would thrill to a longer extra-point kick, even though 84 percent of last year’s league-wide field-goal tries went through the goal posts, the third-highest average in history.
One might imagine, too, that even the warm-weather and domed guys would greet a narrowing of the posts with something just short of armed revolt.
They have only as much say as their bosses will allow them, of course. It’s the owners’ vote. And it’s likely that when the 2015 season rolls around, the NFL will have turned the extra point into a slightly dicier proposition.
The coaches will have no choice but to embrace the change.
Coughlin is not the only traditionalist in the ranks, only the most local.
But he, like other brethren who might struggle equally with cellular technology and the values of the modern player, will deal with whatever form the alteration takes.
They knew when they took the job that the NFL has never believed in the status quo.