LITTLE ROCK — Under the category of new ideas, the NFL is 1-for-3.
Already in place is a contrived attempt to provide life support for something that few care about. On the drawing board is one plan to add and one to subtract. In this case, less is better than more.
From the top down, we’re talking about a Jerry Rice vs. Deion Sanders draft of players for the Pro Bowl, expansion of the number of teams in the playoffs, and elimination of the extra point kick.
Shortly after Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Joe Theismann, and Joe Montana participated in the same game 30 years ago, the Pro Bowl transitioned from must-see TV to better than nothing to I pass. The last step occurred in 2010 when the game was moved from the week after the Super Bowl to the week between the Super Bowl and the league championship games.
Right away, players who helped their team get to the Super Bowl were eliminated. Even when the game was played post-Super Bowl, many declined the all-expense paid trip to Hawaii. Just this week, seven of eight San Francisco Pro Bowlers said no. Two are injured, five have had enough football for a while. Acknowledging the possibility of injury even in a half-hearted exhibition game, the NFL has deleted kickoffs.
On Wednesday night, three hours of live TV was dedicated to the draft of 30 players each by Rice and Sanders. Razorback basketball consumed two-thirds of that time. Halftime was spent looking in on tryouts for “American Idol” and the final hour was devoted to catching up on “Sleepy Hollow.”
I have no idea who picked whom, but I am sure anyone who cares can find the rosters online.
Idea No. 2 is to add two more teams to the 12-team playoff format and maybe play some wild-card games on Friday or Monday. This year, the 12-4 record of New England and 9-7 record of San Diego were good enough to secure wild-card spots in the AFC. If another wild card team had been added, 8-8 Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Miami, or the New York Jets would have been in the postseason.
In the NFC, 10-6 Arizona would have been the additional wild card. The Cardinals were the only double-digit winner left out, but a 10-game winner on the sidelines falls under breaks of the game.
One professional league rewarding mediocrity is one too many. In the NBA, each teams plays 82 games to eliminate less than half the 30 teams in the league. After 40 games this year, Toronto led one division with a 20-20 record, four others were .500, and 14 teams were below .500.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says that if expansion is approved, it’s unlikely to happen before 2015. Never is too soon.
By the same token, four teams in the new College Football Playoff are sufficient. Sure, No. 5 will have an argument. If eight are in, No. 9 will complain.
Bizarre sounding at first, Idea No. 3 — doing away with kicked extra points — makes more sense each time the subject comes up. Does anybody watch the extra point kick? Touchdown confirmed, fans at home head for the fridge.
Goodell told NFL Access that if the rule is changed, a touchdown would be worth seven points unless a team wanted to try to get the ball into the end zone for a total of eight points. Failure would result in six points so the conversion would be attempted only when dictated by the score.
Goodell said he thought there were five missed extra point kicks and more than 1,200 makes this year. Arizona kicker Jay Freely said recently that he has not missed a PAT in 10 years.
The commissioner is looking at entertainment value, but shortening the game would be an additional benefit.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.