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Friday, February 21, 2014
Inside Slant: Addressing FG accuracy

By Kevin Seifert

Members of the NFL's competition committee met this week in Indianapolis, and already we know that discussions for centralized instant replay and eliminating extra points remain in preliminary stages. It can take a years for desired changes to be fully vetted, but it's still worth noting another topic that members broached this week: Rapidly rising field-goal accuracy.

We touched on the issue in December when commissioner Roger Goodell began suggesting alternatives to extra points. In 2013, NFL place-kickers converted 89.7 percent of their attempts up to 49 yards and 67.1 percent of those from 50 yards and beyond. If the NFL's goal is to make every play exciting, as Goodell said, then at some point you wonder if field goals will be too close to automatic to qualify.

Those trends have been noticed, according to Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy, a member of the competition committee. In comments to the Packers' website, Murphy indicated that brainstorming on the issue is underway.

"You're trying to look at what can make the game more exciting," Murphy said. "We also look back at how the game has evolved, how it has changed over a number of years. The accuracy and the skill of our kickers has changed pretty dramatically. You look back at the 60's or even the 80's, kickers were very different. It's amazing.

"It's a tribute to the skill of our kickers. [The committee] thought, what kind of things can we do? Narrow the goal posts? It's a discussion that we're having."

The improvement has come on quickly. As recently as 2001, the league-wide conversion rate was 76.3 percent, including 52.1 percent from 50 yards and beyond. In 2013, the league essentially converted nine out of every 10 reasonable field goal attempts and two-thirds of those of 50 yards and beyond.

Rule changes require approval from three-fourths of NFL owners, which is why several years of vetting, lobbying and debate can precede an actual proposal. It won't happen this season, but unless field goal accuracy makes a sharp U-turn over the next few seasons, you can expect some changes to make field goals more difficult -- er, exciting -- to convert.