Placekickers have been fighting a decades-long, uphill battle for respect. If there’s any good news for the group, it’s that anti-kicker vitriol isn’t as commonplace today as it was in the 1980s — or at least people aren’t as open with their disdain. Above is a reader letter submitted to Sports Illustrated and published in the Dec. 10, 1984 issue.
It is dripping with venom. To be fair, it also contains a revolutionary idea to incorporate non-human players into NFL rosters. This plan never materialized but may have been the inspiration for the Air Bud franchise.
The letter is a response to a Nov. 12 piece by Dr. Z. suggesting 11 prescriptions for a healthier NFL. Banning foreign-born, soccer-style kickers is not one of the suggested remedies. But, it’s interesting to see proposals put forth 32 years ago to improve the game. Some would get strong backing today, while others would be laughed out of hand. Dr. Z’s first two serve as a good example.
•No. 1—Change the scoring. Field goals are weighted too heavily. Put a premium on scoring touchdowns by making an 18-to 29-yard field goal (snapped from the one-to 12-yard line) worth only one point, a 30-to 45-yarder worth two and anything over 45 worth three. Now when a team gets stopped on the one, it kicks a field goal. Why should that be worth three-sevenths of what a TD and the extra point would have been worth? The true value for giving up should be one-seventh. And change the overtime rules. A team must win by either a touchdown or a three-point field goal (of 46 yards or more). Also, put in the two-point conversion. Give the coaches some real strategy decisions to make.
•No. 2—No more mass substitutions after every down. Limit it to one sub per team per play, except for injuries. Make the guys on the field play football—in all sorts of different situations. The 49ers’ coach, Bill Walsh, brought this up at the last league meetings, but it never got any farther than the suggestion stage.
Back to the letter. If one read this in a Sports Illustrated today, it’d reek of parody. That just goes to show you how far, as a country, we’ve come on the important issue of kicker acceptance — and how short we’ve fallen in the important field of creating professional sport-playing animals.