Here's The Kicker


zone. 

So going off those averages heading into 2011 - we hope, right? - Buehler's average kickoff with the added five yards should project to 3.06 yards deep in the end zone, and again going off last year's stats, increase his number of kicks sailing into the end zone to 55, or 70 percent. 

Now we're talkin'. 

Oh wait, one more number. Of Buehler's 22 touchbacks, 15 were recorded at least five yards deep in the end zone. As you can see, just kicking the ball into the end zone doesn't automatically mean a touchback. Thirteen of Buehler's end zone kicks were run out, further suggesting the Hesters of the world and the Buehlers of the world still will have huge affects on special teams. 

There is another factor to consider. According to Joe De, Buehler has the unique ability of hanging the ball up while still kicking from the one-inch tee. Meaning, if your team can effectively cover kicks, then why just blast the ball into the end zone and settle for a touchback? Maybe you try to hang the ball at like the five, and since your cover guys are starting five yards closer, take your chances of pinning the return team inside the 20. Again, not every kicker can afford his coverage guys such a luxury. 

Of course, some will insist that when the NFL moved the kickoffs from the 35 back to the 30 in 1994, the number of touchbacks dramatically went down. But McKay claims the decrease was more like from 30 percent to 20 percent, so not really that much. One of the reasons for the rule change, and even the small percentage at that, was doctored footballs being used. Individual teams would pull all kinds of shenanigans during the week to soften up the footballs, including throwing the balls into the dryer with towels and a whole lot of fabric softener to make the leather more pliable. Think in terms of Super Balls. And on top of these more bouncy balls exploding off a kicker's foot, these guys also were initially kicking from three-inch tees. 

Well, the tee is now one inch, making getting under the ball to drive much more difficult, and two, the specially-designated K-balls are used exclusively for kicks, you know the ones basically pulled right out of the box, meaning hard as a rock and harder to kick for distance - or, uh, catch and set down for place kicks sometimes. 

To me, all of this talk about the kickoff change just might be much ado about nothing, unless of course the changes do what they are designed to do since as McKay said, "The injury rate on the kickoff remains a real concern for us," and those concerns center on "concussions and major injuries. Both are there in the play, and we feel both need addressing. We watched a lot of film and it is a play we just think needs modification." 

That, too, is the real point being overlooked in this minor rule alteration. Because who says some of these guys should continue sacrificing their post-career quality of life just to play football? 

The real kicker to all this.     

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