Hartman: Grant believes changes needed to keep NFL on top

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2014 - 11:58 PM
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Vikings kicker Blair Walsh attempted, and made, an extra point in the 2013 season opener at Detroit. Walsh, like all NFL kickers these days, is nearly automatic on point-after attempts — he has missed one of his 80 attempts in his two seasons.

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In 2011, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig hired former big-league manager Joe Torre as an executive vice president, and one of Torre’s major roles was to help with the study of instant replay, which is being introduced this year.

I think it would be a good idea for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to consider hiring former Vikings coach Bud Grant to a similar position in his league office, because he has long been a proponent of rule changes that are starting to get traction around the league.

This week, NFL owners will meet in Orlando to discuss a number of topics. One known to be on the agenda is a discussion on whether to change the setup for extra-point kicks.

Goodell has been talking about the possibility of making changes to the format to make it more of a challenge. Grant long has considered that a good idea.

“Well, you know, Roger must have read my book,” Grant said. “They have come to the conclusion — not because of me, but I’ve advocated for a number of years — that the extra point has become a nothing play. They came up with the statistics that they missed two last year, or whatever it was. The TV people won’t like it because it’s a timeout on both sides, but it’s a nothing play.”

According to Sports Illustrated, over the past three seasons NFL kickers have attempted 3,709 extra points and missed only 18. That’s an average of one miss for every 200 extra points kicked.

Grant said he has had a couple of ideas for how to make it more challenging.

“I advocated, and there would be a lot of suggestions on how to handle it, but moving it back to the 25- or 30-yard line would put some drama into it, even though they still make 80 percent of them, or they could narrow the goalposts,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “I don’t think they’ll do that. I think they’ll go back and kick it from the 25- or 30-yard line and still have the option, you can declare whether you want to go for two points and put it on the 2- or 3-yard line.

“… I think it will come to pass, but you have 32 teams and everybody has their own ideas. You form a committee, and committees don’t get anything done.”

Two other changes that Grant would like to see are the removal of the touchback for kickoffs that are returnable, even if they are in the end zone, and to eliminate the fair catch on punts, a rule that has been in the CFL forever.

“[Critics] come back and say, ‘Someone is going to get hurt back there.’ Well, they’ve been doing it for years in Canada, and I’m sure somebody could get hurt, but I never had that experience,” Grant said. “… The punt return then becomes a viable play, entertainment, and you won’t be going up for a beer when they’re going to punt because they’re going to force them to return the punt, which would make our game even better.

“The time to change is when [a sport is] at the zenith. Right now football is at the top of the list so we can make some changes and keep it at that level.”

Free agents coming into shape

To those of us who have got to know Jared Allen, it would be a great surprise if the future Hall of Fame defensive end doesn’t come to terms with Seattle after turning down its initial offer. Look for an announcement that Allen has signed with the Seahawks next week unless some other team makes a better offer.

It sure was surprising that the Vikings allowed the Carolina Panthers to sign Joe Webb, who did show some ability as a wide receiver last season, and still could be used at quarterback when needed. With Webb’s departure, other Vikings free agents still available on the market besides Allen include Kevin Williams, who they apparently are not going to re-sign, as well as Desmond Bishop, Erin Henderson, Marvin Mitchell, Seth Olsen and J’Marcus Webb.

Looking at college quarterbacks

According to the Sacramento Bee, the Vikings had a private workout recently with David Fales, the San Jose State quarterback who completed 22 of 35 passes for 439 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 43-24 loss to the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 21. One of the spectators at that game was Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. For the season, the 6-3, 220-pound Fales completed 312 of 487 passes for 4,189 yards, 33 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions.

Ben Goessling of ESPN.com also reported this past week that the Vikings have interest in Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr as a potential draft pick and attended his pro day workout. Carr had three consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons for the Bulldogs.

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