Bud Grant has entered his 95th year on this mortal coil and he has not stopped imagining ways to improve the excitement provided by the entity that made him most famous, that being the National Football League.

"The NFL does not need fixing,'' Grant said Friday. "Everybody watches the NFL. It's the greatest game going. But that doesn't mean you should avoid making it better.

"Football is entertainment. And there are things in the NFL that provide no entertainment.

"Why would you want to be watching a game for three hours or more, and then have the last two minutes turn into a quarterback kneeling down?

"Why would you want to have an outstanding athlete as a punt returner, and 85% of the time, all he's going to do is fair catch the ball?

"Worse than that is the kickoff. They have turned that into the most nothing play in football."

Do you think Harry P. Grant, the sports sage from Superior, Wis., only has questions? Hades, no. Our man Bud — the most popular figure in Minnesota's post-World War II sports, in my opinion — also has answers.

Victory formation

Bud says: "I would complain to people about the idea that when the trailing team was out of timeouts, the quarterback starts kneeling down and the fans are leaving.

"The answer always was, 'There's nothing that can be done about it.'

"I kept thinking about it and decided, 'Yes, there is. The team on offense has to make a yard — 1 yard — or the clock stops.

"A few things can happen when trying to make a yard. You can get stuffed. You can fumble. You can get a penalty. And you keep the fans interested.''

My Bud Rating (MBR): 100%. Might make for a few more measurements and skirmishes, but this would be such an improvement in the way many games finish that it's genius.

Fair catch

Bud says: "I attended enough meetings to know the NFL wants to avoid admitting Canadian football has a better idea about anything. Yet, they should follow Canada and take away the fair catch.

"There's no fair catch in Canada, but the coverage also has to give the returner 5 yards.

"NFL people hear this and they'll say, 'It will increase injuries.' The 5-yard cushion makes all the difference. My opinion is there won't be a real increase in injuries, and the punt would become an interesting play.''

MBR: 75%. Solid idea, although I do get a smile out of the stumblebum who occasionally fails to locate himself properly and butchers the fair catch.

The kickoff

Bud says: "Why bother, if your goal is to make the kickoff the most-nothing play in football? They say it's about safety. Injuries happen on every play.

"They have made several changes on the way you can block on the kickoff. They can keep those. But you wait three minutes through a timeout, they come back, kick off, walk the ball out to 25. It's ridiculous.

"Move the kickoff back 5 yards (to the 30), and if you don't bring it out, you don't get rewarded with the 25. You get the ball at the 15.''

MBR: 100%. The kickoff change in recent times reeks. But since the NFL has cited kickoff returns as a dangerous play, potential of future lawsuits probably take away any chance for a return to actual returns (even as Chicago's Devin Hester becomes a Hall of Fame finalist).

Which brought up a topic even closer to Bud's football soul than addressing the NFL's dullest moments:

Once again, the NFL chose a veteran nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it was Oakland receiver Cliff Branch, not Bud's iron man defensive end Jim Marshall.

"If you put out a magazine on the 50 greatest Vikings, Jim Marshall would be on the cover,'' Grant said. "He is the greatest Viking of all time — and not just because he played all the time, but how he played.

"On Tuesday, he might have an ankle so swollen you were surprised he was able to walk, and on Sunday he would play, and play well.

"I would say it's an injustice that Marshall's not in the Hall of Fame, but it goes way beyond that.''

There was a pause. I went with the "How was Christmas?'' sendoff to Bud. We talked about grandkids and the mystery of gifts, and he was reminded of a long-ago phone conversation with his mother, Bernice, when she was living in California and he asked what she wanted for Christmas?

Bud: "You know what my mother said? 'Buddy boy, there's nothing I really need anymore, and there's nothing wrong with cash.' "