FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick would like kicking to remain an integral part of football.
The New England Patriots head coach had a few complaints about the current operating procedure of special teams — that being there are too many touchbacks, and extra points are too easy.
“I personally would love to see the kicking game remain as a very integral part of the game so that the kickoffs are returned and so that extra points are not over 99 percent converted because that’s not what extra points were when they were initially put into the game back 80 years ago, whatever it was,” Belichick said.
“I would be in favor of not seeing it be an over 99-percent conversion rate. It’s virtually automatic. That’s just not the way the extra point was put into the game. It was an extra point that you actually had to execute and it was executed by players who were not specialists, they were position players. It was a lot harder for them to do. The Gino Cappellettis of the world and so forth and they were very good. It’s not like it is now where it’s well over 99 percent. I don’t think that’s really a very exciting play because it’s so automatic. I don’t know how much excitement there is for the fans in a touchback. It’s one thing if it’s a great kick, it’s another thing when, let’s just say for example, over half the kicks are out of the end zone, then I wouldn’t really say it’s a great kick. It’s kind of almost a normal part of the game. I personally would love to see those plays be the impact plays that they’ve been.”
Belichick went special teams heavy in his press conference Wednesday. He also detailed the history of punting in the NFL. Back in the day, it was common for teams to relinquish the football on first down in an attempt to win the field-position battle.
“Of course, back when the game was invented and even back into the, let’s say the ‘30s and the ‘40s, [Robert] Neyland at Tennessee and a lot of his disciples followed the old rule of thumb on field position: inside your 10, punt on first down, inside your 20, punt on second down, inside your 30, punt on third down,” Belichick said. “You didn’t punt on fourth down until you got the ball outside of the 40-yard line, until you got close to midfield. You played defense, you played field position. Of course, we see a lot less kicking now than we saw back then and of course we see the specialists now that we didn’t see back then too. So you had the Sammy Baughs of the world, or all the single-wing tailbacks for that matter, that were punters first, runners second and passers third.”
Belichick’s affinity for special teams has been evident for years. How many other coaches have drafted players like Matthew Slater, Malcolm Williams and Nate Ebner, whose sole purpose on the team is to provide greater special-teams coverage?