The NFL is looking into ways to make life harder for NFL kickers, including the Colts’ Adam Vinatieri. NFL senior VP of officiating Dean Blandino told the Toronto Sun this weekend that the league will experiment with computer chips in kicking footballs for the preseason - and, if everything goes well, perhaps for Thursday night regular season games too.
The goal of the chips is simply data-gathering, as the competition committee is looking into ways to make field goals harder. The idea is to possibly narrow the goalposts, and the chips will give the NFL precise data on how many of the field goals would have been good had the goalposts been shortened. In other words, the chips are designed to give the NFL the data they want without inconveniencing teams and kickers during that testing stage. Blandino said that it’s possible the rule changes could be put in place for the 2017 season, but it’s still way too early to tell without knowing the data the league hopes to collect.
If you remember, the NFL tried out the narrowed goalposts in the Pro Bowl two years ago, with the legendary Adam Vinatieri participating. It was a rough night for Vinatieri, who was the best kicker in the NFL that year, as with the goalposts shortened from the standard 18 feet, six inches to 14 feet, Vinatieri missed a field goal attempt (going 2 for 3 on the night) and two extra points (going 2 for 4). As you might have guessed, Vinatieri wasn’t very happy about the changes and was very much against them being put in place permanently.
It’s clear that the NFL is serious about making the kicking game harder, however, as evidenced last year by the longer extra point and now again with them looking into narrowing the goalposts. So what impact might this have on the Colts?
Like the rest of the NFL, it would surely result in more missed field goals (which, by extension, could perhaps cause coaches to be more aggressive on fourth down decisions). The timing of the changes could potentially have a bigger impact on the Colts, however. Vinatieri, a future Hall of Famer who has been better than ever in recent years, was signed to a two-year contract extension by the Colts this offseason. He won’t have to deal with the narrowed goalposts this year, but if the league were to implement the change for the 2017 season, could it have an impact on Vinatieri’s retirement decision? We know that Vinatieri still wants to play multiple years and that he’s got the all-time kicking records in sight, but we also know that he wasn’t a fan of the narrowed goalposts. He’s been kicking with the standard goalposts for his entire life and for his entire 21-year NFL career, so it’s possible that if the league implements the changes for the 2017 season the 44-year old kicker would decide it wouldn’t be worth returning for another season just to learn how to kick on narrowed uprights. Again, it’s complete speculation at this point and we have no idea whether the league will indeed implement the changes (or when those changes would go into effect), but it’s something that bears watching.