NATURE OF THE GAME
Thank you for a solid pro football issue (Sept. 17). Good, progressive thinking is the stimulus the game needs to prevent stagnation of the kind that numerous writers and fans have attributed to baseball, and in his article No Boo-Boos Makes for Ho-Hums Tex Maule is attempting to provide just that.
In a prior issue Maule stated that a field goal is tantamount to awarding a team points for failing to move the ball. That is closer to the truth than any other written statement on the subject. There is nothing more disappointing than watching a team win by a field goal in a game's last 60 seconds, erasing 59 minutes of good football. Possibly the play should be done away with altogether. As for Maule's other proposals, they are excitingly interesting and deserve serious consideration from the team owners. The fans can only hope that the owners will follow up with positive action.
RONALD W. BERGERON
Despite his predictable pick of Dallas as No. 1 in the NFC East, Tex Maule's pro football preview was interesting and incisive. It is unfortunate that the critics of the lifting of the TV blackout don't look at that issue from Maule's point of view. Granted there may be a revenue loss for the owners due to the new law. However, this may be precisely what is needed to get the reactionary NFL owners moving toward some of the changes Maule suggests. These changes would help ensure that people with tickets would not stay home.
New York City
I enjoyed Tex Maule's article, but I disagree with his proposed changes to hype up the pro passing game. A zone defense (or a specialized defense such as the 53) makes it difficult to complete anything but short passes because it increases the necessity for accuracy. Nonetheless, a great quarterback on a good day and with adequate pass protection can defeat a zone or a specialized defense even if it includes 13 cornerbacks. Joe Namath, Bob Griese, John Hadl and others have demonstrated this. The answer, then, is in the development in college ranks of above-average passers and pass protectors. The college game at present, however, is geared toward the running game, and the Wishbone in particular. Even colleges that traditionally have produced exceptional passers, such as Alabama, Notre Dame and Purdue, are now emphasizing the running attack. The immediate effect will be to produce more running quarterbacks like Bobby Douglass.
To suggest that the colleges institute rule changes to increase passing is futile, since the NCAA considers itself to be anything but a minor league for the NFL. So the only genuine solution seems to be time. The colleges will, of necessity, develop defenses against the Wishbone and the ground game. The offense will, in turn, develop more and better passers to meet the challenge. The situation in the pros will then rectify itself. Any rule change in the pro game now may only create a monster. In the meantime, unfortunately, we must get used to four-yard passes on third and 30 from midfield.
Kew Gardens, N.Y.
Field goals may be boring, as Tex Maule says, but they are certainly more interesting than punts. And other things being equal, the longer the attempt, the more interesting the field goal. Maule's suggestions would totally eliminate the long field goal and replace it with the punt into the end zone, because teams would never risk giving up the ball near midfield. At the same time, starting every play midway between the sidelines will pressure coaches to go for the short field goal instead of the touchdown in the fourth-and-goal situations, because if the touchdown fails the coach no longer will have the post-game alibi of "the bad angle" precluding a sure three points.
I suggest a change in the roughing-the-passer rule to give the dropback passer the protection now enjoyed by the punter: if the defense does not get to the quarterback before he throws the ball, it cannot touch him unless it gets a piece of the ball in the air; if the quarterback rolls out or scrambles, he loses his special protection, and ordinary roughing rules apply. This would give the passer an extra second, enough to consistently beat any defense. It would also cut down on injuries to star attractions like Joe Namath, Bob Griese and Roger Staubach—the only other threat to pro football's continued prosperity.
There may be a third remedy for "the cheap shot from the 50-yard line." Why not a three-point deduction for an unsuccessful field-goal attempt? The Serbian's leg would be prudently used, and the attempt could be as exciting as a goal-line stand.
For several months now I have been noting with increasing irritation your downgrading of an otherwise superb magazine with stupid, infantile cartoons. Each year I look forward to your college and pro football issues—annually your best and, in former days, including colorful photographs with the text. So what do I see on page 50 of the Sept. 17 issue? A huge, hideous "drawing" far more in keeping with Disgusting Comics than the top-rated sports magazine in America. Ugh! The entire article was almost ruined. But wait—with mounting nausea I found on ensuing pages not one or two but 12 more of these monstrosities. Unbelievable.
This acre of space could have been utilized a thousand times more effectively and artistically with an equal number of photographs of the pro stars.
NEIL H. SHREVE
Fairmont, W. Va.