Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gir's Weekly Column: Volume 56

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Gir's Weekly Column: Volume 56

By Gir Todafunk
Special to the Daily Magi
August 20, 2055

Hey folks, how's it going? I'm Gir Todafunk, back at it with another weekly column for the Daily Magi and Magi Football Blog. Two weeks until the 2055 college football season begins, and the 45th season of Mitakihara Magi football. These are exciting times here in M-Town, and I am excited as well to share it with you.

This week I'm going to talk about the drop kick and its importance in both American and Canadian football. In both American and Canadian football, one method of scoring a field goal or extra point is by drop kicking the football through the goal. The drop kick was often used in early football as a surprise tactic. The ball would be snapped or lateraled to a back, who would fake a run or pass, but then would kick the field goal instead. This method of scoring worked well in the 1920s and 1930s, when the football was rounder at the ends (similar to a modern rugby ball). Early football stars such as Frank Hudson, Jim Thorpe, Paddy Driscoll, and Al Bloodgood were skilled drop-kickers; Driscoll in 1925 and Bloodgood in 1926 hold a tied NFL record of four drop kicked field goals in a single game. Driscoll's 55 yard drop kick in 1924 stood as the unofficial record for field goal range until Bert Rechichar kicked a 56-yard field goal (by placekick) in 1953.

In 1934, the ball was made more pointed at the ends. This made passing the ball easier, as was its intent, but made the drop kick obsolete, as the more pointed ball did not bounce up from the ground reliably. The drop kick was supplanted by the place kick, which cannot be attempted out of a formation generally used as a running or passing set. The drop kick remains in the rules, but is seldom seen, and rarely effective when attempted. In Canadian football (and, until 1998, the National Football League), the drop kick can be taken from any point on the field, unlike placekicks, which must be attempted behind the line of scrimmage.

Before the NFL–AFL merger, the last successful drop kick in the NFL was executed by Scooter McLean of the Chicago Bears in their 37–9 victory over the New York Giants on December 21, 1941, in the NFL Championship game at Chicago's Wrigley Field. Though it was not part of the NFL at the time, the All-America Football Conference saw its last drop kick November 28, 1948, when Joe Vetrano of the San Francisco 49ers drop kicked an extra point after a muffed snap against the Cleveland Browns. The only successful drop kick in the NFL since the 1940s was by Doug Flutie, the backup quarterback of the New England Patriots, against the Miami Dolphins on January 1, 2006, for an extra point after a touchdown. Flutie had estimated "an 80 percent chance" of making the drop kick which was called to give Flutie, 43 at the time, the opportunity to make a historic kick in his final NFL game; the drop kick was his last play in the NFL. After the game, New England coach Bill Belichick said, "I think Doug deserves it," and Flutie said, "I just thanked him for the opportunity."

Dallas Cowboys punter Mat McBriar attempted a maneuver similar to a drop kick during the 2010 Thanksgiving Classic after a botched punt attempt, but the ball bounced several times before the kick and the sequence of events is officially recorded as a fumble, followed by an illegal kick, with the fumble being recovered by the New Orleans Saints 29 yards downfield from the spot of the kick. The Saints declined the illegal kick penalty. New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski attempted an onside drop kick on a free kick after a safety against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 30, 2011. The kick went out of bounds. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a former teammate of Flutie's, executed a drop kick late on an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter of the 2012 Pro Bowl; the kick fell short. The last successful drop kick extra point in the NCAA was by Jason Millgan of Hartwick College on December 11, 1998, St. Lawrence University.

In the Canadian game, the drop kick can be attempted at any time by either team. Any player on the kicking team behind the kicker, and including the kicker, can recover the kick. A drop kick that goes out of bounds is considered a change of possession. On September 8, 1974, Tom Wilkinson, quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos, unsuccessfully attempted a drop kick field goal in the final seconds of a 24-2 romp over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. This may have been the last time the play was deliberately attempted in the CFL. During one game in the 1980s, Hamilton Tiger-Cats wide receiver Earl Winfield was unable to field a punt properly; in frustration, he kicked the ball out of bounds. The kick was considered a drop kick and led to a change of possession, with the punting team regaining possession of the ball.

Two defensive open-field kicks were attempted on the same play by the Toronto Argonauts on October 29, 2010, against the Montreal Alouettes. With 9 seconds remaining and the game tied at 30–30, Montreal's Damon Duval attempted a 36-yard field goal but missed. After Argonaut kicker Noel Prefontaine leaped into the air to keep the ball in bounds before it could exit the back of the end zone for the single, his teammate Mike Bradwell scooped up the ball and then kicked it out to about the 20-yard line. There it was caught by Duval, who immediately kicked it back to the end zone to attempt a single. Prefontaine seemed ready to reply with his own catch-and-kick, but Argo linebacker and backup punter Grant Shaw stepped in front of him, muffed the catch, and attempted to kick the loose ball out of the end zone. This fourth kick of the play failed to clear the end zone. Montreal's Dahrran Diedrick eventually gained possession of the ball for a touchdown.

I can tell you this much: you won't see a single drop kick attempted by our team this season. Rick The Rock will stick to the ol' fashioned punt. Next week, I will talk about one of the most rarest penalties that can be enforced, as well as one of the most interesting players that can play the game. This is Gir, Mr. Wonderful, signing off. You are not alone.

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