RED ZONE…. Ah, the joy of football metaphors.

Shortly before the Senate approved its comprehensive health care reform bill, presidential senior advisor David Axelrod said health care reform is on “the one-yard line.” Last week, during a cabinet meeting, President Obama reportedly said reform stands at the two-yard line.

And yesterday, press secretary Robert Gibbs said health care is “still inside the five-yard line.”

CNN finds significance in this and wonders whether officials are moving the (ahem) goalposts.

[Gibbs’] comment pulled back the assessment several weeks ago by David Axelrod, the senior adviser to President Obama, that the bill was on the one-yard line, which in football would mean it was close to passing.

It’s probably best not to read too much into this. Whether someone thinks reform is at the one, two, or merely “inside the five” doesn’t really matter. The point is the country is awfully close to this historic accomplishment, a century in the making. The precision of the metaphor is largely irrelevant.

That’s not to say, however, that the metaphor isn’t useful. Tom Toles had a classic political cartoon a week ago, showing Dems huddled on the field, with one telling his/her teammates, “It’s the last play of the game. It’s fourth and one inch. We’re behind by five. What do you think? Field goal, or punt?”

The point isn’t assessing where each individual official perceives the proper placement of a metaphorical football. Rather, the issue is who’s going to call and execute the play, and get the ball in the end zone.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.