By In Football

The extra point is up

Let’s start with this caveat: I don’t care about the extra point one way or another. I don’t care if the NFL keeps the extra point, and I don’t care if they eliminate the extra point. Maybe that speaks directly to its worthlessness, I don’t know. I figure the whole extra point talk is a wag-the-dog strategy to make people look one way while the NFL’s more vital issues — concussions, safety, the game becoming better on television than in person and so on — roam unbothered in another direction.

And here I am chasing that wagging tail …

But there is something about this whole extra point business that bothers me a little bit. It’s something I probably won’t explain well enough. But let’s give it a try.

Best I understand it — and I admit I don’t fully understand it — the NFL is talking about getting rid of the extra point for three basic reasons:

1. It’s all but automatic. It seems that 99.7% of all extra points were made this year.

2. It’s boring.

3. There’s a possibility of injury during the extra point (Rob Gronkowski, for example).

So Roger Goodell mentioned the idea of eliminating it. The plan I’ve seen thrown around most is a weird one. It offends my mathematical sensibilities, which is odd because I never thought I HAD mathematical sensibilities. In the plan, a touchdown would be worth seven points. But coaches basically would have the option of giving back one of the points for the opportunity to go for two points. It’s a Let’s Make a Deal, you can keep what’s behind Curtain No. 1 or go for what’s behind Curtain No. 2 kind of plan, and I loathe it because it’s clumsy and unsound and obviously not thought through.

The thing that bothers me is not the plan — there might be interesting ways to do this — but something a bit more ambiguous. The arguments against the extra point are generally true. The extra point is almost automatic (though this was a particularly good year for kickers). The extra point is not exactly riveting (though you could argue that it’s more riveting than the Viagra commercial that would take its place). The extra point does offer an untimed play that could cause an injury (though the threat of injury, compared to other football plays, is relatively small — eliminating the extra point for safety is like saying that boxers should be lifted into the ring because they could pull a muscle climbing in themselves).

Anyway, let’s grant all of that. Boring, automatic and needlessly risky, all at least partially true, that’s why i really don’t care if they eliminate the extra point. Peter King and Tom Tango and others have made the point that if you were inventing football NOW you would not have an extra point in it, and I concede that too.

But — and here comes the weird turn — I wonder about our modern attempts to eliminate every single moment from our lives that is not obviously captivating and compelling and thrilling. I think about my daughters. They have to be doing something absorbing every minute of every day. If we have a five minute car ride, they want to bring along books to read or games to play. If we are in a restaurant waiting they beg to borrow our phones to pass the time until food arrives. If there is nothing going on, you can see how hard it is for them to process it, how desperately they want something to hold their attention.

This has always been a kid’s thing. I was terrible with boredom. But now it’s an adult thing too. Louis CK has already done the ultimate bit on cell phones but it’s so true how much we need something to divert our attentions every moment of every day. I was on a shuttle bus to the airport — five minutes, no more — and I was checking my email on my phone, and I looked up. There were 10 other people on the bus. All 10 were looking at their cell phones, and this included the driver. I considered this for a moment before going back to my own phone.

People keep doing books and movies about vampires or monsters or zombies, but the thing that scares us more than anything is boredom. That’s the ghoul constantly on our tail.

So we run from boredom. We find ourselves wanting to distill life into only the interesting parts. We want to just skip over the quiet moments and get to the good stuff. But does that really make life more interesting? Don’t we lose something if every book starts with something exciting and every movie begins with a bomb? Did you see the movie “Man of Steel?” I didn’t think it was even possible to make a Superman movie I would not like. I loved the Christopher Reeve Superman stuff even with the whole weird “Can you read my mind” flying sequence. I loved the cartoons. I even loved repeats of the old black and white TV show where the most exciting thing George Reeves ever did was bend fake steel bars and hold out his chest and let rubber guns bounce off.

But “Man of Steel” drove me nuts because it was nothing but explosions and destruction and devastation. Every minute, another building crashed. The special effects were absolutely extraordinary, mind-blowing, but after a while even the most amazing of these effects, even the most remarkable of the crashes felt, well, boring. I think this is what happens when you try to fill every single minute with something thrilling and shattering and shocking. The quiet moments matter.

So, am I saying that we should keep something boring like the extra point so that football has a few quiet moments? No. Not exactly. I’m saying that sports are already FILLED with quiet moments that don’t really make a lot of sense. Why does the home run hitter actually run around the bases? Why does a manager have to walk out to the mound to take out a pitcher? Why does the pitcher have to throw the four balls in an intentional walk? Why does a player have to actually slap an opposing player when everyone knows he’s intentionally fouling at the end of a basketball game? Why do basketball teams get so many timeouts? You can think of a million of these. Especially in football. Why does the center have to snap the ball to the quarterback, why does the game have to begin with a coin toss, why do teams get so much time to huddle, why do we have to watch a quarterback kneel to run out the clock, why do they still measure first downs by having the chain gang come out, why do they still have kickoffs when so many go through the end zone, on and on and on.

Would football games be better if some or all of these things were just suddenly gone? I kind of doubt it. The thing about quiet moments is that they give our games a rhythm, a pace, a few seconds to breathe. They leave room for something to click around in our minds and imaginations. What I worry about with my daughters — aside from all the obvious stuff — is that they will lack the patience to stay with a story through a long set up, that they will settle for cheap entertainment, that they will not look hard enough to see the beauty in seemingly colorless things. Can we really not sit through extra points anymore?

And there’s this too: There’s a strange beauty to the extra point. Think of all the things a team has to do to make an extra point — line up until the precise moment, block everyone who might rush in, snap the ball eight yards back to a kneeling holder, who has to catch the ball and set it up and spin it so the laces face out, and then a kicker has to kick it through uprights. The fact that NFL teams has perfected the art form to the point where kicker makes 99.7% of all extra points, in a weird way, a testament to human performance. Maybe, instead of getting rid of it we might marvel instead. Heck, it only takes a few seconds.

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110 Responses to The extra point is up

  1. Mikey says:

    I once saw a really interesting presentation from a neuroscientist who had studied people’s brain activity while watching sporting events – yes such studies actually exist – and the most interesting point to me was that the brain is not as engaged by nonstop action as it is by tension-release-tension-release. The inhale/exhale nature of football is essential to its watchability. The exciting parts aren’t as exciting without the boring parts. Sports need to breathe. Keep the extra point.

  2. tombando says:

    Aren’t you one of the proponents of a stop watch on pitchers, or hitters stepping out 88 times an at bat, etc? Work on the consistency there sir. As for Man of Stool–no Giant Robots, no movie.

    • Artie says:

      I’d venture there’s a difference between quiet moments and “let’s all sit around and watch that guy step out of the box, spit, scratch himself, adjust his batting gloves, spit, adjust his batting helmet, step into the box, and dig back in.”

      Meanwhile, I have my doubts you know what proponent means.

  3. Largebill says:

    Amen. I don’t get the level of concern by King and others over the silly extra point. In some ways this argument sums up the difference between baseball and football. Transport a baseball fan from the 1950’s to a game today and it is pretty much the same game. Football changes several rules every year. A fan from the 50’s would hardly recognize the game played today.

  4. “I don’t care about the extra point one way or another”

    Neither do I.

  5. Great job Joe .. I knew something bugged me about removing the extra point and your last 3 paragraphs nailed it .. what if the PGA deciding to make every one footer a gimme since 99.7% of them are made, but think of the drama missed by some of the 0.3% of them that are missed at key times.

  6. wordyduke says:

    You are surely correct, all the way through.

    However, on the injury part, the danger is probably more than having Mike Tyson pull a muscle while climbing into the ring. The extra point is one play where both lines are smashing into one another (and often into one another’s heads) full force. On run plays, some of the defenders are hanging back or moving sideways. On pass plays offensive linemen are retreating. But on kickoffs and extra points, nearly everybody is trying to smash the person in front of him to get to the ball.

    The answer, of course, is to eliminate football. But, absent true sanity, why not reduce the number of players on the field to 9? 2-on-2 football would cause fewer injuries. So would 9-on-9. Since Canton, players have gotten bigger, faster, stronger, but the field is no larger.

    Why not declare that on a fumble, the ball stays with the team on offense at the spot it hit the ground? The chance for an interception turnover doesn’t promote vicious hits. But the chance for a fumble takeaway does. So eliminate the possibility and you deincentivize the hits. Of course some such collisions will be caused by players wanting to intimidate an opponent or to knock a star out of a game, or out of simple meanness, but the argument here is about reducing the violence.

    There is only one cure for football.

    • Spencer says:

      I’m with you except for the fumble part

      You hand fumbles to the offensive team from the spot and you get a strange consequence. This rule is present in my flag football league. There’s no threat of losing a lateral unless it’s intercepted in mid air.

      So we lateral. All. The. Time.

      It’s incredibly fun, but a bit wacky.

      Maybe hand fumbles to the defense? Rewards the defense for stripping the ball and punishes the offense for losing it.

  7. mjm says:

    “…why do they still measure first downs by having the chain gang come out…” This is my favorite thing about watching Football. We live in the 21st century, with all kind of advanced technology, and when we need to decide if a first down is made, we drag a 10-yard chain on the field.

    The first surveyor’s chain was used in 1620.

  8. Ty Sellers says:

    If football were being invented NOW there would be no lineman, no running game, absolutely NO physicality. You would get a glorified 7-on-7 or flag football. I imagine it would be similar to basketball today: fast break style offenses, poor defensive technique and execution, relying strictly on the QB to win games. Wait…

  9. Bob Lince says:

    Good post.

    Can someone explain how the spot is determined whence the “extra point” is kicked in Rugby.

    • rich says:

      It’s where the ball is touched down. An equivalent would be where the ball crosses the goal line probably.

      • Solon says:

        If I am not mistaken – and despite living in Scotland and France for a year I am definitely no expert on rugby – players often cross the goal line (or equivalent) in rugby and run it toward the middle of the field before they touch it down, presumably for an easier free kick.

        On contested tries – where they don’t have that sort of freedom of movement – they are forced to kick from wherever they cross the goal line.

  10. jdennis says:

    There is only one solution to return football to it’s days of glory. It must eliminate the forward pass. This wholly subjective “passing interference” hogwash is only present to please the gambling interest. As the losing team matriculates late in the contest, the officials can merely claim this foul, and give the losing team the entire field, all to play to the spread. Once the fans appreciate the intricacies of blocking and the single wing formation, they will see that the true brand of the sport is infinitely more compelling than this new-fangled rubbish where talentless ruffians can fling the ball five yards and some long-legged jackwash will dash through a field of inept defensemen spaced at absurd distances, leading us to believe that the fool who tossed him the pigskin is some kind of deity due reverence. Oh how I long for the days when the sport produced a fair result…

  11. Ryan says:

    I get your point about Man of Steel. It’s kind of like the difference between a Jimmy Page/EVH solo and a Jerry Garcia/Trey Anastasio solo. Page and Eddie are better if you only have 30 seconds to listen to it, but after a while they’re just being you over the head with fast notes. Jerry and Trey almost use boredom to their advantage, lulling you to sleep in order to make the build up more exciting.

    But with extra points, I think the comparison breaks down a bit. Sometimes things are boring for a good reason. Does sitting in traffic make your commute better? Does a dial-up connection make the internet more exciting? Is that five minutes on the airport shuttle bus really robbed of it’s glory because of cellphones? It’s an airport. I’m sure you had plenty of time to sit in silence at the terminal, on the flight, or in the taxi from the flight.

    To some extent, this is probably a “grass is greener” situation. Like if you told cowboys in the old west about iphones, they’d be like, “Hey, I want one of those, being a cowboy sucks.”

    • Which hunt? says:

      Eddie Van Halen I get, but Page? C’mon that guy let’s it breathe and adds so much slop that you’ll never it hear it the same way twice. Van Halen is like some kind of guitar robot.

  12. invitro says:

    “It’s a Let’s Make a Deal, you can keep what’s behind Curtain No. 1 or go for what’s behind Curtain No. 2 kind of plan, and I loathe it because it’s clumsy and unsound and obviously not thought through.”

    I don’t see what’s clumsy, unsound, or non-thought-through about it. But I might prefer just simply keeping the TD worth 6 pts, and having the 2-pt try after every TD. The change should not just be about removing the XP, but adding more 2-pt tries.

    I haven’t been a big NFL fan for decades, though, and so my feelings likely don’t match those of current fans.

    A little more to the subject… as I’ve gotten older, it’s become more and more clear to me how seriously flawed the big sports are, and how stupid it is to preserve those flaws in the name of tradition (or how boredom should be treasured). Everyone knows the flaws; Joe mentioned all the big ones, except for home-field umpire bias. I really wish sports leagues made more of an effort to improve.

  13. Steve says:

    The best reason to get rid of the XP is that it’s such a weird interruption of flow. We get immediate instant replays of almost every play in football, including the dullest run into the line. Except we don’t get that for the biggest play in football, the touchdown. There we have to sort of celebrate (or mourn), while deferring final celebration/mourning until we dispense with the important formality of the XP. Then we go to commercial, *then* we come back for the instant replay and discussion of the TD.

    It’s like waiting to celebrate a Lionel Messi goal until Garry Kasparov solves a Mate-in-2 puzzle.

  14. tomemos says:

    I really don’t want to seem mean, but this strikes me as an inane column, and I’m surprised that people are going along with it. For one thing, how can Posnanski analogize eliminating the extra point with lifting boxers into the ring “because they could pull a muscle climbing in themselves”, after already acknowledging that extra points *have* caused injury? Because football is rife with injury, that’s a reason to risk more?

    The comparison with other uncontested moments in sports doesn’t really work either. The mention of the intentional walk is weird since Joe, like many of us, wants to eliminate or change the intentional walk in the first place. Running the bases after a home run is actually great TV (think of all the personal styles involved) and also risks no injury.

    The extra point takes all of the bad parts of actual play (risk of injury and time added to the game) with none of the good parts (drama, aesthetics), and attaches points to it directly. Ditching it would be an improvement, no matter all the other problems football suffers from.

  15. Ty Sellers says:

    What if the PAT was changed to include an element of risk? Similar to rugby as I understand it. If a team wants to kick from the left hash mark 50 yards out they can and it will be worth more points (3, 4, 5???). If a team wishes to kick from the familiar PAT placement they can but it’s only worth 1 point.

    Also, if a kicker had to attempt the PAT utilizing the drop-kick it would be much more interesting.

  16. Wilbur says:

    I’ve advocated amongst friends for many years that the kicking for the extra point be eliminated. Simply make the rule that you have to run or pass for one point. It makes an exciting, meaningful play.

    The primary objection heard is that it takes “kicking” out of the game. Quite the contrary: it makes field goals and field goal kicking far more valuable when extra points are no longer sure things.

    Kickoffs: I would change the rules thusly – that kickoffs go back to the 40 yard line. If the kicking team kicks the ball into the endzone on the fly (or beyond), the receiving team may down it and take the ball on their 40 yard line. What you’ll see is a lot of line drive bullet kicks that are hard to handle and (bonus) exciting to watch. Or, you may see a kicker specialize in high short kicks. Anything’s better than watching them routinely boot them out of the endzone.

    • Dave says:

      I like your kickoff idea! On extra points, if it is to change, I’d suggest moving the kick back to say the 25 for a 42-yard kick. Or you can run/pass from the two for 2 points. There is a reasonable chance of making the 1-point, but the 2-pointer would be pretty tempting.

  17. Jarid says:

    The slow-pitch softball league I’m in already has eliminated home trots – if you hit the ball over the fence, you simply have to touch first base for the runs to be official.

    • When I played, most fields didn’t have fences, and if they did they were hard to reach. I know with trampoline effect bats that all fences are easily reachable now, so I can see where leagues wanted to end the constant slow HR trots.

      It was a different game then. Long hits tended to hang in the air and became long outs. So I had to learn how to slash balls into the gaps and down the lines. There were lots of different approaches and styles. Big mashers were rare, since without reachable fences, we merely backed up our outfields to the distance the batter could hit it.

  18. I don’t see why the plan offends you when it’s almost exactly like the current situation. In effect, the TD is worth 6 points, and you can either take the automatic bonus of 1 more or decline that and try for 2.

  19. Brent says:

    Ryan, your last comment confused me. A pickup truck would improve the life of an Old West cowboy, an Iphone, not so much. Maybe you meant a Pony Express rider?

    • Ryan says:

      From what I’ve read, being a cowboy was rather boring. Although it is often portrayed as an exciting profession in most Westerns, so I guess that was confusing. In that case, yes I meant a Pony Express rider.

  20. CT Bold says:

    If your daughters handled boredom better, it would be OK to eliminate the PAT? What?

    Pitchers and catchers report in a month; hang tough.

  21. Eric Haynes says:

    Great points Joe. Still, I suffered through The Electric Horseman back in 1979 and I desperately want those 122 minutes back.

  22. MtheL says:

    Here’s what I see as a simple solution – move the PA kick back to the 50 yard line, but make it a free kick. You eliminate injury, you don’t mess with the math, you increase the drama by increasing the distance, and you reduce the surety of 99.7% made. And if you reduce the number made, you also increase the chances that a team will go for 2, which increases the drama even more. Simple solution, makes everyone happy.

    • John Gale says:

      This is asinine. So the kicker has to make a 60-yarder (free kick or not) to get one point? Assuming two-point conversions are still from the three-yard line, why would any team go for one instead of two? They wouldn’t. If you want to force teams to go for two every time, fine. But be up front about it and just make it a requirement instead of making a one-point conversion so difficult that it makes no sense.

      • Tom says:

        You could gather the stats for the success rate of 2 point conversions which is usually about 50%, then determine a field goal yardage that has a success rate of 75% and set the extra point there to keep the risk/reward system in place. I’m guessing it’d be around 40-45 yards in dome/good conditions. But there are pros and cons to everything and with this method it would practically guarantee 2 point conversions in bad weather on every TD.

        • MtheL says:

          That’s exactly what I was going for, Tom. I don’t really care what the specific distance is – the point is you can keep a kick, make it a generally viable option but lower the success rate and increase the drama (and lower the danger of injury) by adding some distance and making it a free kick. 50 yard line was just an example – in my example, it is a free kick after all, so it has to be a good distance – and if you ever watch practice, most kickers can make a 60 yard free kick much more often than 50% of the time. But I’d be fine with making it a 40 yard free kick attempt if that’s the distance necessary to make it something like a 75-85% success rate. Just something that lowers the success rate a little and increases the drama.

  23. Blake says:

    Here’s a practical issue about the extra point and television.

    Currently, after a touchdown, the telecast stays with the game for the extra 45 seconds or so needed to show the extra point. We see and hear the cheering crowd, or the dumbstruck one. We get some of the best emotional moments of the game, thanks to the extra point keeping us with them.

    If the NFL eliminates the extra point, they will cut to a commercial 45 seconds earlier. Hurray, touchdown! Wow, look at those chips and dip.

    Keep the extra point. It makes the broadcasts far better.

    • You’re right. Most of the timing changes, like shortening half time and keeping the clock running, shorten the amount of actual time teams run plays. The time is filled with extra commercials. Eliminating the extra point would be no different, and is probably the main motivation. You’d get an extra 30-45 seconds of commercials for every TD. Another opportunity to fatten up the TV contracts, while claiming safety. It’s brilliant marketing really.

  24. Tom says:

    I like the extra point because it gives fans a chance to cheer twice for the TD.

  25. critterjams says:

    I get that sports should have boring moments, but you’re talking about a sport where the broadcast is three hours long and features about 15 minutes of real action.

  26. Mark Daniel says:

    Sometimes flags are thrown on extra points. Those affect the game in some way, don’t they? I would guess there are more penalties on extra points than actual missed extra points.

  27. dbradley88 says:

    Football has been reinvented recently. It’s called the “Lingerie Football League.”

  28. Michael Grimaldi says:

    All scoring in football boils down to this: “Me and my 10 friends can carry this odd-shaped ball over that line, and you can’t stop us.” “Oh, yeah? Well me and my 10 friends can stop you, and what’s more, we can carry it over THAT line, and you can’t stop us.” “OK, let’s go.” Everything else is a rather remarkable formula to reward each team for their ability to do that, or stop the other team from doing that. That formula has worked for a long time, and it ought not be revised.

  29. BigSteve says:

    If you eliminate the automatic PAT, you have to add an element of risk. Right now, if you go for two points and fail, you don’t get a one-point consolation prize. If the kick is eliminated, and you can get an additional point by trying a run or pass play, then every team would do it every time. Why wouldn’t they? So with the rule change, teams would get an additional point, what, 30% of the time? I think I’d like it better if the TD stayed at 6 points and the only way to make it 7 was by succeeding with an additional run or pass play. In other words just eliminate awarding a point for a chip shot kick.

    • Ian R. says:

      I think the proposed rule change is that if you go for the extra point and don’t make it, the touchdown goes from 7 to 6 points. Which is weird, but it still keeps that element of risk.

  30. Frank says:

    I know this is talking about NFL and not college, but imagine the Penn State fight song without the pause at the extra point…it’s just not right.

  31. Chris H says:

    The first thing I thought about this is, Morten Andersen’s career scoring record is suddenly looking much safer.

    And the second thing I thought was, let’s go whole hog and introduce a “point-per-yard” point after. The scoring team gets to place the ball on any hashmark. If they place it one yard away, and make it to the end zone, they get a point. If they place it 99 yards away and manage to score, it’s worth 99.

    The strategy on last-second scores will become obvious, but what if you’re leading 87-70 in the second quarter? Do you take a safe two points? Go for 50? We’ll separate the Wyches from the Lombardis, I’ll tell you that. (Still to be worked out: if you throw a pick-six from your own one-yard line, is that worth 1 or 99 to the defense?)

    Okay, that’s a terrible idea, and I don’t really mean it, but as long as we’re brainstorming how to fix non-existent problems, let’s go all-in.

    (I actually do like the idea posteed above of switching to a free kick with a greater degree of difficulty.)


    • critterjams says:

      ^^^ this is the best idea so far. 2013 BRONCOS GREATEST SCORING OFFENSE OF ALL TIME, YOU SAY??

      Another GREAT idea: Force the coaches to wear their team’s jersey, similar to how MLB does it. (then make them kick the extra point…WIN WIN!!!)

      • Tom G says:

        Make the player who scored be the one to kick the extra point. That would make it mean something

        • That is a great idea –

        • MCD says:

          While the NFL would never do that, making the TD scorer kick the extra point actually does sound like it would make things fun, at least in the short term.

        • Rob says:

          This is my preference as well. I would expect it to be somewhat like free throws in basketball–where some players are almost automatic (i.e. the place kickers) and some players are less than 50 percent (maybe an offensive lineman who picked up a fumble and rumbled for the TD).

          I think it would change goal line strategy quite a bit and might lead to more 2-point conversion attempts. Would you rather have a weak kicker try the PAT, or just go for two? I would allow anyone to make the 2-point conversion to open up this strategy.

          Alas, I doubt this will ever happen.

        • The Navigator says:

          This is a >fantastic< idea. A bit of a throwback to football's origins, where players all played both ways – you're expected to have more than one skill. It adds in several elements of strategy – does it affect the personnel the offense puts on the field in the red zone, marginally? Does it alter – slightly – who they go to on 1st and goal? And at least once a season, some defense with a seven point lead late and facing an offense that has a 1st down on the 1 will double-team all possible scorers except the one it wants to be certain will have to attempt the subsequent kick. It would also vastly increase people's respect for kickers – nobody would be trashing that Alabama kicker from the 2013 Iron Bowl (well, not nobody, but far fewer people).

    • MCD says:

      I thought about the Morten Andersen record also and how it underscores how differently we look at numbers in baseball versus football.

      Here we have a proposed rule change that radically changes how an individual player amasses career points and points in a season and nobody really cares about that aspect. Not saying that they should, simply observing how little records like this mean in football.

  32. critterjams says:

    You could also eliminate the other 8 players on the offense for extra points, so it’s just snapper, holder, and kicker. Let’s see him try to make it now!! (reduces risk injury too – BONUS!!)

  33. You guys are all missing the most important thing here. I don’t want to miss the game or commercials so if they eliminate the extra point when are we supposed to go to the bathroom during the Super Bowl?

  34. The “change the extra point” bus is being driven by east coast, liberal blowhard Peter King. Roger Goodell needs to stop listening to King – football will be an unrecognizable version if King keeps getting his way.

    • tomemos says:

      I fail to see the left-right politics involved in eliminating the extra point, but perhaps as a west coast liberal blowhard I just don’t understand politics.

      • Just having fun getting in a dig at Peter King, the self-appointed conscience of the game. I heard a radio guy tag him with the east coast, liberal blowhard title and it makes me giggle.

    • I think Goodell is listening to his lawyers about head injury liability lawsuits. But don’t let me get in the way of your anti liberal, anti change, anti King narrative. It makes you look super intelligent that you’re the only one that has this figured out.

  35. aweb says:

    Just go to the rugby rules, mentioned above – you kick for the convert from the two yard line, but from where the TD occurred. Sideline scores are worth less than middle of the field scores, thus adding a reward to teams who can run the ball at the goal line. You would have to establish outer limits, to allow for squads to lineup (wide hashes). And the two-pointers get the same line of scrimmage. I’d be really curious to see plays designed with an entire endzone on one side.

  36. Patrick Bohn says:

    There’s a larger issue lurking behind the tail-wagging: Kicking—all forms of it—has improved to the point where something might need to be done.

    Frankly, extra points have long been close to automatic. Kickers have made 90% or better in all but 12 seasons of NFL history—and eleven of those were pre-1945. They’ve made 98% or more 20 years straight.

    It’s field goal kicking where the numbers have gone way up. Field goals were successful at an all-time high last season: 86.5%. Teams were making less than half of their FGs in 1967. That’s a pretty amazing increase in less than 50 years. At some point, I think we’ll have to admit that kickers are simply better than the creators of the game ever envisioned

    • brian says:

      More of a FG than PAT thing, but I’m not sure why the NFL hashmarks can’t be moved out to the college spots. It’s kind of strange that in college, where the kickers are usually not as good, the hashmarks are wide, but in the NFL, the kickers that are the best of the best get to kick from the narrow hashmarks.

      The other options are to narrow the goal posts (glad my seats aren’t right behind them) or raise the bar. It also begs the question as to why the defending teams are not allowed to do running leaps, jumping over the line, lifting defenders, or “defensive goaltending”. I’m sure some of those are injury related, but they would make FG’s a lot tougher.

      • Ty Sellers says:

        The hash marks have little to do with kicking, if anything. They are closer together in the pro game to stimulate more offense. Widening the boundary (the short side of the field) to allow for more plays to be run in that direction which puts more pressure on the defense to defend the entire field.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if both college and high school (the high school hash marks are even MORE spread out than college) football started moving in that direction as offense has become priority number one for most governing bodies.

    • NevadaMark says:

      Excellent point. Perhaps they should make field goals worth only a point. Or, how about forbidding soccer style kicking?

  37. Mean Dean says:

    Why does the home run hitter actually run around the bases? Why does a manager have to walk out to the mound to take out a pitcher? Why does the pitcher have to throw the four balls in an intentional walk? Why does a player have to actually slap an opposing player when everyone knows he’s intentionally fouling at the end of a basketball game? Why do basketball teams get so many timeouts? You can think of a million of these. Especially in football. Why does the center have to snap the ball to the quarterback, why does the game have to begin with a coin toss, why do teams get so much time to huddle, why do we have to watch a quarterback kneel to run out the clock, why do they still measure first downs by having the chain gang come out, why do they still have kickoffs when so many go through the end zone, on and on and on.

    Very good points.

    Clearly the most disposable of those is the chains. That’s not even a “pace of play” thing, that’s a “old school for the sake of old school” thing. Which would be one thing in baseball, which is so concerned with its own history, but I don’t think it makes any sense in football.

    Other than that, I personally think the two most disposable of those are the extra point, and the intentional walk ritual.

    I admit it would be tough, though, to explain why those two stand out for me.

    • I always thought it would be cool if they shot a laser line across the field at the 10 yard marker so that the players could see it. On some pays it would make them fight for that extra yard if they could see where they needed to be, like fighting for the goal line. Then again there would be more stepping out of bounds when they already passed the laser.

  38. Damon Rutherford says:

    Re: Kicking is too easy now.

    They could change the posts. Move the posts closer together and raise the cross bar.

    Then, for PAT, place ball, hmm, on 13-yard line, so it’s like a 30-yard FG attempt. Perhaps make adjustments so PAT conversion rate is between 90-95%.

    For 2-pt conversion attempt, ball spotted at current location.

    I also would suggest they widen the field to generate more offense and minimize the gang tackling and extra defenders flying in after initial contact. If the field is wider, the safeties and middle linebackers have more ground to cover to help out near the side lines.

  39. Paul says:

    I don’t know why this is so complicated. Goodell represents the owners.

    Clearly this decision is based on either making more money for them via more commercials, or because Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft or a couple of other owners raised a stink about it for some reason. You mentioned it in passing, but Rob Gronkowski’s injury probably had something to do with it. Injured Patriot – better change the rules!

    Even if that’s not the case, let’s stop debating why this is better or worse for the game, because I guarantee you that’s not why the decision’s being made.

    • tomemos says:

      Even if that’s not the case, let’s stop debating why this is better or worse for the game, because I guarantee you that’s not why the decision’s being made.
      I don’t get this reasoning. People make decisions for all kinds of reasons. Other people support or oppose those decisions for their own reasons, which may or may not be the same as the decisionmakers’ reasons. Whatever Goodell is going for, my opinion on it will depend on whether it’s good for the game, no?

  40. Matthew Clark says:

    Miles Davis expained that music is really defined by the pauses between the notes, by the notes that aren’t played. I think life is much the same. It is the quality of the pauses in our lives that determines whether our lives are good or ill.
    But football is essentially a series of pauses punctuated by sporadically interesting action. Pauses are fine, but what type of pauses? The extra point is the least offensive of pauses. Improve football but reducing the play clock to 10 seconds, by reducing rosters to require two-way players, by eliminating special teams play. Increase the overall tempo and leave the extra point alone.

  41. Andrew says:

    I loathe the league’s proposal. Awarding points automatically isn’t football, except in Canada. Simply move the PAT spot back 20 yards, while allowing the existing 2-point option. Then you have a calculated tradeoff between probability and extra points.

    • tomemos says:

      How is changing the value of a touchdown from 6 to 7 “awarding points automatically”? Should we change all touchdowns to 1 point?

      • Andrew says:

        It awards the point if you don’t try a conversion, or takes it away if you try for 2 and fail.

        In other words, you are awarded a point for not trying something. Which is the opposite of an actual sport.

        • DavidJ says:

          If you don’t like the idea of awarding a point for nothing, just think about it this way instead: the touchdown is now worth seven points. You can then try for a one-point conversion, but if you fail you lose a point. It’s the exact same thing.

    • Dan Shea says:

      There’s no automatic points in Canadian football either. The rouge is an additional way of scoring, but is by no means “automatic”. F’rinstance, if the team attempting a FG misses short, so the kick doesn’t make it to the end zone, they don’t get the single point. (Keep in mind the goalposts are at the front of the end zone in the CFL, not the back.) Or the receiving team can return or kick the ball out of the end zone – no single point.

  42. Chris says:

    This idea of bending the space-time continuum by awarding 7 points, but if you miss the 2-point try it’s only 6, is asinine. If they’re going to eliminate extra points, why not just make TDs worth 6, and if you get the two then you get 8? Seems simple enough. Can you imagine coaches trying to determine if they should take the automatic 7, or go for 2 but then maybe end up with 6? Andy Reid’s head might explode, and frankly I wouldn’t blame him. Needlessly complex for the sake of being complex. 6 point TDs with a two point conversion try is nice and neat.

    “If you were inventing football today…” as if that’s an airtight argument. There are probably a lot of things about football that wouldn’t be included if the game were invented today. Given the size of the players today, you might opt for fewer players on the field, like 7-on-7. You might not including field goal kicking at all. You might not have kickoffs at all, but rather just give the other team the ball at the 20 each time. You might have 5 downs to pick up a first down, or 3, or whatever, because there’s no logical reason to have 4 except that’s how it’s always been done. And why make it 10 yards to gain a first down? Offenses are so good today, maybe it should be 15. This is only an argument some pinhead would pull out to sound smart and end the discussion. Give me a break.

    • DavidJ says:

      “Can you imagine coaches trying to determine if they should take the automatic 7, or go for 2 but then maybe end up with 6? Andy Reid’s head might explode, and frankly I wouldn’t blame him. Needlessly complex for the sake of being complex.”

      I can very easily imagine it, because it’s exactly the choice that coaches are already faced with now: take the (virtually) automatic seven, or try for eight but risk getting only six if you fail. Eliminating the extra point doesn’t make the decision any more complex, it just does away with the formality of kicking for the automatic seven, and takes it for granted. In fact it actually makes the decision (very slightly) less complex, because the very rare circumstances when there are reasons to doubt the certainty of the extra point (extremely poor kicking conditions or injured kicker) would no longer be in play.

    • Spencer says:


      Needlessly complex?

      It’s the exact same decision they make now, that’s the whole point.

      How did you not pick that up?

  43. JayJay says:

    I’ve always hated the PAT because the possibility that a team can put together a great game-tying drive late in a game can be completely negated by some one-in-a-million screwup in the snap of the extra point is just plain idiotic. If Elway throws his touchdown pass to Mark Jackson in the ’86 ALCS and the Broncos muff the PAT, that’s not fun or exciting. It’s just stupid.

  44. Charlie says:

    How about this?

    Touchdown = 6 points
    Snap the ball at the two and run an offensive play = 2 points
    Snap the ball at the 20 and kick a PAT = 1 point
    Snap the ball at the 30 and kick a PAT = 2 points
    Snap the ball at the 50 and kick a PAT = 3 points
    Snap the ball past the 50 and kick a PAT = 4 points

  45. Guest says:

    The secret to sticking with a story through a long setup is having a good editor involved. It’s counterintuitive, but brevity takes much patience.

  46. StripesJr says:

    A try in rugby is 5 pts and a conversion is 2 pts. A try is scored only when the carriers grounds the ball so the conversion is kicked from a line that is perpendicular to the try line opposite where the ball was grounded. And the kick is taken by someone on the field during the scoring play.

  47. Michael says:

    I may be alone in this, but I think the most objectionable part of the PAT is that the ball cannot be returned by the defense.

  48. KB says:

    As discussed above, the XP is an evolutionary holdover from the Rugby conversion. Thing is, the Rugby conversion is a considerably different animal that our XP. They can be really difficult to make, depending on where the try was scored, they matter a whole lot more to the final outcome of the game as they are worth two points and a try is worth only five, and a regular position player has to make the kick. I think this is the thing I like most about Rugby from football. The guy who kicks the ball in rugby is frequently the best or most important player on their team. Meanwhile in football kickers are expendable and generally loather by position players. My solution would be keep the XP, but the guy who scored the touchdown has to kick it.

  49. KB says:

    The running leap and player lifting rule is a safety issue. Used to be one of those things that never got enforced, but as we saw earlier this season the refs are being told to actually look at it now.

  50. BeninDSM says:

    Mark me down as a proponent of moving the extra point back to a distance where some mathematician decides it crosses the boundary from automatic to just quite easy. 35?

  51. Mark Daniel says:

    Here’s the answer. The NFL will have the team who scored a TD spin the big wheel, sort of like Wheel of Fortune or the Price is Right. There will be an 80% chance that the wheel will stop on a regular football. 20% of the time, the wheel will stop on a deformed football. Maybe it will be out of air, or really tiny, or filled with helium, or maybe it will fall apart at the seams when kicked. In this way, you will reduce the odds of extra points being made.

  52. Gessge Gssege says:

    If this is the best argument in favor of the XP–“boring is good”–then Goodell is right.

    I have a further plan to put all placekickers out of work. Here it is:

    All placekicks have to be made by a player who was on the field for the previous play from scrimmage. So quarterbacks or fullbacks or tight ends or whatever would have to kick field goals.

    It would be cool.

  53. Ken Becker says:

    Keep the extra point, but narrow the span of the goal posts.

  54. Bling Nit says:

    bellweather, you must be as old as me. I detest what the new bats bring to the game…they eliminate so much skill. Even the most spastic, horrendous swings can pop a fly ball deep enough to float over a 270′ fence. Big whoop. I prefer technique and subtlety.

    Oh yeah…football. A boring bozo game played by psychopaths. Keep the pat…it gives more chances for the psychopaths to inflict harm upon each other. Aside from gambling, violence, like the man of steel explosions, is what satiates football’s debased viewers.

  55. Mike Stoner says:

    The PAT should not be eliminated. It is essentially a live practice for the field goal unit. Without the PAT, we’d see more botched snaps, holds, & kicks on FG attempts because of the lost practice opportunities.

    I’d be much more interested in seeing the NFL allow its advertisers to sponsor segments of the game, like soccer broadcasts with a running clock, so we can eliminate some commercials. Sometimes after a TD it takes 8 minutes of real time to get back to the next play from scrimmage. The PAT is a really small part of that.

  56. Obviously just my opinion, but the least important part of this column has to do with extra points.

  57. Mike says:

    Keep it but either require it to be a drop kick as it was years ago or make the PAT goal posts closer together requiring more precision. Either of these would have the effect of making it more exciting or having coaches opt for 2pt more often which is a more exciting play.

  58. Bill says:

    Can we really NOT not sit through extra points anymore?

  59. AMusingFool says:

    Running the bases risks no injury? Tell that to Sara Tucholsky:

  60. AMusingFool says:

    Loved the write-up, Joe. As an even more fundamental note than the wall-to-wall explosions in ‘Man of Steel’, think about when was the last time you heard complete silence in a movie. Any movie. I haven’t heard a US movie do that in at least two decades; not even for a second or two.

  61. mlb fan says:

    The extra point issue is yet another method of eliminating time from the television broadcasts without removing any commercials.

  62. Brian says:

    I don’t buy this argument at all. Yes yes, we are a culture of bombast; we are afraid of quiet, and all that. But there are quiet moments that add pageantry and texture and tension to our games (the home run trot, for example), and then there are so-called quiet moments that are mere relics, routines. To me the extra point falls into the latter category. It’s not enjoyable; it has no tension; it’s not even aesthetically pleasing. Quiet for quiet’s sake is not an argument, especially since there are a thousand ways to obtain quiet outside of some silly group ritual inserted into the middle of a football game.

  63. The reason the center snaps the ball to the quarterback is to let the defense know it’s legal for them to cross the line of scrimmage.

    The extra point is the safest play in football from a player injury perspective. Nobody extends themselves too much unless an unexpected opening or fumbled snap happens. The good part of the NFL’s plan (which is perhaps poorly explained) is that it eliminates a play which doesn’t make the game end sooner (it is untimed) but does make the telecasts longer. Many of the suggestions I’ve read here make the problem the NFL is trying to solve worse, not better. They might be good ideas to consider, but not with what the NFL is trying to fix.

    Going for two points is a dangerous play in several respects. Both teams are desperately trying hard. It comes after a touchdown, which often means it’s another desperate play after a touchdown and many other plays without rest. The chance of injury is higher. Even if it wasn’t desperate, it is still another offensive and defensive play using (usually) starters instead of special teamers.

    The reason we don’t see more two point conversion attempts in the NFL (as opposed to college) is because teams don’t have an infinite number of plays they really can count on to get the ball in the end zone from the two yard line. I imagine many teams would be above 50% on two point conversions. But it’s worth more to hide your looks until it means seven points on a fourth and goal than expose a new play worth only two points that reduces your chances later on when it would mean seven points. Conservative, yes, but there are reasons.

    As a fan, I love the two point conversion and don’t much care about the extra point. So I’m fine with this proposal, as long as it doesn’t turn an extra point into another Viagra commercial without shortening the game any.

  64. Brandon Conway says:

    Here’s how you make the extra point/2-pt conversion more exciting:

    1. If you decide to kick, it’s from the 17 yard line (with the kick being 35 yards from the 25). (Or maybe even a bit further).

    2. Extra point kicks and 2-pt conversions can be returned by the defensive team to the other endzone for 2-pts.

    Can you imagine how stressful/important an extra point kick from 35 yards out would be in a game just tied up by a TD at the end of regulation when you not only have a greater chance to miss, but if it’s blocked and returned you could actually lose the game?

  65. JohnnyU19 says:

    The PAT should stay. Most of the ideas suggesting alternatives are gimmicky and would not enhance the game. If any change is made, it should simply be moved back 10 yards, or whatever distance would generate (based on recent historical averages of FGs) the desired percentage of successful tries, whatever that might be. Also, the league should consider narrowing the goal posts, given the accuracy of today’s kickers and the ease with which teams can move into FG range at the end of games.

  66. FranT says:

    I like the “rugby extra point” where you kick from the part of the field at which you entered the end zone. The crazy angles would make it very interesting after fade TDs.

  67. FranT says:

    To your point about cell phones: I’ve been at the bar and looked around to see 14 of 16 people on their phones. (I counted.) what happened to pub life?

  68. James R says:

    Well remember that American Football was derived from rugby,so this makes a lot of sense. Think about the implications for both offense and defense. Stats from rugby would suggest wide angle kicks succeed only something like 60% of the time, so given a close scoring game, the offense has interesting decisions to make when they get close to the goal-line, especially if you widen the rule to say two-point conversions must also be attempted from the same starting point.

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