What’s the Point?

KNEE-JERK CHANGES NEVER WORK || BY ROBERT KLEMKO

Peter, I agree with you. 

Extra points are gimmes, and the game would be immediately improved by narrowing the goal post, setting the kicks at an angle, moving back the extra point or eliminating it all together.

It’s a non-play, and it’s unnecessary in today’s NFL. Even former Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff grudgingly agrees.

“I don’t like eliminating more special teams plays, and the declining importance of special teams is why I’ve turned down offers to go back to the NFL,” Westhoff told me, “but if I were a head coach, I would not be opposed if they made that change. The kick doesn’t matter anymore.”

If the NFL eliminates the extra point, coaches likely won’t have the option of going for one. (Elsa/Getty Images)

It’s a fine and obvious point, but it doesn’t take into account the long view. There are many precedents in football which illustrate why reactionary, knee-jerk rule changes are never the way to go.

Here’s my favorite:

By 1940, the center-QB exchange had evolved from the center kicking the ball back with his heel, to rolling the ball on the ground back to the quarterback with one hand, to an elevated snap invented by John Heisman. In 1893 as coach of Buchtel College, Heisman taught his center to snap the ball in the air to accommodate his very tall quarterback of the time. Then, in 1940, Bears coach George Halas had an idea, which for all intents and purposes killed Heisman’s gun. His center snapped the ball to the quarterback standing directly behind him, and in the NFL Championship that year the Bears put up 73 points on Washington, rushing for 381 yards and passing for 138. This would be the way football was played for as long as anybody could foresee.

And what might the NFL look like now if the decision-makers of yesteryear looked at their sport the same way those who would change the extra point today see things? Undoubtedly, they would have deemed the QB-center exchange too easy. By the late-1950s, with 20 years of 99% execution, what would have been the point of a snap? Why not just scrap the formalities and let the quarterback start with the ball in his hands? It would have sped up the game, and probably saved the necks of more than a few centers.

And if they had gone ahead and killed the snap, the consequences would have been endless. 

Niners coach Red Hickey never would have introduced the modern shotgun in November of 1960 as a way of escaping a scary Colts pass rush. Tom Landry never would have improved on it with Dallas in the ’70s, despite being mocked endlessly by a football community still stuck under center. We would know nothing of countless schematic innovations which led to the offenses of Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, who thrive in diverse, shotgun-heavy attacks, borne of the patience of men who recognized decades ago that football strategy was in its infancy. 

Suppose we take the same long view on extra points?

During the 2013 regular season, a little under half of the 69 two-point conversion attempts were successful, and in 2012, exactly half worked. When it was tried, it was always late in a game—only three times did teams go for two in the first half of games this season. Going for two points is a big risk when the average team scores 23.4 per game. Plus or minus two points constituted an even bigger risk in 1999, when the average team scored 20.8 per game.

It stands to reason the two-point conversion will become more and more enticing as rule changes such as the defenseless receiver rule and the constantly evolving safety bubble around the quarterback raise scoring every year. When Chip Kelly’s offense at Oregon was scoring 50 points a game, he occasionally went for two in the first quarter, because why not? If your offense is above average, and the average offense converts 50% of the time, odds are your risk is going to be rewarded.

And if it isn’t? Two points is still a drop in the bucket when you’re scoring 50 points per game. Plus, as a safeguard, Kelly would often line up in a gadget formation, and revert to a kicking formation if the defensive front wasn’t conducive to the plan.

“I do think that offenses will go for two more as scoring rises, and that really does make the extra point situation more crucial,” Westhoff said. “The problem is, coaches are still stuck in the old thing a little bit. They ignore the odds and play it safe.”

If the NFL were to continue on its path to higher and higher scoring, one can assume coaches will eventually take Kelly’s college strategies to heart. And such operations would be impossible if the NFL did something short-sighted like, say, eliminate the extra point, or ask teams to declare whether they’re going for one or two after a touchdown, which would have to be the case in the event of the extra point kick being pushed back.

I proposed this theory to Westhoff, who agreed.

“I like it. I do think that offenses will go for two more as scoring rises, and that really does make the extra point situation more crucial,” he said, “The problem is, coaches are still stuck in the old thing a little bit. They ignore the odds and play it safe.”

Indeed, instead of coaches attempting more conversions as NFL scoring rose at the turn of the century, they attempted fewer. Those brave ’99ers called for 80 two-point conversions that season, 11 more than NFL teams attempted in 2013. No doubt, this is evidence of the NFL’s group-think malady, which holds that widespread innovation is preceded by a lone boatsman riding against the current. It will take a maverick—a Heisman or a Hickey or a Landry—to buck the NFL trend and make the extra point an exciting proposition once again. 

Until then, let’s be patient.

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142 comments
barefootbrewer
barefootbrewer

Here's an idea. Instead of having to declare whether you are going to go for 2 points and have the ball on the 2 yard line or (as in preseason) or you have to say you are going to kick the extra point, thus the ball is placed further away. This requires a declaration as to what is going to happen - virtually eliminating any chance for a fake.


How about we move the ball to the 1 yard line and let teams do what they want with it. They could kick the PAT or go for 2 points. The ball being closer would likely encourage going for 2 more and also keep the viability of a fake PAT alive.

This would not help with the almost certainty of scoring the PAT, but I imagine you'd have a lot more teams going for 2 points....and that could be a lot of fun!

rrussel6
rrussel6

most agree PAT  is boring.  moving back adds little excitement or strategy.  Football is the BEST sport because it includes so many facets of athleticism, strategy and odd ways of scoring, winning and losing.  To add to this winning recipe, the PAT should be attempted from the place where the ball crossed the goal line, and the ability to score 1, 2, or 3 points should be awarded based on the width of the uprights. In this way, a TD scored in the middle of the field (more difficult) would be rewarded by the ability to kick from dead center making it easier to go for 2 points or even 3 points.  The NFL could easily cover the increased cost of automatic mobile uprights.  All of sudden the PAT becomes a very exciting play potentially worth 3 points.  Increased strategy is added to the game in that all of sudden, just keeping the offense out of the end zone is not enough, you must force them to the sidelines so that if they do score, they will have to attempt the PAT from an acute angle making a 2 or 3 point try difficult.

skanee00
skanee00

According to what I've heard, and I'm not sure if this is true or not, one reason for doing away with extra points is that it could help alleviate the head trauma issue.  If that is the case, then I propose trying the extra point in the same sort of manner they do in rugby.  Place the ball on the 20 yard line and just let the kicker kick it from there.  If kicking tees were disallowed and you needed a holder, that would make it more of a challenge.  That would be a 30 yard kick, still fairly easy for an NFL kicker, but not automatic.  The special teams players would just line up on the field before the extra point attempt, and then take kickoff position after the attempt.  This would eliminate time wasted shuttling players on and off the field for the kickoff.


The problem with eliminating the extra point is that you run the risk of losing the "foot" in football.  When Americans first started playing football in the 1860's, a touchdown counted for nothing and you only scored goals by kicking the point after touchdown.  The kicking game was, and was always meant to be, an important element of football.  If you can rationalize eliminating the PAT, you could probably also rationalize eliminating field goals and punting.  Without the kicking game, you could also change the shape of the ball.  The sport could be called "handball", and you could start playing it with something that looks like a jart.  This is a road we don't want to go down.



Bear
Bear

What they should do is eliminate the kick, but not the play. Extra points would be worth one point, but it have to be run or passed in. That would put drama back into the game and make the extra point something you don't change the channel during.

TJKroll
TJKroll

I love the idea of scooting the extra point back farther rather than eliminating the kick all together. I think a solid 30-35 yard kick could do it. I mean the one idea of making it an automatic 7 then if they go for 2 then they could loose a point is okay but then it takes the tradition out of the game. I know many of the kickers would make many of these extra points but I think then it doesn't make the kick automatic cause the kicker could pull or push the ball off to the left or right. I hope the NFL considers this idea rather than taking out it out totally.

Zimbear
Zimbear

Love your idea.  It will add a new level of interest to the extra point kick to move it back to the 20 or 25.  I would allow the "kicking team" to have to option of a fake, with a succesful "touchdown" worth two points.  Some offenses prefer to have more open field for the passing game anyway.  Of course, you have to allow the other team two points if they are able to intercept a pass or field the kick cleanly and then able to bring it back the other way for a score.  I would also move the 2 point conversion attempt back to the 5 so that it is challenging enough that the coach has a real decision to make.  Overall I agree.  Make the PAT more fun and challenging, don't just dump it.

PhillipAuxt
PhillipAuxt

What they should do is get rid of the Pro Bowl. It's useless and it takes the chance of hurting someone with an ankle injury.

GeoffFitz
GeoffFitz

"Until then, let’s be patient."  Lol.  Yeah.  The success rate since 1990 is only almost 99% .  Let's wait until it's AT LEAST 105%  (http://www.sportingcharts.com/articles/nfl/how-many-extra-point-kicks-are-missed-on-average-in-the-nfl.aspx)


Do you really think the success rate of going for two points is going to increase much?  I think over time it DECREASES, because defenses just keep getting better.


Of course, if they keep calling PI when a DB breathes in the wrong direction, the success rate might approach what we see with kicks.

Hussman
Hussman

If the extra point is made harder, or eliminated altogether, then it is more likely that more overtimes and more ties will occur.  For example, with extra points, the following scores (up to 20) are relatively rare because of the need for a safety. 2, 4, 5, you could argue 19 is very rare also.  Without an extra point, or more difficult ones that increase the likelihood of a 2-point attempt, then the rare numbers are 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, 13, 17.  In other words, out of 20 possible scores, there are 4 unlikely scores in the course of a game (20%) with the extra point as an automatic, and 7 (35%) without it.  I haven't done frequencies for higher scoring games, but they would also be affected.


Taking a point away once earned seems wrong. The comment of a live ball if blocked does make it interesting although that would lead to more injuries.


Also, my guess is that coaches and players like the extra minute to plan adjustments and kickoffs after the score.  For those reasons, I don't see the benefit of a major game change to save 10 minutes a game.

Michael22
Michael22

More importantly, how often has a missed PAT been the difference in the game? A TD or FG is exciting because it is often the decisive score to resolve the game. Since the PAT is almost never missed, it doesnt provide excitement for the game outcome.


A quick review of memory suggests one time I can ever recall the missed PAT in an NFL game mattering: Lions vs Jets, the Lions go up early and on their 3rd TD, their place kicker is injured and Ndomakong Suh has to take the PAT and it is off the upright, no good. The Jets came back to tie it at 20-20, and then win in OT. 

tbdetermined
tbdetermined

95% success means that 5% miss. there is your excitement. Why must excitement always be on the offense? Why change the essence of the game and turn it into something you don't recognize?  

epeeist
epeeist

Even if it's 99.5% accurate, why not use the college rule, the ball is live if blocked, the defence has a chance (however small) to score 2 by running it back?


So the maximum swing on a PAT is 3 points (1-2). You could finesse this more, e.g. also move the distance of the kick, not allowing the defence to score on a conversion attempt to make conversions more attractive (smaller chance to gain 2 but guaranteed defence won't score), etc.

UrsaMajor
UrsaMajor

Make the kicker kick it backwards with his heel.

BarrSuul
BarrSuul

Peter King is an imbecile.

comments
comments

It has been at least fifteen minutes since the league's made sweeping rule changes. And I get it. Being paid to watch this stuff, King and Goodell can't just go to the bathroom, let the dog out, make a phone call, go the kitchen, stretch their legs, or ... oh ... change the channel :)

Imagine being stuck having to watch the ten minutes of commercials separating the touchdown, ( god forbid a review ) the extra point, the kickoff (which is mostly a joke now as well), and finally ... the next possession. Admittedly I do wander off some Sundays ... only to find it half-time upon my return to the couch. Study the impact before making another Kneejerk rule change please.    

minerl
minerl

I like Peter King's idea.  It's like moving the Kickoff back.  The extra point doesn't go away, but it makes it more interesting.  On the other hand eliminating it all together (ie Goodell's thought) is fine too.  The end result is the same.  7 points on 199 out of 200 touchdowns.  We just get 4 hours of our life back from watching a boring extra point.


And shortening an NFL game isn't the worst idea ever...


So, I'm good either way, but it is time for a change.  I don't want to watch something that has a 1 in 200 chance of failure.  Not worth doing anymore.  Especially on Madden, but that's another story.

ianlinross
ianlinross

Get rid of the K-ball. Make him kick a sloggy, wet cow patty.

Rick in Huahin!
Rick in Huahin!

make all plays actual plays, maybe a run is 1, pass is 2 points.

gsusdo00
gsusdo00

Make a 50+ yard field goal worth 5pts before messing with PATs. Think about that for a minute, if you want more excitement... That would definitely add some

Zatso
Zatso

Rugby League takes the kick from where the try was made.  It makes it very exciting!

Snow_Veil
Snow_Veil

Leave it as is.


I'd turn the argument around and rather than phrasing it as a touchdown being worth six with a near-guaranteed seven, just consider the touchdown to be worth seven, with a very small chance for the defense to shave a point off that number. That's basically what it is now, and that's perfectly fine. As others have pointed out, the "Touchdown + PAT > Two Field Goals" dichotomy is at the heart of the game's scoring system. I think removing the extra point or forcing two-point attempts would have a much further-reaching effect than King seems willing to admit. 


Essentially, it doesn't matter that there isn't much 'drama' in most PAT's - there isn't supposed to be. It's simply a cornerstone of the game's scoring system, with a very small chance of something happening that changes the way the game plays out.


Kneeling down to run the clock out is boring too, isn't it? Maybe we should make that into a penalty to make sure every single play is exciting!

CRLogic
CRLogic

Just move the kick back to the 25.  That would be a 42 yard field goal.  Problem solved.

RobbieG
RobbieG

Move spot back to the 8 yard line to make it a 25 yard kick.  Not a big a deal for the kick but if there is a lot of wind guys would miss it with a little more frequency.  But make a run/pass play worth 3 points.  One shot from the 8 yard line is no gimme.

JasonShaw1
JasonShaw1

While I agree the PAT is stupid, it's never actively bothered me.  If you want to make the game more interesting, I suggest removing the hash marks, or at least making them much, much wider. Plays to the outside of the field would carry the risk that the next play would be tough with players bunched up against the sideline and the defense able to gear up for a play back to the inside. Plus, it would insert some difficulty for teams at the end of the game that keep going out of bounds just to stop the clock. I think the ball shouldn't be moved between plays unless absolutely necessary.

Canuck
Canuck

I have an idea that will be of much greater benefit to professional football and football fans everywhere...

Eliminate this absurd MMQB pseudo-website and demote Peter King from "Editor-in-Chief" back to ordinary SI sportswriter.  There is no bigger ego or self-impressed, overexposed writer in sports today (except perhaps Mike Florio, admittedly a very close call).  Enough of this BS, Peter.  Your job is to REPORT on NFL football, not try to foment fundamental changes to the sport.  Honest to god, shake yourself!  Who do you think you are?  If you want to be the NFL Commissioner, apply for the opening the next time it becomes available; your potential employers will tell you very quickly how totally unqualified you are for the job.


hubbard0705
hubbard0705

3. Recall the last time an extra point was exciting, or even remotely interesting. I can’t.


On November 21, 2003 the Jacksonville Jaguars lead the New Orleans Saints 20-13 in the fourth quarter. With seven seconds left on the clock, the "River City Relay" began with a forward pass by the Saints which was caught and lateraled three times before they scored with no time left. In order to tie the game and give the Saints a fighting chance in overtime, kicker John Carney had to make his extra point. Carney missed, eliminating the Saints from playoff contention.


http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap2000000263575/Saints-vs-Jaguars-Multi-Lateral-TD-Missed-Field-Goal-12-21-03 

Ralph10
Ralph10

Instead of removing the PAT, why not try to improve the percentage of making the 2 point conversion.  Instead of placing the ball at the 2 yard line for a 2 point conversion, put it at the 1 yard line.  Maybe more teams would attempt the 2 pointer from the 1 yard line versus the 2 yard line.

jkaskan
jkaskan

Dave Dameshek has this right...make the kickers play a minimum of 5 non-special teams plays before the middle of the fourth quarter.  Get us back to old school football. Remember guys like George Blanda who threw the TD pass and then went and kicked the XP?  Enough of these 140 pound 5' 5" "specialists"  (Sea Bass excepted of course)  Do you think that in 1900 the founders thought someday kickers would make field goals from over 60 yards and XP's 99.5 percent of the time?  Or how about simply disallowing soccer style kicking?

Crapahoola
Crapahoola

Or how about the decision goes to the defense?  We'll let you have one automatically, or we'll make your offense go for three instead of the old two?

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

I think all TDs should be 6 points, and if you want to go for 2 you can.  But move the 2 point conversion back to the 5 yard line.  If you convert, you get the 2 points; if the defense is good enough to pick the ball off or recover a fumble and return it 95 yards to the opposite end zone, THEY get 2 points.


And seeing as we're talking about rule changes, make DPI 15 yards and not a spot foul.  Too much emphasis is placed on DPI in the end zone, which automatically moves the ball to the 1 yard line.  It's far to advantageous to the offense the way the rule currently sits.

TheHip1
TheHip1

Keep the PAT! Geez leave the game alone Goodell! If you have to make a change then add something like if the kickoff goes through the uprights you get a point. 

roberto.paisley
roberto.paisley

Here is a simple idea on the  PAT or two point try,  start the 40 second clock just like another down.

Another changes I would like to see - what is with allowing a team to kick the ball out of bounds when punting and then have the ref estimate where the ball should be place on the field of play. Make the punting team kick in bounds or it is a five yard penalty and a do over!.  If a punter can make the ball hit the ground and then go out of bounds, kudos for the punter but it is risky.

duckfan59
duckfan59

Just leave the damn game alone. We like it just fine the way it is.

DPHanson
DPHanson

One play from the 10-yard line.  If the offensive team reaches the 5-yard line, it's one point.  If they reach the endzone it's 2 points.  Anything else results in 0 points.

PhillipAuxt
PhillipAuxt

@GeoffFitz I've seen missed field goals, but not PAT's. They  should do away with the extra point and make them go for 2. It will be more exciting.

GeoffFitz
GeoffFitz

@T-Ray Not only would taking on the Rugby-mothod for "converting" a touchdown be more exciting...the player's association may like it because it's a few less plays for players to get injured. 


Take all the players off the field, allow a standard tee (or have a holder on the filed), and kick it like a post-fair-catch free kick.


I have always thought this was the way it should be done.  Kick it from where it's scored, and the "automatic" kick goes away.

Michael22
Michael22

@T-Ray That was pretty awesome, and crazy angles and swerve would certainly improve the PAT for me.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@Snow_Veil King's not saying to get rid of the PAT, he's saying move the line of scrimmage for a PAT back to about the 25 yard line to make the attempt more difficult.  

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@Canuck I get your frustration but PK is not a reporter.  He's a columnist.  He's paid for his opinions first and reporting second.  

JasonShaw1
JasonShaw1

@hubbard0705 So you're saying it's been 10 years since it was exciting or even remotely interesting. That's a long time to wait.

FrankLee
FrankLee

Yes: leave the game alone, Goodell. Especially the number of playoff teams!

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@DPHanson So you would give a team points for NOT getting into the end zone?  

Snow_Veil
Snow_Veil

@PhillyPenn @Snow_Veil Yeah, I was aware of that but my wording was poor. What I was getting at was more along the lines of "removing the PAT (as essentially guaranteed)."


I think making it into something with a 60-70% conversion rate rather than 99.5% would add a layer of coaching complexity that's unnecessary to an already complex game. 

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@JasonShaw1 LOL, yeah.  That hardly makes a compelling case for keeping things the way there.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@Snow_Veil @PhillyPenn Ok, that's cool.  But one of the reason's I like it is because it adds complexity.  Different strokes for different folks.  :)

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