What’s the Point?
Roger Goodell says the NFL is considering abolishing the extra point because it wants to ‘add excitement.’ Would this be a good move for the game? Peter King says yes. Robert Klemko says no. Let the debate commence
Earlier this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would consider eliminating the extra point in favor of a revised scoring system. Peter King believes this is long overdue and advocates a change. Robert Klemko disagrees and thinks it’d be a knee-jerk decision to abolish the PAT. Their arguments are below.
GIVE THE PAT THE BOOT || BY PETER KING
I was wrong this week. I wrote the extra point is the biggest waste of time in American sport. Actually, the intentional walk is worse. But that’s it. That’s the only thing worse than the 45 seconds of clock between the touchdown and the TV timeout that was wasted five times per game in the 2013 NFL season on a play that has become the most automatic thing about football. That’s three and a half minutes in every game, wasted.
Why I think the PAT should be re-invented immediately:
1. Kickers have made it too automatic. In the past three years, kickers have missed five, six and seven extra points, respectively. That’s 18 misses out of 3,709 tries—a 99.5 percent accuracy rate. Out of every 200 extra points, one is missed.
2. I do love football tradition. I’m the guy, remember, who wrote a pro football history book back in the nineties and got ripped for having Don Hutson and Otto Graham 1-2 on the list of greatest players of all time. You can have a respect for tradition and still know when change is logical. And right now, change is overdue on the PAT.
3. Recall the last time an extra point was exciting, or even remotely interesting. I can’t.
When the current iteration of football scoring was last changed significantly, in 1912, the touchdown was valued at six points and the “try,” or point after touchdown, one. In those days, the kicker was a rank amateur compared to everyone else on the field, and the PAT was always in doubt at different levels of football. When the NFL was invented in 1920, this line of scoring was adopted: six for a touchdown, one for the extra point.
So the PAT has been alive in its its current form for 102 years. Are we sentenced to live with it forever? Can we not change a rule that clearly has outlived its usefulness?
Or, put another way: If you were inventing the sport of football today, and you were putting a scoring system into play, would you adopt a rule for scoring that was 99.5% efficient? Would you adopt a rule for a highly competitive game that was absolutely uncompetitive?
I raised this point about Stephen Gostkowski this week in The Season. Gostkowski has made 360 straight PATs, dating back to the final game of his rookie season, in 2006. He last missed four months before the Patriots traded for Randy Moss. Seven years ago. In that time, four-and-a-half hours of Patriots football has been played with Gostkowski attempting and making extra points (360 times 45 seconds per PAT try). What a waste.
So, what should the NFL do? I’m not in favor of what Roger Goodell suggested to Rich Eisen this week, that every touchdown be awarded seven points, and if you choose to go for two and make it, you finish with eight points—but if you miss, you only get six. That’s penalizing a team for trying a potentially exciting play, the two-point conversion. What I’d do:
1. Make every touchdown worth six points.
2. Give teams a choice on the conversion. The one-point conversion would be a kick. The two-point conversion would be from the 2-yard line, where it currently is, run as it currently is when teams choose to go for two after a touchdown.
3. But the PAT would be moved back. I am open to any number of suggestions here. My preference would be a true challenge. Say the average spot of a missed field goal in 2013 is from 44 yards out. In 2014, then, the spot for the extra point would be the 27-yard line, necessitating a 44-yard kick to convert the extra point. But I am flexible here. Anything with the ball spotted at the 25 or farther would be okay with me. I just want to make the kick non-automatic.
I don’t want to fiddle with the tradition of the game. I love tradition. I wish there would be more mud bowls and Charger powder-blues and crew-cutted tight ends. I do not advocate change for change’s sake. But the extra point just doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s not going to ruin the game to change it, the same way changing the kickoff spot by five yards didn’t lessen the greatness of the game.
I’ve heard scores of suggestions, many of them smart and good, about the PAT on Twitter in the past day or so. It’s good to discuss the merits of the game you all love so much. All I ask, again, is this: If you were inventing a competitive sport like football all over again, would you include a play that is the most automatic in sports?