Leon Halip/Getty Images
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Extra Point Is … Good! (So Stop Trying To Fix It)

Yes, point-afters are easy. But so are gimme putts in golf. There are plenty of changes and improvements the NFL needs to make, but tinkering with the PAT isn’t one of them

The premise is that the point-after has become pointless. A mere formality of a play. To that I say, what’s wrong with formalities? They have their place. Even in football.

I know it’s not what passes for the popular group-think in the debate over what to do about the extra point in the NFL, but I’m not really hot and bothered that there’s one play in football where not much happens and the outcome is largely a foregone conclusion. The Bucs’ new uniforms, those bother me. The news that the Cleveland Browns—the Cleveland Browns!—are going for a “cutting-edge’’ look starting next year, that almost offends me.

Extra points being too easy for today’s insanely accurate kickers? I’m not feeling the outrage.

Which is why I’m happy to hear the NFL might not be either. According to The MMQB’s Peter King, even though the league might experiment with considerably longer PATs in the preseason, there’s only a very, very slight chance team owners will tinker with the play in the regular season. It could take three or four years of gathering momentum before the NFL deems to make a change in the point-after.

Well, bully that. Score one—rimshot!—for procrastination and foot-dragging. For once the league might not be falling into the change-for-the-sake-of-change trap and deciding to not fix what isn’t broken. Playing around with the extra point is your classic solution in search of a problem.

Here’s my main point about point-afters: So what? They’re gimmes. I get it. But in championship-level golf, they still make you putt those out. They’re not contemplating making pro golfers move the ball back three feet in order to add more drama. And let’s face it, we do tend to love those memorable misses from six inches or closer, which always make the weekend duffer crowd exalt with a smug sense of satisfaction.

Standing PAT … For Now

The NFL is pondering a longer extra point—42 yards?—but don't expect anything to happen quickly, Peter King writes. FULL STORY

It’s the same way we feel when we watch the human element come into play every once in a while with baseball’s intentional walk, when somebody’s pitcher can’t seem to lob four pitches way outside and winds up sailing one to the backstop—or worse, over the plate where the batter can take a free hack at the meatball. A rarity, to be sure. But that’s what makes them worth waiting for. (I digress, but to this day, I haven’t been able to forgive A’s reliever Rollie Fingers for suckering my boyhood baseball hero, the Reds’ Johnny Bench, on that faux intentional walk turned strikeout in the 1972 World Series. A dastardly deception by a man who still wears a handlebar mustache.)

And where exactly did the idea start that the NFL is in dire need of a boost when it comes to excitement? So the PAT has become a tiny little breather built into what is still a riveting game. Fine. Does anybody really suffer for it? We can’t even abide one moment in today’s game when we are not entertained to the maximum?

There’s the notion that point-afters in their current form have become a waste of our valuable time. So automatic as to not even warrant our attention. Try telling that to Tony Romo. Just mention the words “Seattle, 2006 playoffs, bobbled snap,’’ and then back up quickly. It was a 19-yard field goal attempt that Romo botched the hold on, costing Dallas a 21-20 last-second loss in his first career postseason start. But a 19-yard field goal and a PAT are one in the same. That was fairly dramatic, as I recall.

The NFL certainly has room for improvement and upgrades, and change has to be part of the equation. But providing fans with more drama on game day is not one of the league’s most pressing issues. Nobody is going to stop watching football if the NFL doesn’t do something about its point-after problem and the tiny lull in the action it produces. You might have noticed the fan interest, television ratings, ticket sales and coverage decisions the league has inspired over the past 20 years or so? The phrase “through the roof’’ comes to mind.

I don’t get those who apparently feel cheated if every play doesn’t rise to the level of can’t-miss viewing. This is not baseball’s American League adopting the designated hitter in 1973 to try and juice the game’s offensive potential, in order to get butts in the seats at the ballpark. The NFL doesn’t need an injection of further excitement, or to introduce innovations into the game just to keep us interested. We’re hooked. They know it. And it shows.

Moving the PAT around to figure out where the conversion success ratio becomes acceptable to everyone? With apologies to chief advocate Bill Belichick, it sounds like a rather trivial pursuit.

To be sure, there are pressing problems to be fixed in the NFL. But the humble little extra point doesn’t strike me as one of them. Any time or energy spent on improving the PAT seems to be attention that could have been better focused elsewhere. Certainly the game has to keep evolving and getting smarter. In terms of both player safety and the updating of the game’s playing rules, the status quo isn’t the safest of ground to stand on, and I totally understand the continued study of kickoffs and where to draw the line in terms of the physical costs incurred by that traditional part of the game. But moving the PAT around to figure out where the conversion success ratio becomes acceptable to everyone? With apologies to chief advocate Bill Belichick, it sounds like a rather trivial pursuit.

I don’t really care what the league tries in the preseason by way of experiment with the rulebook, because, well, you’ve seen the NFL’s preseason. It can be tough to watch for even diehards. But a 42 or 43-yard extra-point attempt in the preseason, as is reportedly being discussed by the league’s agenda-setting competition committee? That’s clearly an over-reaction, especially if the league plans to continue awarding three times that many points for any old chip-shot field goal of say, 19 to 35 yards. Where’s the logic and balance of that approach to kicking specialists?

Leave the near-automatic PAT alone, NFL. It’s not a pointless exercise that serves no purpose, and I almost like having something you can count on in a game that has changed so much in recent years. The NFL should recognize it has far bigger moves to ponder than where to locate the snap, the hold and the kick after touchdowns.

I’m in the minority perhaps, but I hope this is one rules debate that goes nowhere with the league’s decision-makers, eventually fading from our radar screens. The NFL should stick with tradition and keep going for one from the 2. The call on the PAT … It’s good. And doesn’t need fixing.

mmqb-end-slug-square

36 comments
KadenL19
KadenL19

Completely agree with this.  After what we've seen with the Miami Dolphins locker room issues, and now the coming out of Michael Sam, the NFL will soon enough have its hands full with more human rights issues.  I think we need to concentrate on making the NFL a better place for players to be, as opposed to changing the game, itself.  It's obviously successful with the game exactly the way it is, but we can't tolerate having another issue similar to what occurred with Incognito and Martin, this year.  The NFL will have to function more as a workplace, most likely setting up regulations and guidelines for player/staff interaction.

...But no, 'til then let's just mess around with a problem that never needed to be solved in the first place.

tdjt
tdjt

Making PAT longer would be a step backwards. I don't think anyone wants to see games decided by PATs. 

ridgemax
ridgemax

Eliminate the holder. Drop kick only or after receiving snap player can run or pass for two points. Drop kick is not automatic and there would be an extra player available for a pass or run (Teams could still go for two in traditional manner). No change on FG.,

JohnRausch3rd
JohnRausch3rd

Who sits around and watches a PAT? They're automatic, they lack suspense, and then they're followed by a three-minute commercial break, a kickoff, then another three-minute commercial break. 


After a touchdown, I usually find something else to do for the next eight minutes, then return to the game. Advertisers are paying good money to air their commercials to a reduced audience after touchdowns.


That's why the NFL should change the PAT into a play that's contested, meaningful and guaranteed to keep viewers tuned in.

skanee00
skanee00

The problem with the rugby rule is that it is a lot easier to score in the middle in rugby than it is in football. Scoring touchdowns are hard enough, let alone worrying about where they're scored.

Often the best solution is the simplest and most conservative solution. Just spot the ball a few more yards back. Or make the kicker kick at an angle by spotting the ball wide off center. You can make PAT's more difficult without radical change.

AlanPolonsky
AlanPolonsky

Go to the Rugby rule. Make the PAT be kicked on a direct line back from where the touchdown was scored. And force the player to actually touch the ball down or go out of bounds or beyond the end line.

And don't have anybody on the field other than the kicker and holder.


I'd love to see a kicker try to make a kick from the sideline thirty to forty yards out and at an angle. Yes, it would force teams to try to score over the middle and result in more packed in defenses and more chances for corner throws followed by a mad attempt to catch a throw and get back to the middle. Hey, sounds like fun.

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

By looking at the comments, it appears everyone wants to just change the entire face of the game.  If this continues, I know I wont be watching much football at all.  Burn the record books now because the history wont mean anything in 20 years at this rate. 

Redskins
Redskins

Banks continues his streak of being wrong!

The PAT should be abolished in favor of the 2-point, run/pass option.

Let's not stop there. No FG's in the Red Zone.

DrG1994
DrG1994

Easy solution--if you want to kick a PAT, dropkick it.  If Doug Flutie can do it, then any decent regular kicker should be able to do it. 

Macheen
Macheen

Eliminate the 2 pt conversion. Eliminate the 1 pt kicking PAT and make the 1 pt PAT a mandatory run or pass from the 1 yd line. From the 1 yd line the defense would have to defend the pass and the run equally.


Also make a safety worth 3 pts and a field goal worth 2 pts. That would reward defense for aggressive play and place a greater emphasis on scoring touchdowns. It would also encourage coaches to gamble more on 4th down in the red zone.

TomHollingsworth
TomHollingsworth

The PAT in the NFL has become so automatic, that many Head Coaches will refrain from attempting a 2-point conversion even when it would clearly be in their team's best interest to go for it. Coaches today HATE to be second-guessed.  With the game on the line many coaches will take the "sure thing" PAT to avoid being beaten up on ESPN or in the local paper if they attempt the two-pointer and fail.  This to me is why they need to tweak the rules.  The 2-pt conversion is an exciting play, and the fact that it is severely under-utilized needs to be addressed. Coaches are in effect "incentivized" to kick the PAT.


I am not a fan of moving the spot of the ball, which would change the ability to fake kick and go for two. Adding a set of narrow inner goal posts which can be raised after the TD just for PATs would have minimal effects on current game-play. And, by raising the difficulty of the kick  Coaches would be more apt to try for two when the situation is screaming for it.

KarthikGomadam
KarthikGomadam

"But in championship-level golf, they still make you putt those out. They’re not contemplating making pro golfers move the ball back three feet in order to add more drama." - Really wrong comparison. From what I understand, in Golf, you need to earn the short putt. No 1 automatically gives you a short putt if you get to the green x under par (x being variable). Its not like kickers advance the ball to the extra point yardage. Its placed there. I am all for eliminating them, but one has to keep in mind that the PAT caused NE the super bowl in 2012. Gronk's first injury happened while blocking a PAT and he aggravated it during the Ravens game... and Brady's throw to a 80% Gronk was picked off. So yes, the PAT aint as moot (if a bonehead like BB would throw this best tightend to block it, it must mean something ;) )

PaulWonSavage
PaulWonSavage

"Get of my lawn, you young whipper-snappers!" should have been the title of this article.


PAT = automatic, boring, risk of injury, regularly uncontested


I would love to see the extra point attempts be altered. It would make the game more interesting. In the current game (that has many flag football elements entering the rules) with it's high scores, it would give more options for a comeback. While the team in the lead goes conservative the team trailing might have a chance.


Why not try something new with some or any of the following options:


2 pt conversion remains the same.

1 pt for 30 yard xp.

2 pt for 40 yard xp.

3 pt for 50 yard xp.

4 pt for 60 yard xp.


Heck, we should change the point system for field goals too. I would love to see 4 pts for any field goal over 50.


Also include Live Ball / Point Rules for blocks. A block is worth 1 point for XPs unless its returned to the end zone , then it's worth 3.


Like it or not, the kicker is an important member of the team and usually the highest scorer. The role of the kicker over time became so important they became specialists, with special practice time, equipment, K Balls, etc. Let's make their role even more important and influential. Maybe we would even see the return of the blocking specialist. Gibbs and Vermiel used to put emphases on blocking kicks and some kid would make the team because they could come off the edge and sacrifice their body for a block. It was exciting and fans knew who the specialist was and they would be INTERESTED in the PAT or FG. Now a days, watch the people at you football party. Touchdown, high fives and hugs, then people grab snacks (aka a goddam snack), drinks or got to the WC and try to MAYBE make it back to for the kick off that MIGHT be returned. 

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

I cant believe people are actually on board with this and are actually suggesting things be changed.  Are you kidding me?  Why change them?

skanee00
skanee00

Widen the inbounds lines back to where they were in 1971. Maybe even widen them to where they are in high school. For the conversion attempt, place the ball on one of the inbounds lines rather than on the center line. That would make PAT's and the kicking game in general more challenging.

WilHenderson
WilHenderson

Will actually INCREASE PATS and destroy 2-pt conversion .
CONSIDER making 2-point conversion a 3-point conversion
would do more to inhibit the 1-point PAT

tahawus
tahawus

Goodell should stop tweaking the game. There's something to be said for the old adage "if it aint broke, don't fix it".

Davethemahn
Davethemahn

How about keeping the PAT from the 2 yard line but moving the spot closer to the sideline. That would make it harder to make the kick but still preserve the ability to fake a PTA and go 2 yards for 2 (or if there's a bad snap or hold you'd still be able to go 2 yards for 2 points) 

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

Why change the most popular sport in America?  What a bunch of idiots.  Lets go ahead and change the bases in baseball too since history doesnt mean anything.  Make them 120 feet instead of 90. 

mattkgray
mattkgray

why not bring in a rugby style extra point?

cjgman67
cjgman67

The "gimme putt" analogy is not analogous at all, and is a ridiculous argument.  The "gimme putt" is more like a field goal from the 2 yard line when a team doesn't make a touchdown.  It's because you didn't achieve your real goal (jn this analogy, making a 20 foot putt).  In fact there isn't much analogous to the the extra point. In golf after you get it in the hole, you don't then have to hit another putt from 2 feet.  While that sounds ridiculous, that's exactly what the present extra point attempt is like and why it needs to be changed.

jeremy.peter.price
jeremy.peter.price

What I've seen no sports writer mention is that the change in the extra point would affect the 2 point conversion. With the current rules, there's a chance a team might fake a point after and go for two instead from the same formation. You move the kick back, but not the two point conversion attempt and defenses automatically know when a team is going for 2. You move the two point attempt back to the 35 and what's the point of even trying?

I'm also extremely tired of people citing statics about how easy kicking has become, these guys are just extremely good at what they do and they practice constantly to be able to do so (I know I couldn't kick an extra point...). Then following it up with absurd statements about the original creators of the game never intending for kickers to be this good. I doubt they (the game's creators) ever envisioned a QB throwing for 6,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season either, but modern rule changes continue to make the passing game easier, without complain (from anyone other than defensive players). Why is it good for Tom Brady or Peyton Manning to be such great quarterbacks, but it takes away from the game for a kicker to be a great kicker?

Fred29
Fred29

The Gronk injury was a freak thing. Very little effort is expended by players on either team during the extra point. Push it back to the 40 yard line, and teams may start to make an actual effort to block or disrupt it. This will lead to increases in injuries.


Although, I think it is a mistake to look at rule changes only through the lens of player safety.


The most interesting proposal I've seen is to adapt a rugby-type rule for placing the ball for the PAT. Instead of placing it in the center of the field, place it where the ball was caught or crossed the line on a running play, subject to a minimum distance away from the sideline that is much wider than the current hash marks.


So that high-percentage fade to the corner of the end zone creates a much more difficult PAT attempt.

epeeist
epeeist

I'm sure it's been suggested before, but why not adopt the college rule of a live ball and the possibility that a blocked kick (or intercepted conversion attempt) could be run back for a 2-point defensive conversion?


It would be highly unlikely for the defense to block the kick and then score, but even knowing that there was a chance for a score by either team would make the PAT a bit more exciting.

BreakingRad
BreakingRad

You mention player safety as a more pressing issue than this, but I think there's an angle to the PAT discussion that plays directly into that concern.  After all, the PAT carries the same inherent risk to players that all NFL plays do; just ask Gronkowski, whose injury is most likely the origin of this whole conversation.  If 22 players are going to risk injury, shouldn't the play's outcome be more in doubt?  


Another angle not considered is the NFL's seeming desire to shorten overall game lengths, something else that eliminating these untimed plays could accomplish.  Personally, I think if the NFL has the ability to either eliminate 5-10 such plays per game, or else to make them something other than meaningless and consequently worth the time involved in playing/broadcasting them, I think it's a prudent move.

westcoastbias
westcoastbias

One advantage of the current meaningless PAT is that as soon as a TD is scored, I can hit the 5 minute advance button on my DVR and miss two sets of commercials, a meaningless PAT, and a usually uneventful KO return.  Every once in a while you discover something happened on the kickoff and have to back up, but not often.  If the PAT and KO were uncertain, I'd miss the convenience of skipping that block of time.

Doctego
Doctego

@JohnRausch3rd I don't get it.  The ratings are better than ever so fans are staying tuned in at record numbers.  While the PAT is basically a gimme, a touchdown is not and we continue to forget what the T stands for in PAT.  I hate that the powers that be constantly look for ways to tweak all aspects of the game.  The advertisers seem fine, too.  Not that my opinion matters but I am opposed to any of the proposed gimmicks.
  I don't see the need to make every play dramatic.

kstreetdawg
kstreetdawg

@cjgman67  Not quite sure how it isn't analogous. In football, the goal is to score 7 points. When you put the ball in the end zone, you haven't reached your ultimate goal yet. When you knock it stiff six inches from the hole, you haven't reached your goal yet. You still need to complete the act to reach your goal in both cases. 


Your error in your logic is that you think a team has scored 7 points when they cross the goal line. But that would be like saying that a golfer gets a hole-in-one for getting within six inches of the hole. In both cases, the player/team needs to complete the act to reach their goal. There are no gimmies in golf, nor should there be any in football.


This writer was spot on. Unfortunately, it is people with your opinion that lead to the dilution of the game.

ChristianLawless
ChristianLawless

@Fred29  Do you watch football? Teams and players make every effort in the world to block kicks. For many players its one of the 4 or 5 times they will see the field in a game and their paychecks depend on an all out effort. The play is just short, which may make it look as tho a minimal effort is being given.

KarthikGomadam
KarthikGomadam

@kstreetdawg @cjgman67  The key difference being, the objective in the game of Football is for a team to break the plane of the end zone. The said team has already done that. In Golf, the objective is to sink the putt. The said golfer has not done that. The question here is, should there be a follow up? A game where they say that you dont give an inch without a fight, its kinda stupid to give a point for free.

anon76
anon76

@ChristianLawless


Speak for yourself.  I was pretty excited in '98 when Elam tied Dempsey's record for longest FG, and even more excited this year when Praeter broke the record in 14ºF temperature.

tahawus
tahawus

@ChristianLawless The better question is do you watch football? The extra point attempt is a gimme play that is rarely contested.

kstreetdawg
kstreetdawg

@KarthikGomadam @kstreetdawg @cjgman67  Well, I still disagree, but understand your point. Cause in golf isn't the goal to score the lowest score, so a 1 on a par 3 is the goal. Essentially, we can interpret the "goal" of any sport. Is the goal of baseball to reach base? Or score runs? The point is, we have sports with foundational rules, so why change them? 


The PAT is actually great because it diminishes the FG and increases the importance of the TD, but at the same time the PAT isn't free. I don't know why people don't understand that.


My comment really was on the previous commenter who said the analogy was ridiculous, which it clearly wasn't.

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