Darryl Webb/AP
Darryl Webb/AP

A Point to Make

The NFL is experimenting with longer extra points in an attempt to add excitement to the PAT. Ultimately, they’re going to get more injuries. A veteran kicker explains why 33 and one don’t add up. Plus, reader suggestions

By Jay Feely

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? That old philosophical question could aptly be applied to the extra point for most of my 13-year career as an NFL placekicker. No one even thought about extra points except in the very rare instance that one was missed.

That all changed last January. In an interview with Rich Eisen, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell brought to light discussions the league was having behind closed doors about changing or eliminating the extra point. “The extra point is almost automatic,” Goodell said. “I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 [actually 1,267]. So it’s a small fraction of the play and you want to add excitement with every play.”

With that, a national debate about the fate of the extra point was launched. I could point out that the quarterback spike is a boring play, as is the kneel down at the end of a game, but a better analogy might be the intentional walk in baseball. Certain plays, boring as they may be, are part of the fabric of the game and without a compelling reason should neither be abandoned nor changed. I have yet to hear that compelling reason when it comes to the extra point.

I can however, give you a compelling reason not to change the extra point: increased injuries.

Over the past few years there have been many changes to the game we love: how we tackle and block, how we practice during the season and during training camp, the kickoff reverting back to the 35-yard-line to encourage more touchbacks and reduce the number of returns. Every one of these changes was made to ensure the safety of players and reduce injuries. Changing the extra point runs counterintuitive to that philosophy. The extra point is virtually automatic. Because of that coaches rarely rush, preferring to protect against a two-point conversion with a more conservative defensive front. On field goals this isn’t the case. The ability to block a kick or get enough pressure to force a miss provides the carrot for more aggressive schemes and greater effort from players.

The Denver Broncos kicked 75 extra points during the 2013 regular season. If the extra point is lengthened (as was the case for the first two weeks of this preseason), that is 75 more plays on which there is an increased risk of injury. Field goals are a low-reward, high-risk endeavor for an offensive lineman. They are placed in precarious positions with their knees, backs, necks, groins and heads vulnerable as a result of the required technique. They are sitting ducks for the aggressive rushes of defenders who may want to take out their frustrations, and injuries are not uncommon. Ask any lineman and they will describe the difference between a PAT rush and a field-goal rush. They can recount the times they were hurt or very nearly injured blocking for field goals.

I asked two of our Cardinals linemen about it.

“There is no question the defense rushes harder on field goals compared to extra points,” left tackle Jared Veldheer said “That’s where I feel like my head and neck are most exposed.”

Tackle Max Starks told me: “I injured my neck blocking for a field goal and had fusion surgery. On extra points they may rush hard one out of every five times. But on a field goal they are coming hard on every play. The 33-yard extra point is really just another field goal for us.”

Earlier this year, Peter King and Robert Klemko debated what to do about the PAT

Are we really going to change a play because it’s “boring,” exposing offensive linemen to 75 more plays during which their knee may get blown out or they may suffer a concussion? Will fans of a playoff contender be “entertained’’ by a longer extra point when their left tackle is lost for the playoffs? Do we really want a team to miss the playoffs because a kicker misses a 33-yard extra point in cold, windy Chicago or Pittsburgh in Week 17? What do you think fans would rather have decide the outcome of a game: a missed 33-yard extra point, or the overtime that follows a made 20-yarder? These are the very real implications of a potential rule change that I find misguided.

In Week 1 of the preseason, two extra points were missed. Does this constitute a successful rule change? Since 1999 NFL kickers are 90% from the 33-yard line compared to 99% from the normal extra-point distance of 20 yards. Certainly there will be a few more missed extra points, but what does this rule change really accomplish?

It’s ironic that the proponents of this rule change are the same ones who, a few years ago, were advocating changes to overtime rules because they placed the fate of a team disproportionately on the foot of its kicker. When NFL kickers voiced our opposition to the extra point change—which we have uniformly—we were dismissed as not wanting to make our jobs harder. But we voiced our displeasure with the kickoff change in 2011 even though that change made our jobs easier.

In this case, it is more likely that those most intimate with a kicker’s job understand the intricacies of extra points and field goals and see the bigger picture. The risks involved for those blocking on longer attempts outweigh the benefit of a more challenging kick.

1 2NEXT VIEW AS A SINGLE PAGE
More from The MMQB
30 comments
skanee00
skanee00

Or... You could leave the rules exactly as they are today, and make kicks at goal more challenging by raising the crossbar a couple of feet.

BiffMcBride
BiffMcBride

Make every touchdown seven points. After every TD, the coach is given the option to go for 2 from the 1-yard line. But if you fail on the first attempt, you forfeit the "right" to try it again for the rest of the game--sort of like challenges, where if you lose them twice, then you can't use them again.

No coach is really going to cede this right in the first 3 quarters, but in the 4th, if your team is down 17 or 18 with five minutes to go, and they're about to score, things could get real interesting.

jbcuster
jbcuster

Jay Feely makes zero sense, don't change it because it will cause a increase of injury risk? Football is a violent sport and for a kicker who has practically no risk (except a pulled muscle) of injury makes me laugh. The more likely issue that kickers fear is the increase failure and criticism that goes with missing an extra point. Jay if you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen.

TimShannon
TimShannon

I wouldn't change the PAT but in an effort to prevent injuries on kick-off returns, I suggest the NFL move the kick-off point back five yards to where it was before and reward any team whose kicker can boot it through the uprights with another two points.  Think of the possible swing in a game when a team with a Sebastian Janikowski-like kicker can score a touchdown, go for the two-point conversion and another two points if the kicker has the leg and accuracy to put it through the uprights.


poindexterregan
poindexterregan

Eliminate the PAT kick, make them go for it from the 2. 7-points for a TD, +1 if you make the conversion, -1 if you don't. Simple, easy, don't need to change the equipment, more exciting.

LSeanKey
LSeanKey

Make the goal a goal, meaning, put a bar across the top of the uprights to create a rectangle.  Field goals and extra points would have to go into the goal, not over it.  This would eliminate any judgement on kicks that go right over (or very nearly right over) the uprights.  If it doesn't go through, it isn't a successful kick.

The automatic twenty story high kicks on closer field goals and the PAT would be eliminated. It would be more challenging for the kickers, and create lower kicks, which would add to the number of blocked attempts.  And blocked attempts are exciting.  If the NFL is after exciting, make the field goal (and PAT goal) go into an actual goal...

sdoc23
sdoc23

FOOTBALL - notice the foot. The game was intended to have kicking field goals and PAT as legitimate parts of the scoring. Don't tell me field goals aren't exciting because they clearly are. Not as exciting as touch downs but still a legitimate part of scoring and the game. Except one thing they shouldn't be easy (less than 80% preferably) and they shouldn't be able to be scored from 60 yards or more, even 50 yards or more. Have to change the height and width of the posts to make sure kickers can't reward bad offense by putting them through from so far away!



Changing PATs to make them like field goals may increase the risk of injury but that doesn't mean it still shouldn't be changed. It's a complete waste of time right now. So instead lets work on ways to make it safer:


- Decrease the number of blockers and field goal rushes on the play

- Increase rosters and teams to allow 3 or 4 specialist kicking team blockers so first string O line don't have to be in the play

- Maybe a weight limit? No one above 240lbs can be on the field for field goal/PAT units (don't like this one)

- Stamp out dirty plays at the line of scrimmage by heavy penalties

- Instead of lines of blockers squaring off at each other, have the defenders start at the 10 yard line, and the snap from the 20 yard line. The kicker then gets the time it takes for the blitzing defenders to make up the 10 yard gap to execute the kick. The linemen get a chance to form a pocket around the kicker and get their heads up and in a stance before the rushers get to them

KeyserSoze1
KeyserSoze1

Kind of tired of hearing kickers whine about longer PATs.  You have the easiest job in football; stop crying because it might get more difficult. 

PRoughsedge
PRoughsedge

Hate to see a hard fought football game decided by a missed extra point. Leave it be.

MattGoode
MattGoode

In high school, I was the starting kicker and an nth-string RB/DB, so this may seem hypocritical of me, but I think football is way too specialized and I think it's lame that there's a position dedicated to a guy who comes out 5-10 times per game to kickoff and attempt FGs/PATs.  If I were the Boss of Football, I would restrict substitutions to changes of possession or, at worst, each set of downs; therefore, kick attempts would be made by "normal" field players, like they were up until the 60s or so.  Being a good kicker is not easy, but being an adequate kicker is a lot easier than most people, including football players, think.  Some of those quick, 6'6", 200 lb+ WRs could achieve some incredible kickoffs.

Macheen
Macheen

Here are two suggestions.

1) Forget kicking PATs and forget the two point conversion. Put the ball on the 1 yd line and run or pass for 1 point.

2) Put the ball on the 20 yd line and perform an old style drop kick for 1 point.

PDXbruce
PDXbruce

Just leave well enough alone, for Heaven's sake. The great thing about where the ball is placed now is it opens the possibily of the fake kick and the two-point conversion. You're not going to see kickers attempting passes from the 33-yard line. 

parkbrav
parkbrav

Players have the same risk of injury from wherever the PAT is launched. This player would have us just abolish the PAT (and the field goal) altogether

DavidWitcraft
DavidWitcraft

Gronkowski was injured on a regular PAT play. All plays have the risk of injury, which is part of the appeal of the NFL(sadly). Having no PAT and the option for a +1/-1 conversion is the simplest option that meets the NFL's criteria(every play should bring excitement).

67raiders
67raiders

Closest to the original intent would be to make the PAT from a distance that has the same % likelihood of being made as a PAT 60 years ago. BUT, losing the potential of the fake kick, conversion is not so good.

Iowa
Iowa

Pretty weak argument by Feely. First off, the NFL needs to get rid of the special kicker balls, which are inflated specially so they are easier to kick. The best option would be to make whoever scores a touchdown kick the extra point, or as noted by one, at least someone who was on the field for the scoring play. This adds more intrigue to the play, but also still doesn't cost kickers jobs, since they will be needed for field goals.

garyletc
garyletc

The 33 yard extra point is still pretty much a "gimmee". If you want to make the extra point significantly more challenging, without affecting field goals (as in changing the distance between the goal posts, etc.) you need to move the kicking location farther back than the 23 yard line. Otherwise, you are exposing the players to more injuries, without making the extra point enough harder to really matter.

Czarlisle
Czarlisle

I'm all for doing it like Rugby.  The ball is placed where the touchdown was scored.  Everything else is the same.  If you score on a corner fade, the calculus would probably be to try for 2 points vs attempting the difficult low-angle kick.  Much more interesting.

Super Duper Harry Hooper
Super Duper Harry Hooper

I agree on keeping the pat distance. I've been a proponent for years though of moving the goal posts closer to one another. Part of it is a major credit to modern kickers, training videos, working out, nutrition, etc...That said, at some point when a forty yard fg is almost a forgone conclusion, it seems like the NFL should do something to increase the degree of difficulty.

FreddieFunStuff
FreddieFunStuff

Just popped into my head: add a top crossbar to the goalposts, making a rectangle. Like an elevated soccer goal. Would add a new dimension for the kickers without changing the play for anyone else.

ClintMayo
ClintMayo

Why would a starting LT be on the field for extra points?


A lot of good stuff here. I personally think they need to take the XP out of the game and make the 2nd point on a conversion optional, like you pointed out.

pk_sea
pk_sea

I like the rugby solution. 

tdot2233
tdot2233

Great POV from Feely here. Certainly not a perspective you hear when this topic is discussed in the media. Personally, I still feel that some kind of change needs to be made to the PAT, but Feely makes a good case that the current 'fix' probably isn't the solution

gbgentleman
gbgentleman

@PRoughsedge Do you mind a hard fought game decided by a last second field goal?  What's the difference?

MattGoode
MattGoode

@Czarlisle They'd have to do something about the hashmarks, though, as they're are so narrow in the NFL compared to college football. 

MattGoode
MattGoode

@FreddieFunStuff Your idea would eliminate those situations where the ball seems to pass directly above the goal post and the refs can't tell for sure if the kick is good or not.

TurribleTowel
TurribleTowel

@ClintMayo It happens. There are only so many linemen on a team. Remember, Gronk's first injury was a broken arm on a PAT.

tmadz
tmadz

@pk_sea  Me too. It certainly makes coaches think about those over the shoulder fades for 6'5" receivers. It would place more emphasis on seam routes and tight ends over the middle or crossing routes for WR's.


If there is a drive late in the game, a corner touchdown would make an extra point attempt even more precarious and less automatic to tie it up late. It might shorten the length of the extremely long 4th quarters with 2 minute drives while placing more emphasis on scoring and building leads early in a game.

Newsletter