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Should Extra Points in the NFL be a Thing of the Past?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is seriously considering a change that would eliminate PATs.

Should Extra Points in the NFL be a Thing of the Past?
Point-after conversions have been in place in the NFL since its inception. Photo courtesy Rick Burtzel via Creative Commons license.

The extra-point conversion after touchdowns has been in use in American football since at least the start the 20th century. But if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gets his way, the point-after-touchdown will soon be a thing of the past.

Goodell told the NFL Network that the NFL Competition Committee could be considering a change to abolish the point-after conversion in favor of other options.

According to Goodell, one of the options being bandied about is the suggestion to turn touchdowns into a seven-point play, with teams having the option of adding another point with an extra play, presumably from the three-yard line, the yard marker currently being used for two-point conversions. Goodell went on to say that if teams failed to score on the extra play, the touchdown would revert back to six points.

The impetus behind the proposed change is the fact that extra-point attempts are nearly automatic. Of the 1,267 point-after conversions attempted in the 2013 season, only five were unsuccessful.

Goodell is clearly trying to make sure that the NFL continues to be exciting with every single play.

"The extra point is almost automatic," Goodell said. "I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd [attempts]. So it's a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play."

Goodell is correct in conceding that the extra point is boring. He might have a hard time in convincing kickers otherwise, however.

San Francisco 49ers placekicker Phil Dawson was clearly not overly enthused with the proposed change.

Now that’s a bit of a stretch—NFL quarterbacks average completing about 60 percent of their passes, a bit of a far cry from a nearly 100 percent conversion of extra points.

Still, making a change of a rule that’s been in place for well over 100 years may not go over well with the rank and file. The NFL Players Association has yet to voice their opinion on the matter, but it’s a safe bet it will be a hard sell for Goodell.

Over the years, the two-point conversion has been far riskier. In fact, ESPN Stats & Information broke down the conversion totals over the past six seasons and in 2001 as well.

Two-point Conversion History

Year

Conversion pct.

Att. pct.

2013

47.8

5.2

2012

50.0

4.5

2011

46.0

4.0

2010

44.2

4.6

2009

40.6

5.2

2005

52.9

4.4

2001

44.4

8.2

Source: ESPN Stats & Information

It’s clear that fans will have a far more exciting play if the point-after attempt is abolished. Teams convert two-point plays less than 50 percent on average, so a far-from automatic conversion would add an element of excitement to the game.

Placekickers have become much more accurate and stronger in recent years. A large percentage of kickoffs end up being touchbacks, and that certainly doesn’t add much excitement to the game. In addition, placekickers converted 86.5 percent of all field-goal attempts in 2013. That number is way up from 76.3 percent in 2001.

One solution could be to decrease the distance between goalposts, currently at 18 feet and three inches. By shortening the distance to 15 feet between posts, placekickers would have to be deadly accurate, especially on longer-range field goals. It could certainly help in eliminating automatic extra-point conversions as well.

Kicking has long been a staple in football. Eliminating kickoffs seems to be an idea whose time has come, but eliminating extra-point conversions takes away an element of the game that has been in place since the sport’s origins.

It seems to me that simple changes can be made by the Competition Committee that can make kicking a more exciting play. Abolishing PATs altogether simply isn’t necessary. 

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