9 Ways to Fix The NFL’s Extra Point Problem
The extra point in the NFL has become a bit of a nuisance in recent years. Teams are converting their kick 99.3% of the time, which means only 7 of every 1,000 extra point attempts are made interesting. Not exactly a thrilling proposition.
So the owners are of one mind that the extra point system needs to be tweaked. That’s the easy part. The hard part is that the no one can seem to agree on what extra point scenario, be it an revision of the extra point, the distance or process of a two-point conversion, or both, is best for the game. So there are a lot of suggestions coming up.
Below, I’ve included some possible tweaks to the extra point. Some are my, some are from the internet. Some are good. Some are awful. But they all, to varying degrees, do something to make extra points more difficult, or conversions more attractive. And some make spectacles of kickers, which is always welcome.
So let’s take a look at some remedies for this whole extra point conundrum, then let’s all yell at everyone’s suggestions until we realize that the cure is far worse than the disease. Then let’s remember to get EXTRA mad at kickers when they blow extra points, because we just got done with a year of bickering that these things are too much of a foregone conclusion.
This isn’t so much an argument for the fans, but for the league. The league is enjoying an insane amount of popularity, so much so that they’re looking beyond their existing markets to exotic foreign lands like London or Los Angeles. The fact is that the existing arrangement isn’t pissing anyone off TOO much, because we’re all used to it. However, if they give us something that we’re not used to, that’s when the NFL faithful could get a little restless and started taking that crochety old-timer mindset that things were better back in the day, and the game is straying from its roots.
9. Leave Everything the Way It Is
This hasn’t been discussed, but if we’re looking for a way to draw coaches away from picking the gimme PAT from a few feet out, the most assertive way to kill the deluge of gimme extra points is to simply kill the extra point altogether. Sure, it takes away the coaching decision (Which I’m guessing risk averse coaches would love), which makes the decision just as rote as when the only option was to kick, though the uncertainty on the mandatory conversion would raise the stakes a bit.
8. No PATs
The math is easy enough. You want the decision to essentially be a push, so a coach should (big assumption) be indifferent to getting 1 point one way or 2 points in a manner that’s twice as difficult. If the success rate of a conversion is 47% from the current line of scrimmage, then find the distance at which the league-wide success rate of a field goal/PAT is 94%. The coaches will still likely go for the kick out of conservatism, but it makes the choice a little more difficult.
7. Set the PAT distance to where the success rate is 2x the success rate of a conversion.
All this really does is make the PAT a gimme, which it really is anyway. So it streamlines the game by eliminating a pretty superfluous play, but still giving the option to get a little ballsy with the conversion either as a matter of taste or a matter of necessity if the team is down later in the game. This seems to be a pretty safe move, because nobody sees a kick as a risky proposition, but there are some smaller implications, like the elimination of a fake PAT for a two-point conversion.
6. Opt Not to Convert, Get 7. Complete the Conversion, Get 8. Miss the Conversion, Get 6
This approach will likely have traditionalists up in arms, which is why it’s by far my favorite suggestion, though it would likely be a nightmare in practice. Football strategy has an incredibly finite number of approaches. You can get three points, or you can get 6,7, or 8. What the Colts kicked around was that you can take your PAT and get your 7, OR, you can go for 2, AND if you convert, you get 8 BUT you also get the option to kick an additional 1-point PAT from the 32 yard line. That’s a 9-point play, sports fans, which means that two-possession games can become one-possession games, and so on. It keeps game closer, but at the expense of a pretty huge gimmick.
5. The Colts Crazy Model
This is a pretty fun one. The coach picks going for one or two, then learns who the opposing team wants on the scoring team to kick the field goal. Want Manziel to kick it? That’s the Steelers’ prerogative. J.J. Watt could line up if the Colts so chose. This could be pretty fun.
4. Keep the PAT as Is, but the Opposing Team Picks the Kicker
This one is kind of a nightmare, because you’d basically be stacking field goals on top of extra points. Sure, they would compete with two-point conversions, but I don’t think the goal here is to re-think the entire scoring process and start from scratch. But it’s an option, and I have to present it, even if I think it’s not a very good one.
3. A Range of PAT Options for Different Points
This will certainly make the conversion more attractive, but that was never the goal. The goal was to make the kick less automatic. This does very little for that, other than turn going for 2 into a jousting attempt in order to move the ball only 36 inches. Can’t say this is a great solution, as it simply makes the 2 point conversion more automatic and WAY less scientific.
2. Leave The Kick Alone, But Move the Conversion up to the 1 Yard Line
This is my vote, upon reflection. Because not only does it involve seeing Tom Coughlin warming up on a sideline, trying to pick his leg up more than eight inches off the ground, but also because it puts a very different spin on the recruiting process for head coaches as well. I mean, as long as we're gonna shake things up, let's shake a LOT of things up. Nobody's picking Rex Ryan if Jason Garrett is around. I mean, you're talking about one point on every touchdown. That's huge! This will never get adopted, but I guess it's just consistent with my dream of watching the head coaches get dressed up in football pads.