Doug Robinson: NFL should give the boot to extra points

Published: Wednesday, March 12 2014 1:04 p.m. MDT

Seattle Seahawks Steven Hauschka kicks a point after a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J.

Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

We here at the Institute of Fixing Flawed Sports (IFFS) have been diverted temporarily from our fulltime job in soccer to offer improvements for football.

Our motto: You’ve got problems with your favorite sport, we’ve got solutions.

Want more scoring in hockey or soccer? Then lose the goalies or widen the net. See? Simple. You think short-track speedskating is all left turns and long-track speedskating is simply a dull two-man race against the clock? Put the short track skaters on the long track and you've got something. You're welcome. And the NBA, with the fouling for profit in the final minutes ... don't get us started.

But back to football and the NFL, which has ignored our lobby for adopting college football’s superior overtime format or dumping the 5-yard rule for defensive backs. In recent weeks, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick have raised the issue of the extra-point kick, which is officially the Most Boring Sports Play in the Universe. The NFL is wondering if it should be A) continued, B) abandoned, or C) altered.

The correct answer of course is either B or C, preferably B. The extra point is a snoozefest. A time for fans to run to the fridge or concessions. A bathroom break. The extra-point kick is about as exciting as the State of the Union Address. It is to sports fans what the "Scarlet Letter" and "Moby-Dick" are to high school students.

Referring to the PAT, Goodell said, "Are there any plays in the game that really are not consequential? You want to add excitement with every play."

The PAT is inconsequential. You’ve seen the numbers from NFL.com. NFL kickers missed only five PAT kicks last season out of 1,267 attempts. The year before that they missed six and the year before that seven. That’s 18 misses in 3,709 attempts — a success rate of 99.5 percent.

Sports is supposed to provide uncertainty and drama. The PAT kick is “virtually automatic,” as Belichick puts it. It is such a sure thing that the play is a mere formality. Is there anything in all of sports that succeeds 99 times out of 100? And yet it has endured. They’ve been kicking PATs since the turn of the century — the last century.

What is the NFL doing about it? "There is no consensus yet," a member of the NFL’s competition committee told NFL.com. “We could experiment in preseason, but we are not there yet."

Not there yet? Where are they, in 1935? According to NFL.com, “The last time the extra-point conversion rate regularly fell below 90 percent was in the 1930s and early 1940s.” What else does the NFL need to see? This is a no-brainer. It's time for change.

There is no shortage of alternatives. Several proposals have been kicked around. One idea that is getting a lot of attention: Seven points for a touchdown, with the option of running or passing for an eighth point; failure to convert results in the loss of a point. We here at IFFS believe that taking points off the board is just too, well, weird, for lack of a better word.

Another option that gets frequent mention: Move the PAT kick back to the 25-yard line, making it a 43-yard attempt. The problem: It’s still kicking, and it’s still pretty much automatic — kickers make about 83 percent of their kicks from that range. Our philosophy at IFFS: More football is good, more kicking in football is bad. NFL kickers Josh Scobee and Justin Tucker have expressed concern that alterations to the PAT will usher kickers right out of the game altogether.

We at IFFS are not seeing a downside here.

Among other ideas proposed by SI.com was awarding more points based on length of the PAT kick — two points for 50 yards, three points for 60 yards, four points for 70. Bad idea — we don’t need MORE kicking, we need less. If we want to watch kicking, we’ll tune in a soccer match.

Another option: Eliminate the PAT kick, six points for a touchdown, run or pass for a PAT. Our favorite proposal, as proposed by SI.com — Eliminate the kick, place the ball at the three for one point and the 10 for two points.

The kicking game is tedious. Kickers are bigger, stronger and more athletic than they were 30 years ago, and they are simply getting too good for the game. NFL.com reports that kickers made a record 67.1 percent of their field goal attempts from 50 yards and longer. They are making all field goal attempts at a rate of 86.5 percent.

Just look what the increasing range of kickers has done to the kickoff, in combination with the 2011 rule change that moved the ball back to the 35-yard line. About half of all kickoffs result in touchbacks, making it the Second Most Boring Play in football. Kickoffs routinely travel 70-75 yards.

Memo to NFL: We've seen enough of the PAT.

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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