It was certainly a strange idea to me when I first heard it. Frankly, I was not sure I heard it right, but I did. Roger Goodell stated early this week that the NFL was considering the idea of eliminating the extra point.
"The extra point is almost automatic," Goodell said, via NFL.com. "I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd. So it's a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play."
This seems like such a fundamental alteration in the way the game is played that it is hard to imagine that the league would go through with it. But Goodell coming out and discussing it means this is already well on the way to happening. He still would have to sell this to the competition committee, but if you listen to some of the national sports radio coverage, you know that a lot of people feel like Goodell gets what Goodell wants in these matters. He swings a huge club in the way the NFL dominates professional sports. It is rather hard to argue against the belief that he seems to know what he is doing as NFL broadcasts continue to be the most watched programming in the United States. That revenue flowing in huge quantities to the team owners, whether their teams are successful or not, is also a strong factor supporting whatever initiatives he brings up.
Here is the proposal. Touchdowns would be worth seven points, not six. However, if teams want to go for an additional point (to get the same score as with the current two point conversion), they would be able to do so. If they succeed, they get that point, making the touchdown worth eight points. However, if they attempt the additional point and fail, one point is deducted, taking the value of the touchdown back to six points. Otherwise, everything works just the same as the two point try does now.
It sounds strange, but in the end it winds up with the same results on the scoreboard as you have now, with the exception of those five plays Goodell talked about last season. It eliminates a play that largely is just extra time to run to the kitchen or the bathroom now, and might actually speed things up slightly.
Obviously, it is going to have some impact on the value of a placekicker. The duties for that position would now be reduced to field goals and kickoffs. And frankly, the punter on some teams can kick the ball off as well as the placekicker, so that job gets even less valuable.
Could it lead to teams eliminating the position entirely? There is a line of reasoning that says that teams should almost always go for it on fourth down. Especially if it is fourth and short. Given the success rates involved, the argument for trying to convert any fourth down from midfield or shorter is actually a good one. And if you didn't have to carry a placekicker you never intended to use, there is one more spot to use. If the only time you need a deep snap is for punts when you are on your own side of the 50, then you can probably get rid of the long snapper, too. This seems heretical when you are a team like Dallas, with players like Dan Bailey and L.P. Ladouceur, but not all NFL teams have those kinds of players on their roster.
Does that all sound a little crazy? Well, consider what happened at the beginning of the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship. You know, the game that happened before Richard Sherman's ridiculously over-discussed rant. The Seattle Seahawks had a fourth and seven at the San Francisco 49ers' 35-yard line. Instead of going for a long field goal, or punting to try and pin them deep, Pete Carroll (a coach I totally detest as the man who tore down USC before leaving for more fame and fortune as the NCAA investigators were closing in, but who is disgustingly good at how he handles a game) decided to go for it.
And scored a touchdown. Excitement from a daring call. Followed by an automatic extra point.
If Goodell succeeds in killing the extra point at the pro level (and this is one rule that may not translate to college or high school), then the game will probably see some other effects, such as more teams attempting to convert fourth downs. It could even see changes to field goal rules, because except for the last second game winners, those are not all that exciting.
Most people probably had a reaction similar to my own "You have to be kidding!" But the Commissioner is not joking about this. And the measured response by perhaps the most influential owner in the league was interesting.
Jerry Jones: "I don't have a thought about" Roger Goodell looking into getting rid of extra points: "I'd have to think about it."
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 22, 2014
It doesn't sound like Jones is planning to lead an open revolt to stop this.
It does seem like football is making plenty of alterations recently. I can remember when the goalposts were on the goal line, not in back of the end zone. The game changes. It evolves. Some changes may be for the worse, but go back and find some of those games with the goal posts all up in the way like that. Football was a lot more, well, dull back then.
The game has evolved, helped by a lot of changes in the rule book. It is going to change more in the future. However, that does not, of course, mean that all changes are good. This particular one seems so radical, but given the way the extra point would be replaced, does it really change the game in a bad way? Or does it just take out one of the least interesting parts of the game? I am not sure I know the right answer.
Are you a purist, who demands we keep the extra point? Or is it time to step up the pace a bit?
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