Three things in this world are certain: death, taxes, and an NFL kicker successfully kicking a football through the uprights from 20 yards away. The automatic nature of the extra point is leading to growing concern among NFL executives. Although many alternatives have been discussed, the NFL will experiment with a 38-yard extra point for two weeks in the 2019 preseason. However, 38-yard kicks are almost as automatic as 20-yard kicks in the NFL.
The status of the NFL extra point has been consistent for many years. However, in 1994, the NFL instituted the college rule, allowing for a two-point conversion attempt. Another recent alteration to this rule was the XFL model. Instead of having the option to attempt a two-point conversion, XFL teams had to run a play from scrimmage to score one point, thus eliminating the kicker from the equation.
Most NFL fans would say the extra point is hardly a major issue. The fact that it is virtually automatic should not be a major concern. But one of the traits that has made the NFL the most popular sports league in America is the league’s willingness to tweak its rules. MLB has always been too wedded to its past and its reticence to institute major change has caused it to fall behind the NFL in terms of popularity.
The extra point is one part of what NFL owners see as a growing problem. Although ratings are up, attendance is down slightly from five years ago as some fans complain about the live experience at NFL stadiums. Interminable television timeouts and the time between plays have some NFL fans choosing to stay home instead of going to games. The extra point is seen as one of the “boring” parts of the NFL game.
Despite the NFL’s latest attempt to experiment with change to the extra point, I don’t believe this is the best solution. Assuming this issue even needs attention; making the extra point attempt a 38-yard kick will penalize teams with a good offense and a bad kicker. Somehow, it doesn’t seem right that a kicker should have that much impact on an NFL game.
I am in favor of another solution that has been discussed previously. If the extra point is so unnecessary, then just eliminate it and make touchdowns seven points. However, if a team should choose to attempt a two-point conversion, then a successful attempt would net eight points, while an unsuccessful attempt would only garner six points. This would make NFL games much more interesting as head coaches wrestle with this difficult decision.
I don’t believe the NFL extra point requires a great deal of attention. But if the NFL is determined to enact change, then the 2019 preseason experiment is hardly the best alternative.