Most Worthless Play in Sport? NFL Has the Answer

Boris GodzinevskiCorrespondent IINovember 9, 2011

Rian Lindell kicking an extra point
Rian Lindell kicking an extra pointRick Stewart/Getty Images

The NFL's extra point after a touchdown has long been questionable but with league averages coming close to 100 percent.

In the 1950s, 60s and even up to the 1980s, extra point percentages were in the high 90s but kickers were prone to possible failure.

Lou Groza for example average 97.2 percent on extra points for his career, as one of his generation's most accurate kickers. There were even kickers like George Hunt who average below 90 percent, albeit in shortened careers. In today's NFL however, anything below 99 percent within reason—like less than 150 extra points—is considered shoddy at best.

Last year, 23 starting kickers converted all of their extra point opportunities. Shayne Graham and Dave Buehler were the only guys who missed two extra points and Buehler was grilled on his miss against the Cardinals.

Until last season, Rian Lindell hadn't missed an extra point in his career. He now sits at 99.7 percent.

It's these statistics that should tell you that, although nothing is automatic, you'd be wise to bet your entire savings on an extra point going through.

In fact if the odds for every extra point since 2000 was 1.01-1 odds and you bet a dollar each time on say, Rian Lindell, you'd have made over $3 until his first miss last season. How's that for wise investment?

So if it was proposed, like Bill Belichick stated in August, how would the elimination of the extra point fly?

Here are the alternatives:

1. Kick From Farther Out

Belichick suggested the 20-yard line, making a standard extra point length of 38. While this would make it much harder—an extra point now is roughly 17-19 yards out—it would also raise the issue of how a 28-yard field goal would be worth more than a one-point kick.

Perhaps, making the line of scrimmage the 15-yard line and having the kick set at 33 would be the best choice. Field-goal percentages from the 33 or less are better than 90 percent, so it would remain a chip shot.

2. Force Drop Kick Strategy

Another suggestion to keeping the extra point but altering it is by drop kick.

With the shape of the football nowadays, it is harder to accurately drop kick. While a punt is similar the difference is a drop kick must touch the ground and bounce first. I suppose it would be the same if asked to punt the ball from the 20.

Either way it would be much harder. The problem here is it could be less than 80 percent successful, but I'm certain more kickers and punters would practice this to improve. Punting the ball would add to a punter's scoring, which is currently rare.

3. Enable a One-Point Conversion like the Two-Point Conversion

To make this clear, the two-point conversion in the NFL is from the 2-yard line. For a one-point conversion, the line could be moved to the one. I would also expect the two-point conversion line to be moved back to make a substantial difference.

With the ball at the one yard line instead of two, more short-yardage plays could be called to get the ball in the end zone, like a quarterback sneak. Of course, it could just as well be kept at the two-yard line, where for one point you'd start from the two and for two points you'd start from the five.

4. Make Touchdowns Automatically Worth Seven Points

Why even bother with the kick? Roger Goodell cares about player safety and here are these poor offensive and defensive linemen being thrown against each other so that a kicker can punch through a gimme.


Now, what to do with the two-point conversion would be up in the air. You'd either have it as is, but make it worth one; or have a rule where a team can choose to either take the seven points after scoring a touchdown or opt to go for the two points, which if unsuccessful would gain the team six instead.

But at the same time we could have something real fun and have a two-point conversion available but from the 10-yard line, for example. This would mean after every touchdown we'd see another 1st-and-goal.

Of course, if mandatory, this could also mean nine-point scores becoming common.

5. Add a Three-Point Conversion

Since the extra point is so easy to make, why not have more than just a two-point conversion as an option?

How about a three-point conversion?

Make the three-point conversion from the five- or six- yard line, perhaps. This would alter the game as it would allow nine-point scores but it would also negate the dubious fact that a touchdown with a PAT is essentially a guaranteed seven points.

6. Allow Defensive Scoring on Conversion Attempts

Though hard with an extra point kick, the ability for the defense to score a touchdown on a conversion attempt would surely bring in a different playbook. Teams would be more adamant about attempting to block extra points if a block could lead to a touchdowns with no time running off the clock.

In the NCAA and CFL, a ball returned by the defense on a conversion attempt is worth two points. But I feel two would be a jib, considering the logistics of it.

7. Eliminate Conversions

Although this would make scoring more bland there would also be a sense of balance. Two fields would equal one touchdown, easy math and if you find yourself down by eight, you can't fix it in one play.

8. Bring in the Four-Point Field Goal

In NFL Europe, a field goal of 50 or more yards was worth four points instead of the standard three. This wasn't as much of a factor in scoring as you would imagine—not in NFL Europe where kickers were of lesser quality and 50-yard field goals were attempted one to three times a season by a starting kicker.

The whole reason to have a four-point field goal would be to even the odds on the extra point.

Right now, two field goals, or two scoring drives that end in field goals, are worth less than one touchdown with an extra point. While it may seem correct on the onset to give a substantial edge to getting in the end zone, it's also noteworthy to understand touchdowns can be fluky.

I personally don't think a 50- and 40-yard field goal is any less effort than one touchdown drive. For most teams, this really wouldn't be an option due to kicker limitations, but it would be an option and surely get more teams to look for kickers able to nail a 50-yard field goal.

It would certainly bring an added dimension to the value of kickers and if you're a fan of parity, a mediocre offense would have more opportunity to win games by field goals. Feasibly, you could have a kicker account for 15 points on four kicks instead of three, and it would also make for great late game conclusions for teams down by three.

No longer would a team getting the ball back with 15 seconds and just one timeout be forced to throw Hail Marys, just get to the 45 and give your kicker a chance.