Thoughts on the Extra Point

Roger Goodell is considering elimination of the extra point. I've been whining for 5 years now, advocating some kind of change to the XP. I just hope the league doesn't mess it up, like they did with overtime.

I realize quoting myself is not in good taste, but then again I've never been accused of good taste. Here are some of my thoughts.

Kicking field goals is such a peculiar and specialized thing. It has almost nothing to do with the rest of the sport but can be so decisive. It would be like getting extra runs in baseball by lacing up some skates and slapping a shoot-out shot after every home run.

Here's an excerpt from a diatribe in my old Washington Post column.

The extra point is something left over from gridiron football’s evolution from rugby. Originally, the ‘touchdown’ in rugby was less important than the ensuing free kick, and the points given for the touchdown and the ‘point after try’ varied during football’s early history. Today’s extra point is a vestige of football’s rugby roots. It’s football’s appendix–inconsequential, its original purpose uncertain...and safe to remove.

It's easy to see that XPs are pretty pointless, but it's harder to come up with some good ways to fix them or replace them. Here are some of my favorite ideas (and plenty more in the comments):

- Must always go for 2-pt conversion
- 1 point for a try from the 1 yd-line, 2 points from the 3 (or 2 or 5 or wherever)
- A TD is always 7 full points, but a team can gamble 1 point by attempting a 2-point try from the 2.
- A team can gamble up to 3 extra points (kind of like Final Jeopardy) by attempting a conversion. So if a team bets 3 points, it can score 9 on a single TD! A failed conversion attempt makes the TD worth only 3. How exciting would that be? Would you be getting up to grab another beer during one of those plays?
-The player who scores the touchdown has to kick the XP.
-The XP must be kicked from directly behind the point at which the ball crossed the plane of the goal line on the prior touchdown, as in rugby.

Just imagine if we had always had the (completely awesome) up to 3-point gamble rule, and someone came along and said, "Hey, let's get rid of that and replace it with a 1-point kick from the 2." We'd think that guy was crazy.

The status quo has the power of inertia, so as you consider any idea for a rule change, imagine if football had always been that way and whether or not we'd want to change the game to the way it actually is now.

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41 Responses to “Thoughts on the Extra Point”

  1. Anonymous says:

    How about just making each TD worth 7 pts, period?

  2. Anonymous says:

    While we're at it, I think we should add another set of very narrow uprights inside the existing uprights. If the ball was kicked through the inner uprights, the field goal would be worth 4 points. That adds an additional calculus of risking running an extra play or two to get into better field goal range, rather than just settling for the relatively safe 40-yard field goal, especially if it could allow you to take the lead rather than just tie. Combined with the potential of 9-point touchdowns, we might see some coaches' heads actually explode on the sideline.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Surely just make a TD worth 7 pts? Non of those suggestions for replacements make much sense. They're too much. a 7 pt TD makes most sense, or failing that, just move the XP back 20 yards.

  4. Ben Stuplisberger says:

    Love the idea of the player scoring the TD having the kick the XP. Just imagine this scenario:

  5. X says:

    I would have thought this was obvious. This is the situation we already have except without the extra stoppage in the game:

    A TD is always 7 points, but a team can gamble 1 point by attempting a 2-point try from the 2.

    Speaking of which, isn't this contrary to the benefit of the football owners, since TD-ads-XP-ads-kickoff-ads has more ads?

  6. Anonymous says:

    As to the touchdown = 7 pts idea: What would we call an interception returned for a touchdown? A "pick-7"? Doesn't have much of a ring.

    As for the previous comment re: more ads with the extra point as it is: True, but ads aren't worth much if nobody looks at them. Anything that makes the PAT more interesting will get more eyes on the TV, which is the whole reason the games are on TV.


  7. James says:

    Right now a team can get to 14 points with 2 field goals, a touchdown, and a 2pt conversion. It would fundamentally alter the game to make a touchdown worth exactly 7 points. The advantage to making a TD worth 7 points with the ability to gamble 1 is it keeps the strategy the same as it is now.

  8. Anonymous says:

    @X, maybe I'm not very observant, but in my memory, the ads run TD-XP-ads-kickoff-ads. I don't remember ads being between the touchdown and extra point. Then again, I usually stop paying attention as soon as a TD is scored.

    @Anons, you can't make a TD 7 points, period. That does away with the excitement of the possibility of a 2-pt conversion. The league is better off keeping the extra point than doing that.

    @Brian, I love these ideas. But with any of the ideas that make the XP more difficult, you might as well just make 2-pt conversions mandatory. No team is going to trust their running back to kick for 1 point more than to run for 2 points.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The NBA might be more exciting if half-court shots were worth 30 points, but that doesn't mean it should create that rule.

  10. Anonymous says:

    "Love the idea of the player scoring the TD having the kick the XP. Just imagine this scenario:"

    Actually, I'm trying to imagine what would happen if Rogers tried to lateral to backup kicker Ndamukong Suh.

  11. J.D. Krull says:

    This is one of those topics where I think there is more than meets the eye. The routine extra point seems like an anticlimactic waste of time at first glance. But maybe it has benefits that we don't even realize. It's a bit of a breather where we have a chance to savor the excitement that just occurred. It's a ritual to commemorate the TD, sort of like a period at the end of a sentence. If we just cast it aside in the rush to pack in more wall-to-wall action, I just have a nagging feeling that something subtly neat will be lost, and the game will be less for it.

    Has anyone measured just how much time the XP "wastes"? I bet it's not much, in the grand scheme of things. If you're determined to change the rules to remedy the anticlimactic/automatic nature of it, is there some subtle rule change they can make that would make it easier to block an XP?

  12. Zeke Tombar says:

    I personally think we tinker with the rules too much in today's NFL. I like being able to compare years to years and sort out what means what. To say something is a vestige of an old system is not the reason for its elimination. That's a matter of taste, not principle. Let's keep football recognizable.

  13. Anonymous says:

    "Just imagine if we had always had the (completely awesome) up to 3-point gamble rule" Disagree completely. This rule would reward late-game touchdowns and reduce the value of early-game scores. A team that scores three TDs early and goes up 18:0, could end up in a tied game after only allowing two late touchdowns, where the opponent gambled three points each.

    This is not fair in my mind. It is not a game show, it is a sport.

  14. LamKram says:

    Certainly, the "gamble 1 point for 2" idea is the least disruptive to the current situation. All it is really doing is conceding that the extra point succeeds 100%, so don't even bother. However, I'm not sure if fans, players, and coaches are ready for the idea of "losing" points off the scoreboard.

    What if they just moved the two-point conversion line to the 1-yard line? That would increase the success rate from slightly less than 50% toto about 65%, right? Then teams (if they are smart) would almost always opt for the two point conversion except in special situations where they would just kick the extra point (the opposite of what they do now). Wouldn't that make the game more interesting?

  15. John Mooney says:

    An idea from Hugh Wyatt at Keep the mechanics of the game the same as they are now, but institute a rule that any given player can only kick (or punt) one time per game.

    Since punts, PATs, and FGs would all have drastically reduced success rates, teams would go for 2 and go for it on 4th down far more often--but, the kicking specialists could still be brought in for the clutch, game-critical kicks.

  16. Anonymous says:

    At what distance is a made FG about twice as likely as a 2-pt conversion?

    For example if a 2-pt try is converted about 20% of the time, then kick the XP from whatever distance is made about 40% of the time.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The problem with 1-pt. and 2-pt. tries being from different yard lines is that it eliminates the ability to fake a kick.


  18. Ian Simcox says:

    We could always go further back to the rugby roots.

    Rugby union is 5 pts for a try and 2 pts for a conversion. Conversions are made around 80% of the time. So let's sack off the 2-pt conversion altogether, make it 5 pts for a TD and take a 2 pt kick from the 25 yard line (where success is ~80%)

  19. Anonymous says:

    "At what distance is a made FG about twice as likely as a 2-pt conversion?"

    That's about where we are already. This season, 2-pt tries converted just under 48% of the time. And extra points convert around 98-99% of the time.

  20. The Wizard says:

    I like most of your ideas Brian, including the one about the player that scored having to kick the extra point. I don't think anybody mentioned this, and I am pretty sure it will be met with resistance, but did it ever bother anybody that the whole season (certainly many games) are determined by a kicker. yeah, yeah, a kicker is technically a football player, but in your heart of hearts, do you really think of them as a football player? yeah, he is a specialist. so, is a relief pitcher. and relief pitchers determine many games. but a relief pitcher has to do the SAME thing as other pitchers, which makes him a bonafide baseball player. my rule? for somebody to kick a field goal, he must play at least 5 plays during the game in the second half. we will let the first half alone. but at least the game will potentially be decided by a 'football player'. sorry, kickers... you are great at what you do.. I just don't like you deciding these games.

  21. Xavier Weisenreder says:

    6 points for a touchdown.
    Unlimited 1 point after-tries from the 3 yard line as long as the team keeps on converting after a touchdown. The first try a team doesn't convert, the kickoff occurs next.
    Makes it so theoretically a team could always be in a one possession game (although realistically not, a team down 10 after a TD, that converts at say 45%, would only actually tie .03% of the time). Much more exciting for fan and at least makes blowouts slightly more interesting.

  22. Xavier Weisenreder says:

    ^ And no kicking extra points allowed

  23. Juvenal says:

    Honestly ditch FGs too and make TDs 1 pt. Or if you must keepFGs make them 1 pt and TDs 3.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Lets play until 57 minutes and then say "next score wins" like on the playground. That will keep both teams in it until the end. How's that?

  25. Cardlinger says:

    There is definitely a lot to be learned from games studies here, but the key points are:

    a) are you trying to make it a game or a sport? There are distinct differences, and the kind of point swings being proposed make it more game-like.

    b) games make a seriously big deal of accumulation of "victory points", and can throw in all sorts of balances which allow slower accumulation at the end of the game to allow stragglers to catch up (or vice versa, slow buildup and then explosive endgame).

    The kind of opportunities for rebalancing in sport are fewer and further between, but this actually could seismically impact the game based on how points are accumulated. The person above who noted FG, FG, TD, 2XP = 14 along with TD, XP, TD, XP is making a really cogent point - if the shift in scores create imbalances in how scores accumulate it could radically affect (and take seasons to adjust) to the new scoring profile. That could be a lot of scrappy seasons and lost revenue if it doesn't capture attention.

  26. John Constantine says:

    I'd prefer the idea of the player having to drop kick to get the extra point from the same angle as the ball crossed the goal. That takes some talent. (From an old rugger.)

  27. Anonymous says:

    "Speaking of which, isn't this contrary to the benefit of the football owners, since TD-ads-XP-ads-kickoff-ads has more ads? "
    What about:
    TD-ads-"The decision"-ads-2-point play-ads-kickoff...?

  28. Björn says:

    Actually, I think the time has come to move the goalposts back. Not back to the goal-line but back beyond the end-line. Putting the crossbars five or even ten yards behind the end-line would instantly make extra point decisions more interesting, help with overtime strategy and in general stem the tide of the growing kicking imbalances.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Eliminating any kicking from the extra point play should be an absolute requirement of any change that's enacted. Whether the 1 or 2 point choice is selected or the awesome 3 point gamble is selected doesn't matter, just so long as a passing or running play is required for getting those points. The less kicking there is, the better football gets.

  30. J.D. Krull says:

    My opinion is the opposite of Anonymous above. Kicking may be a peculiar oddity distinct from the rest of football, as Brian says, but that is a feature not a bug. It adds flavor and variety to the game. If all action in a football game were passing and running plays from scrimmage, that would make the game bland and boring.

  31. Joseph says:

    I agree with the idea of 7 automatic points for the TD, or 6 and go for 2 point conversion. It's the closest thing to what we have now. Although the missed XP because of a block/botched snap introduces some different end-game scenarios, it is quite rare.

  32. Anonymous says:

    i don't see any overwhelming argument for changing the game.

    not broke, don't fix.

  33. J.D. Krull says:

    ^ ^ I mostly agree with Anonymous above. Football is more popular than any sport has ever been in history, why are people convinced that it has to be changed to make the game more interesting? Changes that seem like a good idea on the surface can be detrimental in subtle ways that aren't easily understood. A ritualistic extra point play that gives the players a breather, and puts the finishing touch on a scoring drive, could be part of the game's aesthetic appeal without us realizing it until it is gone.

    I'm dubious of any "time saving" arguments. I have a feeling that they would extend the break between the TD and the kickoff so that little if any time is saved, since the players (and maybe the refs too) like to get a breather.

    And besides, some breaks in the action are good. Suppose you had a choice between watching two broadcasts of the same game. One was a regular broadcast, and the other had all the dead time removed, so that instantly after each play is blown dead you see the very next snap. Which one would you rather watch? I bet most fans would be clamoring for a pause button after watching a few minutes of the latter.

    They say that what makes music music is not the notes, but the silence between the notes. Maybe what makes football football is not the action but the gaps between the action, when you have a chance to savor what just happened.

    I think the main argument against the XP is it just grates on some people that they run a play where the result is almost certain. "If it's predictable, get rid of it". By that standard, why not get rid of kneeldowns too? Fumbled snaps on kneeldowns are less common than missed extra points. I can't remember ever seeing one. Couldn't the offense just request a loss of down and 40 seconds taken off the clock?

  34. MaddenDude says:

    I agree with NOT changing anything. In conditions like the snow-bowl these things matter.

    But as a traditionalist, if it was to change, I think the best thing would be an option between taking the 1 free point or going for 2, on the 2 or 3 yard line.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Replace the extra point with rock, paper, scissors - tie goes to the scoring team. This gives a 2/3 chance of getting the point. One can try for 2 points - still rock, paper, scissors, but tie goes to the defense, for a 1/3 chance of making the 2.

  36. Jon Greiman says:

    What's all this about giving the players a break? In most cases, the team that just scored is headed over to the bench for a possession. They don't need a break.

  37. Anonymous says:

    All these ideas about players kicking extra points and "gambling" points are pretty ridiculous. Here is what it needs to be.

    TDs = 6 points
    After a TD is scored the play clock starts for the extra point try as usual. The head coach of the scoring team then must decide of he wants the extra 1 point (automatic no kick) or attempt a two point conversion. If the decision isn't made, or a 2 point play attempt not snapped by the end of the play clock, then 5 yard delay of game is assesed and now the team must kick for 1 point or run scrimmage play for two.

    The only issue left is that the offensive team could line up for two every time and then decide if they just want to take the 1 after seeing the defensive alignment, which would be unfair to me. So would probably need some rule about commiting to two point try before breaking huddle or something like that.

  38. Tom Triumph says:

    Since the extra point comes from rugby, perhaps they should return a bit to their roots to the make it more interesting.

    In rugby, the spot where the extra point is kicked lines up at the point the ball was grounded (in rugby, it is not a score until you physically touch the end zone with the ball, thus the name "touchdown"). So, if the ball is grounded by the sideline, the ball is kicked from near the sideline.

    This means that teams that run or throw it down the middle are able to kick it from the middle, and those corner catches result in having to kick it from tight angles. Just think of the choices between kicking or running it in!

    Because they don't ground it in the NFL, officials could use where the player's feet were when the touchdown was called.

    If that's not good enough, the NFL can throw this into the mix. If I remember correctly (it has been 25 years since I played), in rugby, the depth of how far you run it into the end zone determines how far out you kick the ball from. So, if you barely break the plane you are so close that any angle (i.e,, the sideline) makes an even more insane angle from which to kick. Perhaps, in the NFL, the deeper you go in the closer you can be for a conversion.

    What's old can be new again!

  39. Christopher Clement says:

    A simple solution, tracing back to the game's roots, would be to require that the person kicking the XP was involved in the scoring play. You'd avoid having Peyton Manning try to kick a FG, since there's probably a receiver who can kick half-decently, but you also throw a little bit of randomness into the mix. Also, you wouldn't do as much damage to the current fantasy system, which is a big source of interest in the league.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Another idea would be to limit the number of tries after touchdowns (both XP and 2-Pt. Conv.). If we limit it to say 3 tries then teams could skip the try now in hopes of having it later ad risk not being able to use it.

    For Example:
    CLE scores a TD on their opening possesion and doesn't use a try (3 left) and scores again later and kicks an XP (2 tries left). Later in the game, NE scores two late TDs and kicks an XP after each TD (1 try left) and wins 14-13. CLE saved a try early on hoping to have it for later yet lost and never got to use it. Risk-Reward System

  41. Philip Kendall says:

    [ Bit late here, sorry ]

    Tom Triumph: nope on the "distance you run it in" thing. The kick can be taken from any point straight backwards from where it's grounded (law 9.B.1 for union, and I can't be bothered to look it up for league!).

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