NFL

NFL’s Preoccupation With Extra Point is Annoying and Pointless

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Just leave it alone.

For the past couple of years, the NFL has been working what seems like round-the-clock on one of the most pointless pursuits in all of sport: fixing the extra point. At the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, a proposal to change the current set up was tabled according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk but will likely be voted on in May to change for the 2015 season.

Why?

No one cares about the extra point. Players don’t care. Fans don’t care. Advertisers don’t care. Coaches don’t care. It is meaningless, and there are no groups out there lobbying for any sort of change (or, frankly even to keep the status quo) whatsoever. This is “majoring in minors” for the NFL owners in a huge way—almost as if they’re doing something simply to say that something was done.

There are two things that could realistically happen, and neither one matters one iota.

First, the NFL could move the extra point kicking spot from its current spot on the two-yard line to anywhere from five to 15 yards further back. The other potential change is moving the two-point conversion from two yards out to one and a half.

In short: big whoop. Those kicks—especially from the middle of the field—are still next-to-automatic for many NFL kickers. This isn’t a game-changer, so why change the game?

We’re talking about going from a 99.5 percent chance proposition to a something still statistically assured of happening. Even if the league doubled the distance of the kick, FiveThirtyEight shows that kickers still made 83 percent of such attempts last year (and not all from the middle of the field, so adjust that up a few notches).

In reality, 99.5 down to 83 sounds like a bigger jump than it is, because finding the probability of the kick isn’t the sole point. In reality, NFL coaches will be weighing 83, 85, 90, 99.5 or whatever percent their kicker hits wherever an extra point is located against the possibility of a two-point conversion. Teams have historically made about 50 percent of two-point conversion tries.

This isn’t meant to make the kick harder, it’s meant to encourage more two-point conversions.

It won’t.

The vast majority of NFL coaches already eschew short-yardage opportunities for kicks just about every week. They don’t look at things like percentages or actual metrics, they practice fear-based decision-making, putting the burden of wins and losses on the kicker rather than make it look like they “went for it” and lost, even if going for it is statistically and fundamentally the better decision.

Changing the equation isn’t going to matter for a bunch of guys too scared to do the math.

Frankly, the reason the extra point didn’t matter a decade or so ago to the NFL is because the NFL was a game. Games can have easy or automatic components and no one seems to care. Now, the NFL is (in essence) a television event, and the extra point is a boring piece of the action that the NFL brackets with commercials resulting in a three-plus minute lapse in viewers’ attention spans—touchdown, commercial; extra point, commercial; kick off; commercial.

Snooze…

That’s the real problem here. It’s not that the NFL needs less extra points or wants more two-point conversions. No, it simply wants more excitement in a piece of the game that lacks it, and they don’t want to give up advertising space or dollars.

This is a fix without a real problem, and it highlights how tone deaf the NFL truly is.

The NFL has problems—real problems—that need to be fixed. Over at Bleacher Report, I highlighted investments in the on-field product that the league should make but simply has no interest in. Off-the-field, the NFL has even bigger issues but move at an incredible glacial pace while often making changes in optics rather meaningful steps to improve things for players and fans.

I understand that the NFL can do more than one thing at a time. The owners, executives, league offices and committees can accomplish a lot over the course of an offseason, but the amount of time spent on the extra point “problem” is completely antithetical to how small of a problem it really is.

This is just the NFL wasting our time in an effort to better waste more of our time


About Michael Schottey

Michael Schottey

Michael Schottey has been covering football in various capacities for a decade and his work can be found in numerous outlets around the globe, primarily Bleacher Report where he is and NFL National Lead Writer. Schottey has appeared regularly on CNN, Headline News, Al Jazeera America, Sirius/XM and countless other national and local radio spots.