Tuck: Making The Extra Point More Difficult In The NFL

I’ve heard coaches like Bill Belichick suggest in the past that the NFL should do away with the extra point, so when commissioner Roger Goodell came out and said a proposal to abolish it is being considered I wasn’t surprised.  I was, however, not a fan of the proposal.

Giving away the point and making touchdowns worth 7 points is a bad idea.  You aren’t encouraging two-point conversions and you  are basically just sending TV networks to a commercial break and fans to a bathroom break one play earlier.

Extra points are easy.  They have been for a long time.  Kickers made 99.8% (1262/1267) of them this year.  Back in 1990 kickers made 997/1024 extra points (97.4%).  

If the NFL’s goal is to add strategy or excitement, then their proposal idea is terrible.  Before I present some ideas, we must work off what the 2-point play has meant to the league.

2-point conversions aren’t easy. Teams converted 47.8% of them this year (33/69).   Since being introduced into the NFL the percentage has hovered right around 50%.

So do we want our extra points being a 50-50 chance and our 2-point conversions being more difficult or do we want extra points more difficult than 99% but easier than 50%?

Let’s examine both possibilities among these options.


Option #1. In my flag football league, the extra point is tried from the 5-yard line and 2-point conversions from the 10-yard line.  Similar to that, I’d suggest 1-pointers be attempted from the 1-yard line and 2-point tries from the 3-yard line.

Over the past 5 seasons teams converted 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 situations of a rate of 65%.  That seems fair for an extra point.  The college game runs their 2-point plays from the 3-yard line.  I found that in 2011 the success rate was 40%.

That seems like a fair difference between conversion success rates and would always make the decision to go for 1 or a 2 an interesting one because neither is a lock and gambling on 2 seems far less risky.

Option #2.  Lengthen the extra point kick attempt.  NFL kickers converted on field goals 50 yards or longer 67% of the time this season.  Kickers in 2003 made 45/93 (48.4%) on kicks longer than 50 yards.  We can all agree kickers keep improving, but 50+ yards might be a touch too far so I’d make the extra point from 45 yards out as opposed to the 19 yards it is currently.  Keep 2-point tries on the 2-yard line.  Success rate difference would be like that of option one while still including the kicking game.

Option #3.  Narrow and/or raise the goal-posts. They’ve stood at 18 feet, 6 inches wide and 10 feet tall forever.  Certainly raising them won’t effect extra points, but narrowing them likely would.  Either scenario makes life more difficult on kickers.  Extra point conversion rates would still figure to be very high though, probably in excess of 90%.  It adds the least amount of drama, but changes the way the game is played/coached the least.


I believe that all of these options are better than the current one talked about by Roger Goodell if the NFL is striving for making the play more entertaining and challenging.