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The Extra Point

By David Freed

The extra point in football is, in many ways, a lot like cheap beer: it’s easy, it’s been around a while, and you really wish you had some more when your team is losing.

Recently, however, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has begun to float rumors that the league is considering doing away with theextra-point attempt, making touchdowns automatically worth seven points except for the case where teams decide to try a two-point conversion, which would be worth six or eight depending on if they succeed. Other than being eight years too late for Tony Romo, Goodell’s plan pales next to more appealing options.

To give some context, NFL kickers last year missed just five of 1,261 extra point attempts—good for a 99.6 percent accuracy rate. Frankly, that’s ridiculous. I’m a grown man and I miss the toilet far more often than that.

Because not much has changed over time—in 2001, kickers converted at a 98.1 percent rate—this isn’t the result of a generation of supernatural kickers. Why bother, then? Especially with All-Pro Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowskiinjured last year on a point-after attempt, Goodell is arguing that the try needlessly puts people in danger. It’s a bit of an ironic stance for a commissioner who presides over a league that allegedly concealed research about concussions and is trying to expand the season to 18 games, putting players at risk to get more money in owners’ pockets.

Even if we take Goodell at his word, there are many more engaging ways to make the point-after try interesting. Moving it back from the two-yard line has been a common suggestion, but to make it interesting the ball would need to be pushed far back. Consider that NFL kickers made an absurd 67.1 percent of their kicks from at least 50 yards this year and an even more staggering 89.7 percent of kicks from 18 to 49 yards.To make the kick non-automatic, the ball would have to be moved back to around the 25-yard line. The top 20 field goal kickers converted 40-49 yard field goals at an 89 percentclip this year, so it would introduce some suspense into the game

But that’s a boring solution. Lest this viewing audience forget, this is America. We make golfers hit their one-foot putts and pitchersthrow the four pitches foran intentional walk. We resisted instant replay in baseball and refuse to review every play in football because if we got every play right, there would be nothing to complain about.

And if there’s anything distinctly American, it’s complaining about people not being able to do their jobs.

It’s why Glenn Beck has a job. It’s why Jon Stewart has a job to complain about Glenn Beck not being able to do his. If we truly want to eliminate extra points and make every play interesting, it wouldn’t be long before field goals fall under the same category. With the kickoff also in danger of being eliminated, that might make kickers the first employees in history to have their jobs threatened because they were just too good at what they do.

Instead of getting rid of the extra point altogether or even making it more challenging, we should go back a century, when position players handled the placekicking.

One option is going to the rugby method of having the player that scored make the kick, but I’m fairly sure America fought a war 250 years ago so that we didn’t have to take tips from Britain. Having coaches designate one offensive starter to take all the kicks would reduce the strain on practice time, even if it leads to the Browns inevitably taking an offensive tackle ninth overall who can barely bench the bar but can nail a field goal from 45 yards out. Were that not good enough, giving opposing coaches the ability to designate the kicker could be an interesting wrinkle, especially since nobody loses when Romo has more work on special teams.

Ultimately, I’d like to believe that Goodell is floating this idea with intentions on serious reform—moving the kick back or having a non-kicker take it—instead of just using the issue as a way of distracting from the league’s more serious safety issues and the fact that a judge is demanding that the NFL pay more money in its settlement with injured retirees.

New Englanders have each spent four and a half hours over the last seven years watching Steven Gotskowski make 360 straight PATs—delays that likely left a lot of dishes unwashed and driveways unshoveled.

It’s a (mildly) serious issue, y’all.

After a year where his league has seen its share of bad press, fixing this problem in the right way would offer a small measure of redemption for the commissioner—after all,if you want to take cheap beer away, you better have a good alternative.

David P. Freed ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an applied math concentrator in Mather House.

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