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Discussion: Should Football Eliminate the Extra Point?

Roger Goodell has aired the idea of eliminating extra points in the NFL. Does the idea make sense, either for the NFL or college?

Jeff Gammons

Some of you might have seen a while back that some around the NFL are mulling the idea of eliminating the extra point. Per Roger Goodell, "The extra point is almost automatic. I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd. So it's a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play." What would the League do instead? As Goodell continued, "There's one proposal in particular that I've heard about. It's automatic that you get seven points when you score a touchdown, but you could potentially go for an eighth point, either by running or passing the ball, so if you fail, you go back to six." Bill Bellchick is another NFL figure who's in favor of the idea. He suggests that the play is obsolete: "I would be in favor of not seeing it be an over 99 percent conversion rate. It's virtually automatic. That's just not the way the extra point was put into the game. It was an extra point that you actually had to execute and it was executed by players who were not specialists, they were position players. It was a lot harder for them to do... I don't think that's really a very exciting play because it's so automatic."

It turns out that the NFL is likely not going to pursue this rules change at this time. The NFL Competition Committee is wary of making such a drastic change to a long-standing aspect of the game. However, I'd like to submit this question to the community: Do you think this rule should change? Would you support the change for college ball?

Personally, I think I would. In an era when there's a new rules change or two each year, with many changes being poorly designed (targeting rules) and others being little more than the vehicles of particular coaches who want to change the rules to fit their style of play (proposed anti-HUNH rules), this is a change I could get behind, as long as some care is put into designing whatever the alternative ends up being so that it makes things a bit more interesting than they are with the current rule. The major argument I see for keeping the rule is maintaining tradition, and I'm not in favor of keeping useless things around simply because they've always been around. The benefit is that the play is largely pointless at high levels of football. Granted, it's not as automatic in college ball as it is in the NFL, but it's not far from it. Elliott Fry only missed one last year for a 98% success rate. Oftentimes, a miss can have a tangible effect on a game; I'm sure we all remember our missed XP against Auburn in 2010, which might have come back to haunt us had Connor Shaw hooked up with Alshon Jeffery for a TD when we were down eight in the game's waning moments. Still, is the excitement of the rare missed kick worth all the dozens upon dozens of kicks that go straight down the middle of the uprights that one has to sit through to see one miss? Why not eliminate the play and put the focus on the better parts of the game?

Another argument against changing the rule would be that the play is more consequential at the high school level, where not all teams have a high quality kicker, and thus the rules change might necessitate creating a difference between high school and college rules. I could live with that, though. There are lots of little rules differences based on level of play. Different levels feature different calibers of players. It only makes sense.