A few days ago Justin Tucker and Peter King of SI argued the proposed change to the extra point, with Justin Tucker taking the side of protecting the XP and the role of the kicker.
I'm with you, Tuck. Changing the Extra Point to a 42 yard kick is one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard proposed by the NFL.
That's not hyperbole, folks. Every year they come up with mostly hare-brained ideas in the interest of innovation but allow me to demonstrate why this idea needs to be killed before it gains any more traction than it already has.
Let me ask you a very simple question:
Do you find the Field Goal interesting?
Really think about that for a second. No, I'm not talking about 47 yard field goals in below zero temperatures with the AFC Championship on the line. I'm not even talking about 61 yarders for the win. We're not there yet.
I'm talking about your run of the mill Field Goal. The kind that happens in the 2nd quarter when your team stalls out at the 17 yard line. Is there anything exciting about it?
I ask myself that question and if I'm being honest then, no, there isn't anything inherently exciting about the Field Goal play to me. Its serves a specific and useful competitive purpose but what it really does from a drama standpoint is play an anticlimactic role. The fans of the offensive team are likely disappointed, stalling out without a Touchdown. They might even be mad that their team "settled" for another FG. Meanwhile, fans of the team on defense are relieved not to have given up a TD. They'll gladly give up 3 points. The Field Goal serves to make Touchdowns that much more exciting when they do happen actually, while also providing some safe, consistent offense and variability in scoring.
In fact the only thing that is exciting about a Field Goal is taken directly from the game situation. 4th quarter drives. Comebacks. Overtime. Playoffs. The Field Goal is interesting in these scenarios because every play is interesting in these scenarios. The 1st down conversion. The 6 yard run to kill clock. The Defensive pass interference. All of them take on added meaning at these junctures, including the Field Goal. Its just that sometimes Field Goals get the added benefit of ending the game on points.
The truth is, no fan has seen their team stall out in the red zone and then sat around with rapt interest for the Field Goal. Know why?
Because the NFL average for Field Goals between 20-29 yards in 2013 was 98%. For 30-39 yarders? 90%. 40-49? 83%.
If we are honest with ourselves in admitting that the 3-point Field Goal is at best a play of minor entertainment value, what makes the NFL think that anyone at all is going to care about the Extra Point more than they currently do?
Going back to the extra point, let's think about one of the most important extra points the Ravens have ever kicked. Of course I am talking about the one following the Mile High Miracle in the 2012 AFC Divisional against the Broncos. Flacco has just completed one of the most clutch passes ever in a playoff game to tie the game up.
Except its not tied at all. Its 35-34, XP pending. Do you know what I thought in this moment? I thought that if we missed this extra point it would be one of the most embarrassing and tragic moments in sports history. Exaggeration maybe, but our win percentage before Flacco's pass was exactly 0.3% We had a greater than 99% chance of losing that game before Flacco connected to Jones. That single play created one of the best playoff games of all time and one of its most clutch and stunning comebacks. I was more than nervous about a simple play that also has a 99% success rate.
Now imagine we had to trot out there for a 42 yard XP in subzero temperatures, a kick with a success rate in the high 80s. Kick sails wide. Game over. 35-34. One of the all-time great clutch plays is robbed from its place in memorable sports moments because of a rule change that "wanted to spice up the game". Instead an otherwise legendary game would be forever remembered as an abomination and tragedy marred by poorly thought out rule changes. Rule Changes gaining traction from feeble-minded but influential writers.
The NFL needs to think long and hard before kidding itself that anyone is going to show interest in a play that they don't currently show for a similar play worth 3x as many points. Because otherwise we're going to see games robbed of their proper due process due to 42 yard XPs. No, extra points are not competitive plays - but so what, neither is MLB's Intentional Walk or the NBA's free throw. And as Justin Tucker argues, part of being a pro is making what they do look easy when its far from that.