“So Here’s the Thing…” is a recurring column here on Scott’s World in which I address a particular topic that is either a source of frustration for myself, a controversial subject in society, or a current event on which I have a strong opinion. Let me stress again that if you won’t be able to handle my occasionally-polarizing commentary then you should probably skip these posts. Today’s column is on:
THE NFL’S P.A.T.
We’re just about halfway through the 2015 NFL season and I cannot resist putting in my own two cents about this new extra point system. For those of you not familiar with what I’m talking about, let me get you caught up:
In American football, when a team scores a touchdown it is worth six points, and the team is given a bonus opportunity to score one more point – called the “extra point” or P.A.T. (point after touchdown) – by kicking the ball through the goal posts. Traditionally the kick was made fairly close to the goal posts, with the line of scrimmage being placed at the 2 yard-line. For the most part, these kicks were extremely easy for professional kickers, and it had gotten to the point where they were virtually automatic. This season, however, the NFL changed the P.A.T. rule to place the ball at the 15 yard-line, making those extra point kicks a little bit more difficult.
Many people like this change because it gives the extra point play some significance. Whereas before they might as well have eliminated it completely and just made a touchdown worth seven points instead of six, now there is a genuine possibility of teams missing the kick. The extra point has been made to truly be an opportunity for one more bonus point rather than just a freebie. While I agree with this concept on this fairly basic level, I think that there is still a problem with doing it this way, and I’m going to use today’s blog post to discuss my thoughts.
See, the entire goal of a team’s offense each time they get the ball is to move forward by at least ten yards, earning first downs and continuing forward with the ultimate mission of getting a touchdown. The basic idea of the extra point is that it is a reward for making it into the end zone and getting that touchdown. It’s a reward. Keep that in mind while I make my next few statements.
When the offense fails to get a first down and finds themselves on fourth down, they are faced with a dilemma. If they do not get the first down on that play, then the other team will take over on offense from that same position on the field. Alternatively, the offense can choose to punt the ball downfield to the other team, effectively admitting that they do not believe they will be able to get the first down on that fourth down play, and giving the ball to the other team’s offense at a spot on the field further back than they would have been. Lastly, the third option for the offense is that they can bring out their kicker and try for a field goal. This is also admitting that they don’t have confidence in their ability to get a first down, but they believe that they are close enough to the goal posts that their kicker can get the ball through them. The field goal is basically the same play as the extra point, except that it is not done from the 15 yard-line but rather from whatever yard-line the line of scrimmage is currently on for the fourth down play. This kick through the goal posts earns the team three points. Again, for emphasis: the team has failed to earn a first down or a touchdown, and has decided to settle for only three points. The field goal is essentially a consolation prize.
Now here is where I have an issue. If the extra point is a reward, and the field goal is a consolation prize, then why is the field goal worth more than the extra point?
This is where most people will argue that the field goal is usually from further away than the extra point, and so it is more difficult, and logically it should be worth more. This is reasonable and in fact was true nearly 99% of the time, back when the extra point was kicked from the 2 yard-line and not the 15. With the extra point kicked from further back, there are plenty of times when a team is closer for a field goal than the 15 yard-line.
My argument here is that the extra point and the field goal are executed identically by the offense, and so the value of a more difficult kick should not be lower than that of an easier kick. Of course, nobody would want to change the standard value of field goals to only one point, and nobody would want to change the standard value of the extra point to three or more. The only way to solve the problem I just defined would be to return the extra point to the two yard-line like it was before. That then brings back the frustration people had with it being too easy and a wasted play.
“Well, then, Scott,” you say, “how can we possibly solve all of these problems at once?”
Here’s my proposal, and feel free to share this with anyone in the NFL front offices, because I really feel this is a great idea all around:
We make the value of a kick between the goal posts vary based on what yard-line the line of scrimmage is at the time of the play. Let’s say kicks from the 1 to 10 are worth one point, from the 11 to the 20 two points, from the 21 to the 30 three points, from the 31 to the 40 four points, and anything further is worth five points. Not only does this then award teams based on the difficulty of the kick, but it may in fact encourage teams to try field goals in certain circumstances where they might otherwise have simply punted the ball away, and conversely they might choose to go for it in circumstances where they might otherwise have just kicked a field goal. The distance-related values on kicks will have the added benefit of making the game more exciting for fans.
As for that 15 yard-line extra point, my proposal also includes a change to that as well. Since the extra point, remember, is a reward for the scoring of a touchdown, how about this:
After they have scored a touchdown, the team gets to choose where they want to kick the extra point from.
Yes, you read that right. The team can kick from anywhere they want. This truly makes it a reward because they don’t have to kick it from one particular place and receive a pre-defined number of extra point(s). They can take the easy shot from the 1 yard-line and get one point, or they can take a chance and kick it from, say, the 31 and get four of them. It make the extra point play into a strategic decision, one of risk-reward for the scoring team. This again, makes the play more interesting for the fans, as well as putting more of a value on having a quality kicker. Additionally, making this change keeps teams “in the game” longer than before. Now a team still has a realistic chance of winning a game even if they are losing by nine points with 30 seconds left. A touchdown can become as much as an 11 point play, in effect. Again keeping fans interested longer and stopping them from leaving the stadium early or changing the channel.
Now, although I don’t like this new 15 yard-line extra point, I love NFL football and I will continue to be a fan until the day I die. This will not change no matter what goofy changes they make or stupid rules they come up with (looking at you, “excessive celebration” rule). But I really feel strongly that this proposal makes a lot of sense, because kicks really should have a value relative to their degree of difficulty. I hope you all agree with me. Let me know with your comments.
“Baseball is America’s pastime, but football is truly America’s passion.”