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 Post subject: NFR: The extra point must go
PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:59 pm 
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The extra point must go
Posted by Brian Burke on November 1, 2012 at 10:58 am


Of all the things that went wrong for the Washington Redskins last Sunday, the least consequential may have been the blocked extra point attempt. But as kicker Kai Forbath drilled the ball directly into Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood, I thought, ‘Is it my imagination or have the Redskins been the NFL’s worst team at converting extra points in the last few years?’

After I dug into the data, it turns out it wasn’t just my imagination. Since 2000, when the NFL digitized its game data, Washington has been the least successful team at converting extra points, with a rate of 98.1%. Since 2009, their rate has been even worse–only 96.3%, low enough to make going for two-point conversions regularly worthwhile. The rest of the league was successful 99.3% of the time over the entire period, including last Sunday afternoon’s games.

That’s only seven missed or blocked extra points over a nearly 12-year period for the Redskins, certainly not a matter of primary importance. And even on the rare occasions when an extra point goes awry, it isn’t often consequential to the game outcome. In the Redskins’ case, none of the seven games that featured an unsuccessful extra point ended in a scoring margin of less than three points. The misses just seem to add insult to injury during an era of offensive struggles in Washington.

The irrelevance of the extra point, even for the team that’s been worst at converting them, raises an interesting question: What’s the point of the extra point? If the NFL success rate is over  99%, why even have it? Why not simply give 7 points for a touchdown and allow a team to choose to gamble the 7th point on a two-point conversion attempt? It would shorten the games and might reduce injuries ever so slightly. It would also end the farce that the kick has become.

The best response would be that tradition should be respected. The extra point is something left over from gridiron football’s evolution from rugby. Originally, the ‘touchdown’ in rugby was less important than the ensuing free kick, and the points given for the touchdown and the ‘point after try’ varied during football’s early history. Today’s extra point is a vestige of football’s rugby roots. It’s football’s appendix–inconsequential, its original purpose uncertain and safe to remove.

I’m not alone in questioning the logic of the extra point. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has suggested getting rid of the play entirely, or at least moving the kick distance back to the 15 or 20-yard line, where it wouldn’t be so automatic. In the 1968 preseason, the NFL and AFL eliminated the extra point in inter-league games, replacing it with a scrimmage play worth one point.

Wouldn’t that be more compelling than the current mind-numbing kick? As it is now, the extra point is a time to get up and grab a drink from the fridge. If the play was something that really mattered, fans would be on the edge of their seats.

You might think replacing the extra point is too unconventional or that it doesn’t respect the traditional importance placed on special teams throughout football’s history. But think of it this way: Imagine that the NFL had always made the 7th point a scrimmage play, like the two-point conversion is now. What if someone came along and insisted that we replace it by instituting a kick bound to be successful over 99% of the time?

You’d think the idea was nuts, and you’d be right.

Brian Burke is the creator of Advanced NFL Stats, a Web site about football, statistics and game theory.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: The extra point must go
PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:09 pm 
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Gotta agree. The extra point seems to be pretty meaningless. Anything that works 99% of the time is trivial, and adds nothing to the game. As he said, make the extra point automatic. If teams want to go for 2, they gamble 1 point for 2 on one play.

Another thing to consider... The game is slowing down because scoring a TD can be reviewed... After scoring, we sit, waiting for a few mins for the review, sometimes going to commercial. Then they kick the XP. Then we go to commercial. Then they kickoff. Then we go to commercial.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: The extra point must go
PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:17 am 
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RobertAP wrote:
Another thing to consider... The game is slowing down because scoring a TD can be reviewed... After scoring, we sit, waiting for a few mins for the review, sometimes going to commercial. Then they kick the XP. Then we go to commercial. Then they kickoff. Then we go to commercial.



wow, I had not considered that. It's true, though. :clap:

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: The extra point must go
PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:23 am 
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RobertAP wrote:
Gotta agree. The extra point seems to be pretty meaningless. Anything that works 99% of the time is trivial, and adds nothing to the game. As he said, make the extra point automatic. If teams want to go for 2, they gamble 1 point for 2 on one play.

Another thing to consider... The game is slowing down because scoring a TD can be reviewed... After scoring, we sit, waiting for a few mins for the review, sometimes going to commercial. Then they kick the XP. Then we go to commercial. Then they kickoff. Then we go to commercial.

You just gave the league all the reason in the world to keep it.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: The extra point must go
PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:31 pm 
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Actually, this goes against television best practices. That many commercials in succession leads to people changing the channel. In this case, people may switch to the other game after a TD is scored, or go into the other room. That HURTS the advertisers. Ultimately, the advertisers want viewers, not simply airtime.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: The extra point must go
PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:33 pm 
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I'm sure the people changing the channel are just changging it to anothe game. I get your point but I don't think anything related to the NFL is hurting for viewership.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: The extra point must go
PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 8:13 pm 
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It's definitely something to be considered. But I think ultimately you have to keep the extra point based on the moral fibers of the game. For one, it's football. It's the way it's always been done. Secondly, it gives the opposing team a chance to still win the game. What happens if the special teams unit botches the snap like Tony Romo? It also gives the opposing team a chance to block the kick.

Football is made up of Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. All three units have to get the job done. With that said, the defensive special teams units have to find a better method to blocking the kick. This is football.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: The extra point must go
PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:34 pm 
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The NFL has rules that help prevent the blocking of kicks. Botched extra points happen on less than 1% of attempts. Simply put, they're automatic. Even when they fail, they rarely determine the outcome of a game.

Again, the question has to be asked, "what does this bring to the sport?" The answer is, little to nothing. It's a football play that happens dozens of times each week, but that fails once every 100 tries or so. It is inconsequential.

Look, I'm not passionate about this. But I recognize that it is left over baggage from a different sport that no longer has relevance to the current game. I don't care that much if it goes or not, but I do see the merit in getting rid of it.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: The extra point must go
PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:17 pm 
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Agree Robert. It's probably Issue #118 on the list included in Issues that Plague Professional Football in Modern America. But you're right, it's something that should go.

But it probably never will because it's essentially harmless. Things like this would need some sort of controversy to get rid of it. And what sort of controversy can be created an extra point? Basically, you would need a Super Bowl or Conf. Championship game come down to whether a team made the extra point at the end of regulation or not, and the ball go over the top of the goalpost (similar to the NE-BAL game a few weeks back), and the refs blowing the call or something. And that would prompt discussion about the nature of PATs and whether things like the goalpost should be lengthened or whether it should be party to replay or not, etc. and then that would prompt someone to stand up and say, "Hey, maybe we should just get rid of it altogether. No controversy if it doesn't exist right?"

And then you have successfully "incepted" the idea deep within the brain of the powers that be, so that potentially the ball does get rolling to eliminate it.

Otherwise, the only other way is probably if a league like the XFL re-forms and succeeds in presenting a different style of football to America that they eat up heartily (like the AFL did in the 60s), and they not have extra points, which prompts the NFL to adopt a similar role in favor of "keeping up with the Joneses."

The odds any of these happens in the foreseeable future seem about as likely as Don Knotts winning Powerball next week.

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