- Terry Blount, ESPN Staff Writer
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For some reason, changing the most meaningless play in professional sports has become one of the most controversial topics of the NFL offseason.
The extra-point kick, or PAT (point after touchdown) needs to join the rotary phone, 8-track tape, TV rabbit ears and skillet popcorn as a relic of the past.
Curling is a thrill a minute compared to extra points.
The only thing in pro sports that can approach the boredom of an NFL extra point is the intentional walk. It’s four meaningless throws at the catcher to delay the action in a game that already has far too many senseless delays (such as players adjusting their batting gloves after every pitch).
Goodness knows how I long to see a pitcher throw one to the backstop, or even better, accidentally throw a strike that a hitter launches over the fence. That aside, just tell the hitter to take his base and move on.
I can’t tell you that I long to see a kicker miss an extra point and watch the ball get snapped back to the 50-yard line, because frankly, I rarely watch the extra point attempt. Why should I?
Don’t go to all the trouble of wrapping my birthday present if I already know what’s inside. And the extra point is about as exciting a present as giving your wife a toaster on Valentine’s Day.
With the PAT, the options aren’t that simple. First, allow me to list the actual numbers. There were 1,267 extra points attempted in the 2013 season, and 1,262 of them were good.
That’s 99.6 percent. Why in the world would I waste my time watching something in sports where I know what the outcome will be 99.6 percent of the time?
No NFL team had more than one missed extra point all season last year. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the worst in the league, missing one of only 23 attempts.
Wow. So if you watched a Jacksonville game, there was a better than 4 percent chance you might see a missed extra point. I’m sure the fans were on the edge of their seat fearing a possible botched PAT, the few times they actually got to see one.
The extra point is so automatic that it’s, well, pointless. There is talk about moving the PAT back to the 25-yard line, which would make the extra point a 42-yard kick.
That certainty would leave the outcome in doubt, but it also would mean quite a few games would be decided on whether a team made or missed an extra-point kick.
Sorry, but that’s not really how I want games decided. But I’m not here just to complain without offering a solution.
Make the two-point conversion the only option after a touchdown. Follow a scoring play with an actual chance at another scoring play. But place the ball close enough to the goal line (the 2-yard-line or maybe even the 1) so teams could opt to run or pass.
I know the main argument against this is the increased chance of player injuries, 1,267 more chances last season, to be exact. But don’t the men on the line of scrimmage have a chance of being injured on every extra-point kick?
Or are they just going through the motions, such as your typical play in the Pro Bowl, and not really making an all-out effort to block a kick. If that’s the case, why do it?
Yes, there is more likelihood of a player getting injured on a 2-point conversion than an extra-point kick, but last time I checked, this was still football.
Not long ago, league officials were talking about adding two more regular-season games. This is a heck of a lot safer than that idea.
Some games would be decided based on making a 2-point conversation or failing to make it. I’m good with that. At least it would be decided by an actual offensive play rather than a 42-yard extra point.
Another argument against this? It takes an additional step toward eliminating kickers from the game. Hey, I love kickers. I think they are possibly the most underrated players in the game, considering how many games are decided by a field goal.
I’m not against kickers. I’m against any meaningless play that’s a waste of time. The ability to execute plays in any sport is constantly evolving. Athletes become more adept at doing certain things. When something becomes automatic in any sport, it’s time to change it.
As much as possible, make every play matter. As it stands now, the extra point just doesn’t matter. Either make it a play that does matter or do away with it entirely.
Otherwise, I’m going to make a call on my rotary phone, order an 8-track player, unhook my cable and purchase some rabbit ears for my TV (will they fit on a flat screen?) while making some popcorn in my cast-iron skillet.
OK, full disclosure, I still do that last one.
3dDoug Clawson, ESPN Stats & Information