Football fans may need to expect holding it in a little longer next season. The NFL Competition Committee has announced that they are exploring 42-yard extra points as a way of making the game more exciting. Bathroom breaks after a touchdown and before the extra point have become a less risky maneuver as NFL kickers converted the 19-yard extra point kick 99.6 percent of the time in 2013.
Rule changes that penalize defensive players for colliding with or pushing a teammate into the long snapper, along with improvements in turf conditions and accounting for wind patterns during stadium construction has led to a steady increase in conversion rates since the league moved the goalposts to the back of the end zone after the 1973 season. Since then kickers have been displaying greater power with ten of the fourteen 60 plus-yard field goal makes coming since 2006 with five occurring in the last two seasons alone.
Additionally, as offensive innovations have seen increases in possessions and yardage, kickers have become a more significant part of them team. The median number of attempts in 1974 was 18, while that number has increased to 30 in 2013 with every starting kicker amassing at least 22 attempts. The least accurate kicker in 2013, the Oakland Raider's Sabastian Janikowski (70 percent,) was more accurate than both Pro Bowl kickers in 1974: Roy Gerela of Pittsburgh (69 percent) and the Packers' Chester Marcol (64.1 percent). Interestingly, Janikowski was the highest paid kicker in 2013 at nearly $4 million and owns two of the longest field goals in NFL history.
Clearly, kicking in the NFL isn't what it used to be and the extra point has become a lingering ritual to nostalgically remember a more innocent past before special team coaches making six figures per year and Pitbull inspired kicking mixtapes. By instituting this rule change, traditionally conservative head coaches will need to reassess their post-touchdown strategies. According to Brian Burke of advancednflstats.com, teams convert normal two-point conversions at a rate slightly under 50 percent with running plays successful in nearly 62 percent of attempts despite passing plays being the more popular choice for the two-yard play. Kickers made a 42-yard field goal, the length of the proposed new extra point, 83 percent of the time in 2013 -- so while the one point after is still a safer bet, coaches looking to take an fast lead, catch up early in the game, or go up another possession will have to consider the two-point try as a reward worth the relative risk.
If the NFL decides that extra long extra points is in the best interest for the game, I anticipate a few more ripple effects:
- Live Social Media Conversion Polls - After a team scores a touchdown, fans text/Tweet/Facebook in their opinion on whether the team should attempt one or two. The live poll is displayed on the Jumbotron of the stadium so head coaches are fully aware popular opinion before submitting to the fans' wishes, surprising them with chutzpah, or disappointing with cowardice. We can track any coaches' likelihood of acquiescing to fans and use their stubbornness as a means for firing or their obedience as a point for praise. The fan involvement will add an extra layer of engagement and drama to a part of the game that has become, in most instances, completely ignored. #GoForIt!
- More Teams Carrying Backup Kickers - Few teams carry a backup kicker because in the event of an injury a punter will usually take on easy, short field goal and extra point duties as the team attempts more fourth down conversions in the middle of field. Teams will also designate an "emergency" kicker, a position player with limited kicking experience in either college or high school who usually just barely can hit one or two extra points. As the stakes are raised and the point after becomes increasingly difficult for punters and other players, teams may want to consider taking on a backup kicker instead of filling the depth chart at a different position. With this rule change, kickers may become targets during kickoffs once a 15-yard penalty is well worth your opponent being unable to make an extra point for an entire game. We may see more running and roughing the kicker if opponents know that a team has placed too many of their eggs in one former soccer player's basket. So look for more jobs for 170-pound guys in ill-fitting pads and less work for 300-pound behemoths that eat kickers for breakfast.
- Niche Two-Point Conversion Playbook and Personnel - Now that two-point conversions are a much more viable option, look for teams creating entire formations and plays suited to the two-yard try. While the traditional HB dive or QB sneak will always be good options, a team that can master trick plays with multi-dimensional players can gain a significant advantage over their opponents. Fans would love to see a statue of liberty play or double pass nearly every game. Position players like Anquan Boldin, Brad Smith and Ronnie Brown who have demonstrated their ability to throw instantly become more valuable for any team. Tim Tebow could even catch on to a team looking for a two-point jump pass specialist! The possibilities are endless and the rule change will inject the excitement of school yard antics into the nation's already most popular sport.
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