In North American football, the extra point is a single point short kick after a 6 point touchdown to give the full 7 point value a touchdown can give a team. The full 7 points also makes the touchdown more valuable than two field goals, at 3 points each, in not only concept but also score. Otherwise, the extra point is also a second chance to cheer loudly for the touchdown just scored if it were your team to have done so.

Once upon a time, the extra point used to require an actual effort so it was not a sure thing by any means. However, these days, it has a success rate of over 99% according to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. It has become too easy for the players playing to execute it that it not only becomes boring, it’s also a waste of time. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King feels the same way about it, calling it “the biggest waste of time in sports”. Nothing in sports should be that automatic, basically. What kind of competition is there if the outcome was the same more than 99% of the time?

Further, kickers get to tack on all kinds of points for doing something so easy. Nobody else gets credit for points by doing so little and with so much certainty. Why should kickers?

So what should be done about the extra point situation then? There’s no solution people will easily agree on, but here are a few options and what I think about them. My opinions will be biased on the fact that I do think a touchdown should be worth more than two field goals, because it is more than twice as hard to get in the end zone than coming close enough twice to make two field goals. This is true considering NFL kickers are making 50+ field goals more than half the time for a decade now.

1960s: 13.1 percent
1970s: 21.6 percent
1980s: 35.6 percent
1990s: 47.8 percent
2000s: 53.0 percent
2010: 55.9 percent

Besides, have you ever seen how “exciting” a game of field goals is?

Move extra point to be 35 yard distance

The extra point is basically a field goal a few yards under 20. To make it less automatic, the easiest thing to do is move back the distance. I like 35 yards myself for several reasons.

  • It’s not too far. You don’t want a 50-60% chance of success like would be for 50 yards.
  • In the college games, where the kickers aren’t nearly as good as those in the NFL, the 35 yard would give them a good chance to make most of the extra points, and not have to adjust in coming to the pros.

I’m not crazy about this option because it’d still be a fairly high percentage in the NFL, but at least it’d be harder.

Make the touchdown 7 points, do the 2 point convert for 1

Because I want the touchdown to be worth more than two field goals by concept, the way to do that automatically is giving it a value of 7 points. Instead of kicking the extra point, though, get teams to do 2 point convert play that is essentially another shot at the end zone from the 2 yard line (5 in Canadian football, 3 in amateur American). It’s an exciting one shot play that is hardly a guarantee, only used rarely by choice because of mathematics of scoring, or wanting to make sure the touchdown is worth more than 2 field goals by taking the extra point instead. The two point convert is basically an unnecessary risk, in other words. But if it can be used after every touchdown, that would definitely add excitement to the game!

Force the two point convert every touchdown

I believe I had heard Bill Belichick throw this out as an alternative, throwing out the extra point attempt all together. Whether or not he favours it is another thing. I don’t favour it because I don’t like a reasonable chance (convert failing) that a touchdown could be left to be equivalent of two field goals, which are a lot easier to get these days than it used to be if kickers can hit 50 yarders with a 55% chance of success or so. That’s not even getting close to the other team’s end zone, the ultimate goal of North American football, a couple of times and easily getting the same score as a touchdown.

Force a convert, with more points for longer distance

If there were going to have to be a convert attempt with each touchdown, then I would prefer this option over the two point convert every time. Make it so that the one point convert is from the two yard line as is, and the two point convert would be from the 12 yard line. Other starting points could be used but 10 yards apart so the additional point could be rewarded for the extra first down distance. This might be great for passing teams who wouldn’t mind a little extra space to work with on their converts than just the 12 yards in front of them from current convert starting points.

No convert plays should take time off the clock

I think that’s obvious to be packaged in with the touchdown, so that last play touchdowns can still potentially win the game with the convert of any type, rather than being out of time and falling short. Just wanted to be absolutely clear on the matter, though. :-)

What do you think?

Myself, I prefer the option of 7 points for a touchdown and a convert play for the additional point if successful, mainly because I like the touchdown to be worth more than two field goals for sure. The convert play would add an additional point if successful.

What do you think and do you have any other ideas?

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