The extra point is now pointless, according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Being someone that is typically pro rule change this is music to my ears. However, Goodell’s proposal  just feels wrong. Here it is summed up: A touchdown is automatically worth 7 points, unless the scoring teams attempts to run an additional play for an attempt at an additional point, but if that play is unsuccessful you lose a point. Please try to explain that to a non-football fan. It would just add to an increasingly confusing and over regulated rule book.

On a related tangent, it always surprises me that Americans (in the most stereotypical connotation of the word) love their version of football even though it is highly regulated and controlled. There are many rules that favor parity and financial fair play, and there’s also a draft system that assigns players to places they’d probably rather not go if they had the choice (i.e. Cleveland). If you were to compare the NFL to any government/economic system, wouldn’t it most parallel European Socialism? This doesn’t sound very free-market / democratic / capitalistic to me. Spoiler Alert: This may end up being another post down the road. [UPDATE: IT IS NOW.]

Back to the issue at hand, I like that Goodell is thinking outside the box for a rule change to the PAT, but any change to the rule should include football. Let’s look to rugby, American football’s predecessor, for a solution.

In rugby union, the equivalent to a touchdown is called a ‘try’. It is worth 5 points. A player is awarded a try when they physically touch down the ball in the equivalent to the end zone.

On another side note, in rugby, the defensive team can still take the ball away from an offensive player in the end zone, until it has been touched down to the ground in a controlled fashion. This is also in contrast to the NFL’s most hypocritical rule, that a ball carrier can simply ‘break the plane of the end zone’ without maintaining control through the end of the play to score a touchdown; in contrast to a pass catcher that needs to get two feet in the end zone, make a ‘play typical to the game of football’ and maintain control through the process of the catch. Hows that for some highly regulated inconsistency.

Back to rugby. As soon as the ‘try’ is awarded, a kick is then attempted from anywhere behind the spot of where the try was scored. In other terms, if you scored right in between the uprights the player gets to attempt a straight on kick. Score in the corner, the kick becomes more difficult. You miss the kick, its no points. You make it, its two points. It’s by no means automatic.

Here’s an example of a conversion from the corner:

Adapting this for the NFL fairly straight forward, if we ignore the hashmarks where plays are rule bound to start. What I recommend, is that for the sake of the extra point or two point conversion is that the play, like rugby, will start from where the touchdown is scored or from 10 yards into the field from the sideline, which ever is closer to the center of the field (or typically where the yardage numbers are located). The team can either run the play from the 2 yard line or voluntarily move the ball backwards as far back as they want to go to attempt to improve the kicking angle.

I can see many benefits to this rule change.

  • The extra point isn’t automatic, and any additional points are earned and not just given.
  • Play calling from short yardage would change, as coaches would have incentive to score closer to the center of the field.
  • If a touchdown is scored in the corner of the end zone, I would assume more coaches would attempt a 2pt conversion from that spot, as it may be the less risky option. This increases excitement.
  • I’d also like to see the formations developed when a team has 40 yards of open space to one side.
  • With Goodell’s interest in drawing English fans (and the potential of a London franchise), this is a rule English fans would recognize from rugby.

You’re welcome Roger. Thanks for getting the conversation started. Please let me know what you think of this rule proposal.

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