Patriots coach Bill Belichick recently caused a stir when he said the NFL wants to eliminate kickoffs. Now Belichick has weighed in on a play that he says would be better suited to elimination: The extra point.
In an interview on WEEI, Belichick pointed out that the point after touchdown is so easy that it rarely creates any interest at all, and he said that if the league isn’t going to make it harder, then the league should just get rid of it.
“Philosophically, plays that are non-plays shouldn’t be in the game,” Belichick said, via Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com. “I don’t think it is good for the game. Extra points, when you’re up to the 99 percent range in extra points it’s not a play. Let’s move the ball back to the 15-20 yard line and not make it a tap in. Make them kick it. Same thing with the kickoff return, if you’re just going to put the ball on the 20, put the ball on the 20.”
Belichick’s way of thinking makes a lot of sense: The extra point is basically nothing more than a way to give fans a longer bathroom break after a touchdown. And on the rare occasions that an extra point is missed, it’s more about bad luck than skill. Belichick’s solution of moving the line of scrimmage on extra point attempts back to the 20-yard line makes some sense; that would equate to a 38-yard field goal, which isn’t a chip shot.
But we shouldn’t forget about the two-point conversion, which is one of the most exciting plays in football. Under the current rules, the line of scrimmage for point after attempts is the 2-yard line, whether teams are kicking for one point or attempting a two-point conversion. Moving the line of scrimmage to the 20 would only make sense if it’s a rule exclusively for one-point kicks, and two-point conversion attempts still start from the two-yard line.
Another option would be moving the line of scrimmage for all extra points to the 1-yard line. Extra point kicks would still be chip shots, but two-point conversion attempts would be easier, which would encourage coaches to go for two more often, which would make the game more exciting.
The extra point kick could also just be completely eliminated and teams could be given the option of either taking seven points for a touchdown, or taking six points with the chance to go for two and turn it into eight.
In the XFL, there were no extra point kicks. Teams got six points for a touchdown and then ran another play from the two-yard line, and if they scored they got one extra point. That rule might sound like some wacky idea from the mind of Vince McMahon, but it was actually taken from the NFL, which briefly experimented with that rule during its 1968 exhibition games against AFL teams in the preseason. (The World Football League had a similar rule, called the Action Point, in the 1970s.) In the playoffs the XFL changed its extra point rule to allow teams to go for two or three points by moving the line of scrimmage back farther from the goal line.
I’m surprised Belichick, who once sent Doug Flutie into a game to dropkick an extra point, didn’t suggest getting rid of the holder and forcing every team to dropkick extra points. That would make it less of a gimme.
I’ve also heard it suggested that the real way to make extra points interesting is to require the player who scored the touchdown to kick the extra point. It would be amusing to see running backs and wide receivers (and occasionally 350-pound linemen who recovered fumbles in the end zone) trying extra points, and it would encourage coaches to go for two a lot more often.
Don’t expect a radical change to extra point rules any time soon: Any rule change on extra points would require 24 NFL owners to support it, and NFL owners aren’t the most radical of people. But Belichick is right: Extra point kicks are boring plays. The NFL should change the point-after rules to take some boredom out of the game.