Patriots coach Bill Belichick doesn’t like extra points. And he wants the NFL to do something about them.
Asked on Wednesday about the importance of special teams in the playoffs, Belichick veered off into a discussion about how special teams have been de-emphasized in today’s NFL. Specifically, Belichick mentioned that most kickoffs now go for touchbacks, and that extra points are so easy as to be meaningless.
“I personally would love to see the kicking game remain as a very integral part of the game so that the kickoffs are returned and so that extra points are not over 99 percent converted because that’s not what extra points were when they were initially put into the game back 80 years ago, whatever it was,” Belichick said.
Kickers were 1,256-for-1,261 (99.6 percent) on extra points this year. Belichick thinks something needs to be changed so that extra points aren’t so automatic as to be boring.
“I would be in favor of not seeing it be an over 99 percent conversion rate,” Belichick said. “It’s virtually automatic. That’s just not the way the extra point was put into the game. It was an extra point that you actually had to execute and it was executed by players who were not specialists, they were position players. It was a lot harder for them to do. The Gino Cappellettis of the world and so forth and they were very good. It’s not like it is now where it’s well over 99 percent. I don’t think that’s really a very exciting play because it’s so automatic.”
I happen to agree with Belichick that the NFL should change its rules in some way so that 99 percent of touchdowns aren’t followed by the most boring play in the sport. Here are a few of the ways the rule could be changed:
Eliminate extra point kicks entirely. A team that scores a touchdown can either take seven points, or take six points with the possibility to turn it into eight points with a two-point conversion attempt. If the scoring team doesn’t want to go for two, it can just take the seven points automatically. At a time when the NFL wants to do all it can to reduce injuries, this would make a lot of sense. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s long recent string of injuries began with a broken arm on an extra point, although Belichick has been speaking out about the pointlessness of extra points since before Gronkowski got hurt.
Follow the lead of the XFL. In the XFL, that Vince McMahon-run football league that existed for one season, 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. The NFL actually experimented with something like that during 1968 NFL-AFL preseason games, and 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.
Move the line of scrimmage on extra point kicks to the 20-yard line. Currently, the line of scrimmage for an extra point is the two-yard line, which makes it the equivalent of a 20-yard field goal. That’s too easy. Moving the line back to the 20-yard line would make kicks the equivalent of a 38-yard field goal, which isn’t quite as much of a chip shot. Two-point conversions could remain where they are now, at the 2-yard line, or we could try the next option:
Move the line of scrimmage for all extra points up to the 1-yard line. If the line of scrimmage were closer to the goal line, two-point conversions would be easier, and coaches would be more inclined to go for two. That would result in fewer extra points (one of the most boring plays in football) and more two-point conversions (one of the most exciting plays in football).
Require the player who scored the touchdown to kick the extra point. In the old days, there were no kicking specialists, and a position player handled the placekicking. “Don Hutson that, everybody talks about how great of a receiver he was, and he was, he was the first great receiver in the National Football League, he was a great kicker too,” Belichick said. “That was another important part of his job.” So why not make kicking extra points a part of the job of players who score touchdowns in today’s NFL? It would be fun to watch running backs and wide receivers try to kick extra points (and very fun to watch offensive linemen try to kick extra points after recovering fumbles in the end zone) and a rule like that would result in a lot more two-point conversion attempts.
Bring back the drop kick. Belichick didn’t suggest replacing the extra point place kick with a drop kick, but he is the only coach in the last 70 years to have his team score with a drop kick, which is still legal under NFL rules but is almost never used (Belichick sent Doug Flutie out to drop kick an extra point eight years ago.) The drop kick, on which the ball is bounced off the ground before being kicked, is more difficult and wouldn’t be as automatic as the current extra point.
Whatever the rule, it really doesn’t make much sense to keep trotting players out there for extra point attempts that are so automatic that their primary purpose seems to be to give fans time for a bathroom break after touchdowns. Under current rules, extra points are a waste of time.