March 9, 2014
How about a brain teaser to kick off this week's edition of Overtime? This is in honor of House of Cards character Frank Underwood and his brilliant answer of a question with another question. When asked what he was doing for exercise he responded, "Do you have any idea how many calories the human brain burns in a day?" So with that in mind, here's a chance for me to be a personal trainer for my readers.
We'll make it easy with a multiple choice sports question with the topic of the National Football League. How many points after touchdown were missed by teams during the recently completed 2013 season? A) Five. B) Too few to worry about. C) So few that fans take a one-point conversion for granted. D) All of the above. E) None of the above.
The correct answer is D) All of the above. There were a grand total of five extra points missed last season. Four tries were blocked. Only one was a true miss. That means that 99.8% of the time last season the NFL PAT was automatic. Which begs another question. Has the extra point in the NFL become obsolete?
The commissioner of the league is asking that question. So are many of the head coaches. Kickers are specialized players who have figured out the routine of converting a short kick from the center of the field. Fans can try all the crazy stuff they want. A certain beer commercial notwithstanding, wishing a missed extra point is rarely going to happen.
Until it does. The last meaningful extra point miss in the NFL came in 2003. The New Orleans Saints needed to win in week 16 of the regular season against Jacksonville to keep playoff hopes alive. Trailing by a touchdown, the Saints miraculously scored what could've been a game-tying touchdown. It came on the final play of regulation. Cheers quickly turned to boos when John Carney missed the extra point, and the Saints missed the post-season.
College football understands. NCAA rules mandate that beginning with the third overtime of a game, all conversions must be two-point tries. No kicks allowed. College kickers are pretty reliable. That's not always the case in high school football. But at the pro level, where average kickers convert over 70 percent of all attempted field goals, something has got to give.
I'm not always in favor of radical rule changes. There is talk of eliminating the corner three-point basket in the NBA because the corner is the shortest of all shots behind the arc. Reconfiguring the line would be a radical move. And so would eliminating the current extra point in the NFL. It may be time.
When I heard of a proposal outlned by a member of the competition committee (Jerry Jones?), I was excited by the prospect. Think of an NFL where all extra points would be snapped from the 25-yard line turning the routine extra point try into a 42-yard attempt. It would still be worth one point and the option to go for two would still exist. It would likely eliminate, though maybe not, any fakes from kick formation to convert for two.
Think of the possibilities this opens. Teams that were facing a strong wind disadvantage might choose to go for two automatically much as teams did last season when snow blanketed the field in week 14. Teams are already converting two-point attempts at 50 percent. So say after an opening touchdown, a team goes for two and converts. Now their opponent is down 8-0. If they score, do they try to tie or choose to chase by scoring only seven points with a kicked conversion?
Fans will love it. Coaches will hate it because they won't be able to make the easy decision without thinking through the risk/reward of the conversion attempt. Why keep a play that has become so routine that it is virtually automatic? Bring on the 42-yard extra point, and bring some new excitement to the game from an unlikely source.
Dave Brown serves as a special contributor to CHANNEL 5 Sports and produces his Overtime blogs on a weekly basis for www.krgv.com/sports.