In a sport filled with strategic and necessary stalls, the Point After Touchdown is a colossal waste of time. Kickers converted 99.6 percent of their PATs this past season, inviting the question as to why the NFL even bothers to keep the ordeal in place. After all, it’s just another opportunity for players (such as Rob Gronkowski two seasons ago) to get injured for no reason.
If a game is decided by one of these near-mythical PAT misses, it seems almost cheap; is it fair that something so trivial decides a game where bruised men maul each other for every inch? This is why the PAT system needs to be fixed; however, the current proposal being discussed by the NFL — moving the ball back from the 2-yard line to the 25-yard line on PATs — does not solve the problem.
Making the extra point a 42-yard kick instead of a 19-yard attempt only makes matters worse. NFL kickers will still make the kick a large majority of the time. In fact, kickers converted 83 percent of kicks from between 40 yards and 49 yards this past season.
Additionally, tacking a mid-range field goal onto the end of a touchdown drive won’t recreate the energy of an actual field goal for players, and with just one point hanging in the balance, it certainly won’t excite the fans either. The enthusiasm for a field goal is largely derived from the drive that led to it, be it an offense building some momentum, or a pivotal hold for a defense.
Two other potential solutions to the PAT problem make much more sense. The simpler of these is just to give teams the extra point for free. Teams could still choose to go for two, but the PAT would be theirs if they want it. This wouldn’t alter the game much, and it doesn’t add unnecessary influence to the extra point. Additionally, it cuts out the wasted time and injury risk that comes with actually going through with the kick. Most importantly, it takes away the headache of a fluke miss that decides a game in the most trivial way possible.
The other option would be to eliminate the extra point altogether, and instead make teams go for two every time. This would place perhaps too much emphasis on the PAT, but would make up for it with the excitement of another goal-line play.
Just imagine how much more exciting it would be to watch a late touchdown by a team that trails by seven. Whereas the current rules ensure that the game will almost surely go to overtime, the stakes would be raised under the new system to a do-or-die situation for both teams.
Think about the infamous Broncos-Chargers game in 2008 (and try to forget Ed Hochuli’s game-altering blunder). After scoring a touchdown to make the score 38-37 in the game’s closing seconds, Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan decided to go for two and end the game then and there. The Broncos converted to win 39-38, and the finish was as exciting as any other that season, regardless of controversy. Imagine if Shanahan had settled for the PAT and we were treated to another boring overtime in which the team that won the coin toss took the ball and scored on a field goal to win.
I know the overtime rules have been altered slightly to avoid this, but the current system is a half-measure that does not eliminate the anticlimactic spirit of the NFL’s OT. A rule that mandated two-point conversions instead of PATs would make the end of games more in the spirit of college football’s exciting brand of OT.
There are many ideas about what to do with the extra point, but I believe that the best solutions are strong and uncompromising. There are traditionalists who don’t want to make radical changes and there are others who want to make the PAT as exciting as possible. Both have valid arguments. But the system that the NFL is currently debating satisfies no one; it is just another half-measure that lacks the conviction needed to correct even the minor flaws in the sport.
Darius Majd is a junior in the College. The Sporting Life appears every Friday.