March 5 (Bloomberg) -- When National Football League executives tried to alter rules for point-after-touchdown kicks several years ago, they were shot down. Now the debate has been renewed after teams last year missed five of 1,267 attempts.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has suggested awarding seven points for a touchdown and giving teams the option to run or pass for an eighth point, with a failed attempt lowering the touchdown value to six. Another option is moving the kick to the 25-yard line from the two-yard line to create a 42-yard attempt, NFL.com reported, citing an unidentified member of the league’s competition committee, which recommends rule changes to owners.
Charlie Casserly, a former Washington Redskins and Houston Texans general manager who was a member of the competition committee in 1998-99 and 2002-06, said even with a 99.6 percent success rate last season, a change to the extra-point rule isn’t assured.
“We actually, on our own, voted to eliminate the extra point,” Casserly said in a telephone interview, adding that he didn’t remember which year the topic came up. “They called the league office and talked to the commissioner -- I believe it was the commissioner -- and the next thing we knew the guy came back in and said, ‘Scratch that vote, that’s not going anywhere.’”
The competition committee, a nine-person group led by Atlanta Falcons President and Chief Executive Officer Rich McKay, includes team executives and coaches. It met to discuss possible rule changes during the scouting combine in Indianapolis last month and is convening this week in Naples, Florida. Rules that the committee would like changed will be proposed to the 32 team owners during meetings March 23-26 in Orlando, with 24 votes needed for approval.
The appetite to at least tweak the extra point rule, which has been a part of football since 1912, appears to have increased since Goodell succeeded Paul Tagliabue as commissioner in September 2006.
“The extra point is almost automatic,” Goodell said in a January interview with the league-owned NFL Network. “You want to add excitement with every play, so there have been some proposals.”
Instead of kicking to seek one extra point, teams can run or pass the ball to try for two. That option, which has been used in college football since 1958, was adopted by the NFL in 1994. Moving the point-after attempt to the 25-yard line would make it significantly more probable that teams would try for two points, said Brian Burke, a football analytics consultant and founder of AdvancedNFLstats.com.
A balance of risk would be achieved if extra-point kicks were taken from the 10-yard line, Burke said. At that distance, teams could expect to make 94 percent of kicks, twice the success rate for two-point attempts, Burke said.
“Anything more than that really starts to warp the expected values,” Burke said. “If you make it a 40- or 43-yard kick, you make the two-point conversion the percentage play.”
If coaches only played the percentages, an extra-point from the 25-yard line would become what the two-point conversion is now -- a risk used only in special circumstances, Burke said.
“The default now is to kick,” he said. “That should turn into going for two, unless that one point is super meaningful.”
Jeff Fisher, the St. Louis Rams coach and a member of the competition committee, said in a Feb. 18 interview on ESPN Radio that a rule change is unlikely this year. He said Goodell’s suggestion to eliminate the kick altogether may be extreme.
“That came out of left field,” Fisher said. “The committee and the league has always been pretty careful about making drastic decisions like that.”
Owners usually, though not always, have adopted a rule change when it was proposed unanimously by the competition committee, said Casserly, now an analyst for the NFL Network. While teams often make requests of the committee, it brought up ending extra points and keeping two-point conversions itself, he said.
“Our point was the one point was automatic, if you wanted a two you could go for it,” Casserly said.
The idea of a 42-yard extra point would be “radical,” Casserly said, and would struggle to garner votes from owners whose teams play home games outside in cold weather.
“That’s where you’re going to have your kickback, so to speak,” Casserly said.
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