NFL boss suggests ditching touchdown conversion
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is suggesting potential changes to the touchdown conversion that might have some legs.
Goodell says the extra point kick, which had a success rate of nearly 100 percent, is too automatic.
And with few teams attempting 2-point conversion plays until desperation hits late in games, the old 1-pointer from 20 yards is the way coaches go. All that does is draw yawns.
So Goodell wonders if the league can add excitement by making some major adjustments to the extra point, suggesting perhaps making a touchdown worth seven points instead of six, with teams having the option to run a play for another point.
But failing on that play would cost them a point.
Gimmicky, for sure. But if Goodell likes the idea ...
A look at how changes to the extra point would affect the NFL:
HOW AND WHO?
Passing any changes to the playing rules in the NFL is, unlike the extra point kick, not easy.
The competition committee meets with the players’ union at the NFL combine in February, when any new proposals or ideas are discussed. It’s not unusual for the players to have input in potential adjustments, as they did recently on defenseless player penalties.
The powerful committee, chaired by Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, meets in March. At the league meetings later that month, the committee presents potential changes for discussion by all 32 owners, who can either vote on them or table them.
McKay said on Tuesday: “We do anticipate the topic being discussed.”
The idea of toying with the extra point is not entirely new. John Mara, owner of the New York Giants and among the most influential members of the competition committee, says “it came up for brief discussion in past meetings, but no action was taken.”
It took the NFL years to come around on the 2-point conversion, which can be a pass or run play from the 2-yard line — and under Goodell’s apparent preference, could be worth one point if the kick is eliminated. The 2-pointer existed in the old AFL from 1960-69, and college football has had it since 1958.
NFL owners didn’t approve it until 1994 as part of a package of changes to help the offenses.
YEA AND NAY
Coaches will hate any changes, particularly ones that would mean more decisions for them to make. They so rarely go for the 2-pointers until the fourth quarter, and are reluctant to do so then because, well, there’s nothing automatic about those attempts. Indeed, less than half (33 of 69) worked in 2013.
“I will say this: Since 2000, I believe, over 99 percent of the extra points are made,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It’s almost a given that it is going to be made. I’m sure that the competition committee will address it. As a coach you have to play how the rules are.”
Short-yardage backs such as fullback Mike Tolbert of Carolina shouldn’t mind the elimination of conversions. Nor should running quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, whose improvisational skills would be a huge advantage.
Kickers? They probably will shrug and practice their field goals — which is what they normally do regarding extra points anyway.
WHO STAYS, AND WHY
Rosters would be slightly revamped, with teams likely keeping at least one power back active every week and having two on the roster. Often, those guys also play on special teams, so their presence wouldn’t throw a lineup out of whack.
PRACTICE WON’T MAKE PERFECT
Teams would work even more on their short-yardage packages, beginning in training camp. They would use their touchdown conversion offenses in other situations on the field in games, too.
While going for a fourth-and-2 near midfield is less rare than it once was, it might become all the more common when coaches know the more times they attempt such plays, the more seasoned their players will be when trying for the extra points.
WILL IT HAPPEN?
It’s impossible to gauge the owners’ thinking, and a three-quarters majority is needed to pass any rules changes.
Goodell doesn’t get a vote.
Then again, it sounds like he already has cast his.
AP Sports Writer John Zenor contributed.