NFL: Eliminate Extra Points for Faster Games

From April 2014.

There’s been a lot of talk in the NFL over the 2014 offseason about different things the league can do to spice things up a bit.

Most of these changes are cosmetic or at least relatively minor in scope. But the league seems to realize that, though it is currently the most popular sport in the United States, the league has a few fundamental challenges.

First, the game is far too long. Full games routinely take over three hours and sometimes close to four. Yet a recent study showed that there is only 11 minutes of action out of the roughly 200 or so in the average game, which is somewhere just north of 5% of action.

This is why the game plays much better on television than it does in the stadium, which is creating the second problem for the league: the casual fan often prefers to stay home and watch the game from the comfort of their own couch. This way, they’re only steps away from their own fridge, can watch the infinite number of replays and even flip to other games if they get bored. (I could also do a number on the ticket prices, but that’s a different discussion for different day).

One of the things being talked about to speed up the game is the elimination of the extra point. Some of the proposals are kind of goofy. One of my least favorites is the idea to push the extra point back to the 20. What’s the point of this? Sure, it makes it harder to make the point, which adds a little bit of drama to it. But it’s still an untamed play. It still takes time to line up and kick it. Then there has to be a media break right after – and media breaks are what pays for the game, no matter how high the ticket prices are.

Let’s focus on two things here regarding the extra point: (1) Statistically, kickers are making around 99% of their kicks. (2) It’s an untimed play. (3) It takes about 25 seconds to line up before kicking it.

Now let’s remember the game is too long. Anyone else see the logical conclusion here? No? It’s simple: dump it.

Here’s how it’s done: When a team scores a touchdown, they get 7 points. If they decide to execute (what is now called) a two-point conversion, they would get an additional point for a total of 8 points. If they fail said conversion, they would LOSE a point, and only take away 6 points for scoring the touchdown.

Here’s the kicker (heh, pun totally intended): the two-point conversion (or whatever you’d call it) would be a timed play. It would take time off the game clock unless it was within the last two minutes of a half. In that case, the conversion would be an untimed play.

So what’s the net effect on the NFL game here? Virtually none.

Points-wise, you have a 99% chance of making the point anyway, so you’re upping that by 1%. You’ve eliminated an untimed play, so the game gets faster without taking away anything from it. The two-point conversion drama is still in place, it’s still the same gamble it always was.

There’s a number of different tweaks and tucks the NFL can make the speed up the game without affecting the integrity of it. The NFL certainly needs to get a lot of these done, but this is one small one they could do very quickly.