Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 May 2015

Extra Points Will Move to the 15

The NFL owners today officially voted to move the line of scrimmage for extra points back to the 15, making the XP now equivalent to a 33-yard field goal. The line of scrimmage remains the 2 for the 2-point conversion. In addition, returning a blocked kick, fumble, or interception on a point-after try will now be worth two points for the defense.

I hate this rule change so much. Why do we need to make the point-after try complicated? If you want to increase excitement, just move the line of scrimmage to the 1 to encourage going for 2-point conversions.

I don't have time right now to run a whole bunch of math on what the rule change means. Just 33-yard field goals would be a small sample size, but looking quickly at the last two seasons, field goals from 31-35 yards are hit roughly 91 percent of the time. The 2-point conversion is converted roughly half the time, so the numbers suggest that the smart head coaches will begin to go for 2 after nearly every touchdown except in certain late-game situations (such as when the touchdown itself ties the game). That quick math doesn't incorporate the possibility of a "two-point return," but I'm guessing that a pick-six from the 2 isn't frequent enough to make up the difference between an XP try being worth roughly 0.91 points and a 2-point try being worth roughly 0.99 points.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 19 May 2015

140 comments, Last at 09 Dec 2015, 11:56pm by fest201620


by Paydro :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:29pm

One unfortunate side effect of this change is the end of the fake/botched XP conversion. Granted, I don't think that happens very often; I can only think of a couple examples, and they're famous, like Romo's fumble in the playoffs.

Also, it's 91% on regular field goals from that range, but I'd bet the conversion rate on these new XPs will be higher since they're all kicked from dead center, the pressure is less, and there's never a rush.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:35pm

Why would the pressure be less? Why would there be no rush? It seems to me that there will be more incentive to time the snap perfectly, risking offside, compared to a 32 yard field goal, because a 5 yard penalty doesn't change things that much, compared to giving up a 5yard penalty on a 4th and 5, or even a 4th and 6 or 7.

by Sifter :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:16pm

Excellent point. I'd be coaching my guys to snap jump all the time, since like you say, there is essentially nothing to lose.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:22pm

Well, if they write the rule to give the offense the option to take the ball to the one, and try the two point conversion, that would be some disincentive.

It really would have been more clean to just move the xp attempt to the one.

by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:06pm

Interesting. So if a team is kicking a XP from the 15 and the defense is offsides, can the offense choose to take half the distance to the goal and then run a play from the 1?

by PatsFan :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 9:05pm

I tweeted that very question to Blandino and he actually answered. He said "Yes".

by duh :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 9:48pm

Interesting, So if you jump and the kick is good I wonder how many coaches will take the point off the board and go for 2 vs just saying enforce it on the KO

by Paydro :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:18pm

I think my point is being misunderstood here... I'm not referring to the "rush" (or "pressure") attempting to block the kick, I'm referring to the kicker's state of mind.

After a touchdown there's more time for the FG team to get set than after a failed 3rd down, especially now that the refs will have to consult with the scoring team's coach before they can place the ball. Since XPs will still be converted at ~90%, they'll still feel perfunctory, and plus they're only 1 point instead of 3.

The point about timing the snap because offsides doesn't matter is a really good one though, one I wasn't thinking about.

by tuluse :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:39pm

The Romo fumble was actually a FG attempt, not a PAT, was from the 2 though.

by Paydro :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:22pm

Oops, my mistake! Now I don't have a go-to example.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:31pm

What was the xp kick success percentage in, I dunno, 1985?

by duh :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:42pm

96.5% 1073 / 1110

Heck even back in 1960 it was 96.8 in the NFL

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:37pm

Kicking from 10 yards away back then, not 20. It was not uncommon for a miss to have been a crossbar strike.

by duh :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 9:53pm

Yes, good point. The posts were moved in 1974 I'd forgotten that, the price of getting old.

by Travis :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 9:12am

For the sake of accuracy, teams in 1985 were 1070/1110 on kicks and 3/10 on botched snaps or holds.

by Coaldale Joe :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:38pm

Nothing will change. No coach in his right mind will always go for 2 with this rule. Gee, an extra .08 points on average per TD, so for every 12 TD's I score I get 1 extra point on average, that's what once every 4 games . And that's ignoring whether it is more likely the defense would score 2 points on a 2 point attempt vs a 1 point attempt. The smart play will continue to be to go for 1 unless you need to go for 2 late in the game.

by tuluse :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:41pm

"That quick math doesn't incorporate the possibility of a "two-point return,""

It's a good thing too because you can't return 2pt attempts in the NFL.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:43pm

"In addition, returning a blocked kick, fumble, or interception on a point-after try will now be worth two points for the defense."

by duh :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:44pm

You can under the new rule

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:44pm

I believe that is now a thing with the new rule from the 15-yard line. Encourages teams to actually rush the kick on defense.

by tuluse :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:41pm

Well the NFL killed the possibility of ever running a FG fake for 2pts. Good job guys.

by Jerry :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:45pm

When was the last time that happened (as opposed to scrambling after a botched try)?

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:49pm

Chip Kelly's first year, the Eagles ran a truly ugly/pathetic "swinging gate" extra point attempt - they lined up for a regular kick then suddenly switched formation at the last second. It was such an embarrassment he never tried it again, though...

by duh :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:52pm

Which is too bad cause it was entertaining

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:13pm

Yeah, apparently it wasn't even a called play, it was just something the special teams unit was supposed to do automatically when they saw the defense lined up a certain way. It went so poorly though they just torched the whole idea. One of the many things I heard about Kelly that proved not to be true: "He goes for 2 a lot! He goes for it on 4th down in crazy situations! QB's are just another replaceable part in his system!" I definitely would've been up for them giving it at least one more shot...

by tuluse :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:10pm

If they moved the snap to the 1 you might have seen it more.

by MC2 :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:48pm

I just don't understand the motivation behind this. I can't ever remember watching a game and saying, "Wow, what a great game! The only thing that would have made it better would have been a couple of missed XPs!"

This seems like change for the sake of change.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:52pm

Apparently the NFL has been concerned with people tuning out for the extra point breaks and there has been pressure from sponsors to make things more interesting during that five minute stretch after a TD before the other team starts their new drive. In terms of pace, they also worry about the NBA and soccer and how youth viewership numbers skew for them in relationship to those sports and don't want to go the way of MLB where the games are an endless slog that no one under 50 watches.

I agree there's no good reason for this change and it's motivated purely by a shortsighted notion of what constitutes excitement in an NFL game...

by Sifter :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:19pm

Kicking is the worst part of this great sport, and it doesn't surprise me at all that people are tuning out. My own personal solution: whoever scores the touchdown should kick the extra point. Nobody wants to watch nobody-boring kickers walking out when 99% of time they make it. So make your offensive stars kick, to add more interest, and that will increase the chance of failure, to add even more interest.
Or just move 2pt conversions to the 1 as Will is saying. Everyone loves a good goal line stand, so lets encourage more of them.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:23pm

I've always liked the "you scored it, you kick it" idea. Mark Simoneau had to kick a few extra points for the Eagles in their TO meltdown year and it was by far the most entertaining thing he ever did in an Eagles uniform.

by jtr :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:22pm

I'm still going to get up for a piss and/or another beer during the XP-commercial-kickoff-commercial lull in the action, only now once every couple games I'll glance at the score when I get back and say "huh, they missed the XP."

Seriously, no one in the whole world thinks the problem with the XP is that there aren't enough missed XPs. Really dumb rule change.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:26pm

They're trying to push it towards more 2 pt attempts, which I agree is probably not going to happen. The real solution to viewer disengagement is to not use the "score/commercial/extra-point/commercial/kick-off/commercial" ad structure that (as you point out) most viewers see as an opportunity to take a leak or get another beer. People wouldn't leave the tv if they dropped even a single one of those commercial breaks, but "hey, fewer commercials!" is not an idea any pro sport has ever had.

by jtr :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:56pm

The worst part is that a few years ago they took the kickoff, which can actually be an exciting play, and castrated it. Now they're trying to recover by making maybe the most boring play in sports...the same but slightly further. If they actually want to make viewers pay attention from the scoring play through the next play from scrimmage, restoring returnable kickoffs would be an easy way to do it.

by MC2 :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 9:51pm

That's a great point, although it will unfortunately never happen.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:15pm

The kickoff thing was so frustrating because they did it as a way of making it look like they care about "player safety" and supposedly most of the biggest impacts occur on kick-offs. Knowing what we know now about concussions, the longterm effects are just as much about frequent smaller impacts as they are about a single big blow... meaning the change they made to game for the sake of player safety doesn't really help all that much with player safety.

by MC2 :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:51pm

True, although I don't think it was ever really about player safety. It was more about PR.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 11:29pm

Ha - well that probably goes without saying...

by johonny :: Fri, 05/22/2015 - 5:19pm

IDK. More and more people watch the NFL through things like the red zone channel where the scoring and breaks don't really exist. For the NFL which is more a one day a week event than MLB or NBA changing the pace doesn't seem to matter as much. There's only like 12 minutes of action in the game. Most of the game is dead space. In the digital-Internet era is doesn't matter. People are at sports bars watching multiple games, surfing their fantasy guys points, watching red zone, have NFL ticket at home etc... The concept of one game occupying someones full attention is going more and more out the window. The old one game on FOX, one of CBS or NBC then one at night just isn't reality to many people anymore. It will only get less and less likely in the future. People watch a lot of games or no game (just their fantasy team) now. I do like the you scored it, you kick it idea. But I imagine it would get old/ dull rather fast.

by Dan :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:54pm

Any guesses on which coaches are most likely to go for 2 a whole bunch?

Could be relevant for everyone's favorite fantasy football position, the kicker.

Some QBs and RBs could also get an extra 20+ fantasy points from two point conversions.

by Alternator :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 5:30pm

Sort by QB (and by RB if they have a star), then look for the best coach at 'the little things'. I'd say the Patriots, the Seahawks, maybe the Eagles (to at least attempt them), the Broncos...

Strike off the terminally cautious like Fisher and Reid.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 5:49pm

I'll have to find the exact numbers, but in the two season since he's been a coach, Kelly has gone for unconventional 4th downs at a lower rate than Andy Reid AND has a lower success rate on 4th downs in general.

by tuluse :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 6:26pm

I'm not sure how Reid has the reputation as terminal cautious.

Terminally bad use of timeouts, ok.

Cautious with Alex Smith as his QB, ok.

He always seemed about average with McNabb as QB, and didn't the Eagles go pretty aggressive the playoffs with Garcia?

by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 6:53pm

That's the thing - Reid's game management reputation comes form his horrible clock management and two minute drills (or six minute drill in the famous case of the Super Bowl), but a lot of that is clearly on McNabb. Kolb, Garcia, Feely, Detmer, Vick and even Foles all ran very effective two-minute drills under Reid. He's also never ben particularly cautious about going for it on 4th down, although I would be surprised to hear he was leading any lists of aggressive coaches.

But it has been pointed out that if you remove desperation 4th downs from Kelly's repertoire (like the SF and Arizona games this year), he's not at all aggressive on 4th down and he's been terrible at converting. (Maclin's DVOA was actually torpedoed in part last year by his 4th down conversion rate.) Reid has also had some very notorious failures to convert, but that doesn't make him cautious, but bad in the redzone and short yardage. Which is true. Andy Reid's big caution has always been avoiding interceptions, which his QB's have always excelled at - he'd prefer an incompletion to an interception, for sure. It's part of the reason, I'm apt to give some credit for Foles' incredibly low int% in 2013 to what he learned under Reid. He sure didn't get it from Kelly, whose QB's turn the ball over at an alarming rate.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:54pm

It will have an impact in really bad field conditions, when getting the snap, hold, and plant foot right significantly degrade the success rate of a 32 yard kick. Super strong wind as well, I suppose. I would have preferred matching this with the move to the one yard line for a two point conversion; that would have also increased the value of good goal line defense.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:00pm

Interesting points on weather. These are factors in the rule's favor, IMHO.

by Coaldale Joe :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:55pm

Every day, in every way, I am making our game better for our fans in my own inimitable way.

I just feel sorry for those who don't understand what I'm doing.

I'm good-enough, I'm smart-enough, and god damn it, people like me.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:00pm

That made me laugh, but in fairness, Roger the Noble has nuthin' to do with this.

by Jerry :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:26pm

You broke "CoaldaleJoe" by becoming "Roger Goodell" here.

by Coaldale Joe :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:02pm

Another thing everyone is going to blame me for....

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:04pm

One merit of the rule change is that it at least has its roots in the history of the sport: tries used to be free kicks from a distance that you earned with a touchdown. Even today a lot of conversion attempts in rugby are kicked from ~20 yards out. (Granted, they move back when the angle is poor, and tries scored in front of the posts are kicked right in front of them, too.)

It does make 2-point conversion attempts seem more arbitrary, however, since they are no longer just one of your options given that you are getting the ball on the two yard line.

Anyway, on the whole this makes XPs more interesting and increases the importance of having a decent kicker, reversing two less-than-ideal long-term trends in a way that isn't a radical departure from the history of the sport. I'm pro-, all things considered. I've heard many far worse suggestions on how to "fix" what happens between a TD and the other team getting the ball.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:15pm

Yeah, I can get behind the idea of trying to make kicking more part of the game and less of an afterthought/source of heartbreak. Really though, I think this is just part of a larger plan to get rid of kicking altogether...

by MJK :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:33am

tries used to be free kicks from a distance that you earned with a touchdown.

I actually really like that. It would mean that a methodical TD drive that drives all the way inside the 10 before scoring would be worth more, on average, than a lucky 80 yard TD play where the CB in single coverage happened to fall down.

by MC2 :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:37pm

I would expect that in most cases, rather than scoring a really long (more than, say, 40-yard) TD, the guy would just go out of bounds at the 1, or take a knee at the 1, and they would just punch it in on the next play.

by hoegher :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:28pm

I love this rule change and I'm kind of surprised at the anti-opinions being expressed here.

The XP (as it is now) is next to pointless. It's basically automatic, not dependent on any sort of skill, and just offers an injury risk to players.

If they weren't going to go NFL Blitz-style and make it a literal free point, then the move back to the 15-yd line is great, IMO.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:31pm

But this isn't going to reduce the number of XP plays, it's just going to mean a few missed kicks every once in a while. The conversion rate is going to be well over 90%. For an average team, that's going to be once every three or so game your team misses a kick. It finally be all the excitement of the times your team misses FG's from that distance, now only with less at stake and with slightly more regularity.

by hoegher :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:42pm

Sure, and I would've been fine with getting rid of the XP completely. But if you're going to have the XP, I don't really get the point of making players go through a play that's near 100% certainty.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:13pm

I would't be surprised if these kicks are hit with 95% or even higher certainty. Getting rid of the XP would mean something - this change really doesn't. In a funny way, it's going to introduce more randomness to the game, where wins and losses are now more frequently hinging on these freak missed XP's. It will make the game MORE about XP's without meaningfully reducing the boringness of a nearly automatic play, which seems like the opposite of what you'd like...

by duh :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:34pm

yep agree with this perspective completely. They'll find a way to wreck the popularity of the game yet.

by Cythammer :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:02pm

Kicking just isn't that exciting, so it's sort of weird to try and make the game more interesting by making kicking more important. Since it probably won't really make two-point conversions more likely, the game isn't really going to get more interesting in anyway.

by JasonK :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:23pm

Sucks for those of us who think celebration penalties are awful. Now, any worthwhile post-TD entertainment potentially means a 48-yard PAT attempt!

Which may or may not be more advantageous to the defense than taking the 15 on the kickoff, but it will be more traceable to the player-- you'll see more "they lost the game because of your dance" criticism flowing from subsequent a PAT miss than from the defense folding on a short drive.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:08pm

Oh God, I didn't even think of this. The first time that happens, the following week is going to rival the Deflategate penalty ruling for the sheer volume of tedious, horrid conversation in the sports-talk world...

by theslothook :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 11:52pm

Oh wow, good point!

I suspect it should only be enforceable on the kickoff. I mean, my god of its not!

by theslothook :: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 11:40pm

I wish they had just made the point automatic vs this 15 yard non-sense.

by andrew :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:51am

Alternatives I would prefer (other than the aforementioned one yard line):

- 40 yard field goal from a tee, no one else on field. Defense can place a returner in the end zone.

- 15 yard line, kick must be drop-kicked.

- Extra point is scored by having scoring player spike ball over goal posts (Jimmy Graham method).

by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:18pm

Made, wouldn't it be fun if they went the XFL route and had the XP awarded for things like goal-post dunks and excessive celebrations?

by Theo :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 8:18pm

xfl had an extra point (scrimmage play) from the 1-yard line.
2 point and even 3 point conversions could be made from further out - don't know how far anymore.

by bubqr :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:32am

I'm more excited about the possibility of a return of a blocked PAT attempt for 2 points addition (laterals!fun!) than by the move to the 15 yards line.

by Mello :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 6:36am

Coaches probably won't treat it like this immediately, but doesn't this completely flip things and make it the best choice to go for 2 most of the time and only go for 1 in specific game situations? A 2 pt conversion is about a 50% chance, but instead of an almost 100% chance for 1, it's now about 90%.

I think that's a severely negative change that makes some gimmick 2 point play more valuable and devalues the rest of the football played on the field.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:21pm

If it really were 90%, that might be true, but it's definitely going to be at least the FG% from the same distance and probably a bit higher since there's no rush against the clock to get out and get set up. It's also only for a single point which further takes the pressure off the kicker - I'd be shocked if they aren't hitting these at over 95%. And certainly coaches aren't going to make any radical decisions until they see the numbers, so it's a least a couple seasons away from one being bold enough to follow the strategy you outline...

by andrew :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 7:27am

Supposedly the big argument against putting the ball at the one was that it was "too dangerous for quarterbacks".

Really? No one is forcing you to qb sneak the ball. Or having your starting QB in there. Never mind the fact that 1 yard to go plays happen all the time, are those not also dangerous? Brady, perrential mvp candidate, seems to have no trouble repeatedly converting these on keepers. But now its suddenly too dangerous.

(I think the other argument was it was some mad Chip Kelly Tebow-laden scheme)...

by Mugsy :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 9:07am

Get rid of the stupid point after try for Pete's Sake! It's ridiculous & it's time to go. & hopefully they'll eliminate field goals too. IMO these kicks are irrelevant from the larger objective of the game. Running some specialist out there to kick the ball through goal posts.. ridiculous!

Can you imagine - 2 outs, bottom of the ninth & the Mets are bringing in their horse-shoe pitcher. If this pitcher throws the ball at least 15 feet and knocks over a horse-shoe, then the Mets get the run they need to win the game!

So stupid.

I think the game would be so much cooler if on 3rd and long you only had 2 options: try to get the first down, or punt. Then let the best team win.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:26pm

I might actually watch baseball if they occasionally did something as interesting as that. In my opinion, kicking is exciting and totally integral to the game - it wouldn't be football without it. It affects strategy deeply and allows for a variation of outcome that other sports don't have. It allows for different KINDS of games - if you get rid of kicking, you all but guarantee there will never be a team built around a great defense ever again. And I personally enjoy the great defensive teams more than the touch-football high scoring pick-play teams of the current era. These attempts to neuter kicking are actually making the game more tedious and more like Arena league, which is a bad thing...

by tuluse :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:29pm

I wouldn't agree with no great defenses. If all you have to do is stop TDs, it might actually be easier to make really good defenses.

It would definitely make things very different and strange though.

by nottom :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 9:56am

So are you allowed to attempt a drop kick from the 2?

by nat :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 10:29am

Seems like you'd have to start at the 15 to be allowed to kick in any way. Besides, a drop kick from the two is still harder than a field goal from the fifteen.

But I like your crazy thinking!

by nottom :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 5:23pm

The difference on a drop kick is that it gets snapped from a normal formation, so I do wonder if the new rule is only for place kicks.

A FG from the 15 is still pretty automatic for most kickers, but I do wonder what the success rate on free kicks would be from the 2. In the modern game, free kicks have been by QBs, but if you could just snap it to a punter/kicker I wonder if that would be comparable to a short FG attempt.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 6:58pm

Blandino tweeted yesterday that drop kicks have to be done from the 15.

by Geronimo :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:10am

I've never understood why they don't consider just narrowing the goal posts? If the problem is that kickers have become too automatic, which I believe they have, and that it makes some strategic decisions too simple, narrow the posts and return field goal kicking to something that's somewhat challenging.

by Geronimo :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:18am

What I don't like about this is that it might make the result of a lot of games much more arbitrary. Suppose you have two teams play a hard-fought game, and each scores three TDs. But instead of going to overtime where a series of plays are used to decide the winner, the game may be decided by which of the two teams performed better on the six extra point plays involved. That just seems stupid to me, and the football season is too short for such results not to skew a team's chances one way or the other already.

And another thing: seems to me that replacing a routine kick with a play which either has a team hell-bent on blocking a longer kick or a goal line situation adds some additional injury risk to the game. Maybe that's only a slight increase, but with the game on the line and the big guys hammering for leverage all across an extended line of scrimmage, it's not inconsiderable.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:30pm

That's the worst part - it's making for more frequent arbitrary outcomes, but not frequent enough that the arbitrariness becomes part of the game (like, say, fumbles or long INT returns.) Once every couple weeks, an outcome will be affected by this and no one is going to think "well, that's cool - it's why the moved the goal-posts!" If it's your team losing you're just going to scream "Gah, why did they move the goal-post?!? What was this shit supposed to accomplish?!!? Nobody is gong for two more frequently. This is so dumb!" And then they'll miss the playoffs.

by Sisyphus :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:23am

I think the most interesting analysis might have to do with the Vegas spread. Not at all sure what that will look like.

The argument to kick off or receive in overtime also becomes a bit more weighted to take the wind (where that might be a factor and kick off.

by Geronimo :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:25am

I do wish we saw more teams try to use the bizarre "fair catch followed by free field goal kick" rule, though.

by MJK :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:39am

The problem is that the law of unintended consequences is always in play. If the intent is to make teams go for 2 more, then this rule change will fail at that, I think.

The math may favor going for 2 in most situations, but it does so just barely. The math also favors going for it on 4th down in many situations, but coaches don't. The math also favors running the ball on 3rd and 2 or 3 (or 4th and 2 or 3), but coaches hardly ever do. The math favors passing far more often than running, but most coaches don't. I suspect coaches will still take the XP attempt most of the time, because it's viewed as a "safe" play.

People are inherently bad at weighing risk-reward, so I suspect most risk-averse people (and most NFL coaches fit that bill) would take a 90% chance of success over a 50% chance of success, even if the payout of the 50% attempt is 2X.

by nat :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:48pm

If the intent is to make teams go for 2 more, then this rule change will fail at that, I think.
I suspect the intent is to get more people to watch the extra point (conversion or kick doesn't matter) on television, and thereby to increase the value of ads shown around it.

With more games hanging on a missed extra point, this change will accomplish that goal. Probably. If the kicks are still too sure, they can move them back again. Eventually, they will get the level of uncertainty needed to keep people in their seats; or teams will start trying a lot more two-point conversions, and fans will stay by the television for that.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 2:04pm

Yeah, whether they say it or not, they're trying to repair the value of the post XP commercial - normally, the slot for the first commercial leading into a break costs the most (or ties for the most) money. Advertisers looked at the numbers and determined people aren't watching that second post-XP commercial break and are refusing to pay top dollar, especially for the normally valuable lead-in slot. So, they're messing with the XP to get people to watch it more... or rather, to convince advertisers (who are probably negotiating fees right around this time) that they have done something to get people to stick around for the XP and the lead-in commercial.

That's almost entirely what this is about.

I think there's also the idea of trying to get rid of kicking from the game altogether, but I'm not sure how clearly this plays into that other than to make fans disappointed/frustrated with the kicking game.

by tbwhite :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 2:42pm

This is my absolute #1 pet peeve when it comes to analytics and sports. The worship of expected value while completely ignoring variance, and then labeling people who incorporate variance into their decision making as risk averse(which is used as a pejorative) or even worse dumb(I know that you are not calling coaches dumb, but I see this often at various sites).

Here's an example which I think underscores the problem. You turn 65, you are given $1 million to fund your retirement, you have no other savings, and you have two options to choose from, and can only play this 'game' once:

Option 1) A 90% chance of winning an getting an extra 10%, and 10% chance of getting nothing extra. So, Option 1 has an expected value of $1,090,000(90% * $1.1M) + (10% * $1M)

Option 2) A 50% chance of getting an extra an extra $2 million, and a 50% chance of getting nothing and losing the original $1 milion. So, Option 2 has an expected value of $1.5 million(50% * $3M) + (50% * 0)

I don't think anyone in their right mind would choose Option 2 over Option 1 even though the expected value is 38% higher. If you could play this game over and over, then yes Option #2 makes the most sense, but if you only get one shot at it, you have to take Option #1 because the variance from Option 2 is too extreme, the risk of getting nothing is too much to bear.

Everyone does these types of 2 point conversion analyses from this perspective of 'in the long run' with an infinite number of attempts. The problem of course is that in the real world teams aren't dealing with an infinite number of 2 point attempts, they get maybe 3 or 4 per week. And getting lucky on your 2 point conversions next week doesn't help you if you lose by one point this week. The difference in expected values would have to be much larger than .05 points per attempts to overcome the much larger variance in 2 point attempts. Maybe if the kick was a 45 yarder, something where the likelihood of conversion was 67% instead of 95%, then the math would work for more 2 point conversions.

by Dan :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 3:36am

But about half the time, the extra variance works in the team's favor. So if a strategy leads to higher expected points, then teams should do it at least half the time.

Football is a competition between two teams, where what's good for one team is bad for the other. If reducing the variance helps one team's chances of winning, then increasing the variance must help the other team's chances of winning.

Suppose the ref offered one team a gamble: we'll flip a coin, and if it's heads then your team gets a point and if it's tails then the other team gets a point. If this gamble gets offered at a random time to a random coach, then coaches should take it half the time. At any given moment, if it's in the home team's interest to refuse the gamble (if they're offered it) then it's in the visiting team's interest to accept the gamble (if they're offered it), and vice versa. So it must be a smart gamble 50% of the time.

Going for 2 instead of kicking the XP is basically the same as that gamble (assuming a 50% conversion rate and 100% success on XPs), except instead of being offered at random times it only gets offered right after you score a TD. That means that it might not be a smart gamble exactly 50% of the time, but the percentage of the time when it is a smart gamble should still be fairly close to 50% (at least closer to 50% than to 0%).

by tbwhite :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 10:10am

Yes, but what determines when it is a smart gamble ? It is the specific circumstances of the game. If I just scored a TD and the score is now 13-13 late in the 4th quarter, a 1 point conversion is very valuable to me, while the extra point I would get from a 2 point conversion has almost no value. Even if I had only an 80% chance of kicking the XP, and a 66% chance of making the 2pt conversion, I am better off kicking even though the expected value is much lower. In other words, it's the marginal value of the points. If I'm losing 14-6 and it is late in the game and I score a TD a 1 point conversion has almost no value, I need the two points. So, yes, the extra variance can work for or against a team, and what determines if it is working for or against them are the specific game conditions. Blanket rules like you should always go for 2 are just stupid and unrealistic.

by MC2 :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 1:42pm

Well, in many cases, the answer is indeed apparent from the specific circumstances of the game. In many other cases, however, it isn't nearly so obvious. That's why the Vermeil chart was created, but even so, there are still many situations, especially in the early stages of a game, where reasonable people can disagree about which strategy is correct. You seem to be saying that in these cases, teams should always (or almost always) use the more cautious strategy, and just go for 1. If that is indeed your point, I disagree. I would say that, in situations where the proper strategy isn't obvious, the favorite should usually play it safe, but the underdog should usually roll the dice.

For example, let's say (and, to be clear, I'm just making all these numbers up) that the normal range of outcomes between Team A and Team B, assuming that they both use the normal, conservative strategy, is 15 points. That is to say, Team A will normally score anywhere from 10 more points than Team B to 5 fewer points than Team B. However, either team can choose to adopt a more aggressive strategy (by going for 2 every time, except in late game situations that obviously dictate going for 1) and, by doing so, they can increase the range of outcomes by 5 points in either direction. So, if Team A chooses the aggressive strategy, they will now end up scoring anywhere from 15 more points to 10 fewer points than Team B. Assuming that the outcomes are evenly distributed (probably a dubious assumption, but bear with me) and ignoring the possibility of ties, then Team A (the favorite) would win 67% of the time that they used the normal, conservative strategy, but only 60% of the time that they used the aggressive strategy. Of course, the opposite would hold true for the underdog, Team B. So, assuming that neither team is concerned with margin of victory, it seems clear that using a strategy that produces extra variance would benefit the underdog.

by alpha :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 2:26pm

We should assume NFL coaches are fearfully of margin of victory. More to your point, as a guy named Jack Reed has written about extensively, most are "afraid that if they are contrarian and it doesn’t work they will get fired."

The PAT change yesterday doesn't rock the boat. It doesn't make owners nervous the media castigation of their coaches will skyrocket. The Philidelphia proposal could have though. No wonder it came from the club coached by the premier contrarian the league.

by tbwhite :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 7:54pm

My basic argument is that this is all about the value of a marginal point, which in turn is related to changes in win probability. Simply looking at expected values and saying "gee I get .001 points more on average if I go for 2 so I should always go for 2" is so simplistic it is silly and flat out wrong in many cases.

The problem is that early in a game there simply is very little difference in win probability between a 7 point lead and an 8 point lead. According to the calculator at Adv Football Analytics, the difference is just 2%. Yet the difference between a 6 point lead and a 7 point lead is 5%. I calculated these probabilities with 10 minutes left in the 1st quarter, as if a team took the opening kick off, drove down and scored a TD. So to make a 2 point attempt worthwhile early in a game, the conversion rate for a 2 pt attempt must be increased to about 67% or the conversion rate for the 1 pt attempt must be reduced to ~67%. That's just to get it to break even where it doesn't matter what you do.

But, to get a break even decision in win probability requires a huge disparity in expected value. For example, assuming a 47% conversion rate on 2 point tries, and a 67% conversion rate on 1 point tries, yields essentially identical win probabilities, but the expected value of the 2 point attempt is .94 while the expected value of the 1 pt attempt is .67. The difference in variance is so much larger for the 2 pt attempt that it negates the difference in expected value when you look at the actual outcome. Put another way, the new rule isn't even close to making 2 point attempts worthwhile all the time, an XP attempt would have to be pushed back to 50 yards to tilt things in favor of the 2 point attempt and even then we are talking about maybe a 1% increase in win probability by going for 2.

by MC2 :: Fri, 05/22/2015 - 4:25am

The problem with those win probability calculations is that they assume the game is between two average teams, which is rarely the case. They also assume that you will be using "normal" strategy for the rest of the game.

My argument is that if you are the underdog, and you have the opportunity to use a strategy that introduces more variance into the game, you should do it, as it makes the outcome of the game more random, and thus improves your odds of winning.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 05/22/2015 - 12:53pm

That's true, but how frequently is one team the underdog in a meaningful sense? DVOA shows that apart from the very top of the league and the very bottom, there's not a huge amount of difference in teams - so yes, when the teams ranked from Washington to Jackonsville (28th through 32 in DVOA) plays Denver or Seattle, it makes sense. When, say, Atlanta plays Indy that's a significant underdog taking on a better team (13th vs. 20th in DVOA) but not significant enough that maximizing randomness is favorable to doing everything that makes the most sense to win. If anything the opposite is true: they're not good enough to squander chances for points, but they are good enough to win outright.

Every year, we see plenty of instances of a team like KC (10th ranked) handily beating Seattle and New England despite being a legit underdog in both games. A pretty ok team like them definitely shouldn't risk introducing randomness against tougher competition because we see so frequently that they can win outright...

by MC2 :: Fri, 05/22/2015 - 8:36pm

I don't see how it's a "risk" for the underdog to introduce more randomness. When a game is decided by random luck, that means that, by definition, each team has a 50% chance of winning. If their "normal" chance of winning is less than 50%, increasing the chance of the game being decided by randomness automatically improves those odds.

So, in theory, every underdog should always try to create as much randomness as they can. Of course, in practice, there are many games (like last year's Super Bowl, for example) where it is not at all clear which team is actually the favorite. In those cases, trying to generate more randomness is probably a waste of time at best, and could even be counterproductive. But in the case of obvious underdogs, using a high variance strategy makes a lot of sense, and that goes double for huge underdogs, as luck is about the only real chance they have.

Having said all that, I don't expect many (if any) teams to consistently go for two early in games, regardless of how big an underdog they are. The vast majority of the coaches are simply way too cautious to even consider such a strategy, let alone adopt it.

by tuluse :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 12:19pm

The problem is "what's good for one team is bad for the other" doesn't mean Team A not going for 2 means Team B should. It could be in the best interest for Team A to go for 2 and in their best interest to have Team B go for 2, or flip either or both of those.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:41am

Fakes on XPs are rare but always exciting. They chose the most ridiculous of the options. I don't need the XP to be exciting. Give a point, keep it at the 2, move it to the 1 for more two-point attempts, anything, but the 15? Bleah. This is one of my least-favorite rule changes ever.

by MJK :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:41am

If they really want coaches to go for 2 most of the time, they didn't even consider the simplest way of doing it--eliminate the XP entirely. Maybe make the "2-point" attempt only worth one point. So a TD gives you 6 points and the opportunity to try for an extra point with an extra play from the 2 (or 1).

The "make the guy who scored the TD kick it", "make the kicking try from the LOS before the TD", and "force the XP kicking attempt to be a drop kick" ideas were my other favorites, but I don't think any of them were seriously considered.

by Travis :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:08pm

If they really want coaches to go for 2 most of the time, they didn't even consider the simplest way of doing it--eliminate the XP entirely. Maybe make the "2-point" attempt only worth one point. So a TD gives you 6 points and the opportunity to try for an extra point with an extra play from the 2 (or 1).

The World Football League (1974-75) had something similar. Touchdowns were worth 7 points and the post-TD "action point" took place from the 2-1/2 yard line.

Another way to eliminate the kick would be to make touchdowns worth 7 points and give teams the choice to risk that 7th point in order to "go for 2".

by Eddo :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 5:45pm

"Another way to eliminate the kick would be to make touchdowns worth 7 points and give teams the choice to risk that 7th point in order to "go for 2"."

In practice, that's exactly what we just had. Touchdowns were considered an automatic seven points if you chose not to go for two.

by alpha :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:51am

Should teams taking a 1 (and maybe a 2) point lead on a TD late in a game kneel down to eliminate the chance of giving up a return? Or should they resort the lowest risk 2 point PAT attempt, like a "dangerous" QB dive anyway? How late in games will these choices start to matter?
Seems like northern outdoor clubs will need to strategize these scenarios the most.
I imagine it'll require one "unexciting" kneel down in a high profile game next year for this new rule to be changed again. Maybe charge the offense with a safety if they do not advance the ball past the line of scrimmage on either type of PAT.

by MJK :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:55am

More extreme case of the example you cite:

On October 24, 2009, Iowa scored as time expired to take a 15–13 lead over Michigan State. Making the conversion would have made no difference in Iowa winning the game, but Iowa still had to attempt it, so Ricky Stanzi simply knelt down, as a return by Michigan State would have tied the game and forced overtime.

by MJK :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:46am

So here's an interesting question about a little-known rule.

In college football, if you try for 2 points and somehow lose 98 yards to get a "safety", the other team scores 1 point. From what I've read, it's only happened once (to Texas A&M, I think???), but it is the only way in college football that a team could score just 1 point. (So it's actually possible to lose 6-1). (Well, almost. I think if a team chooses to forfeit and the game is never played, it is officially recorded as a 1-0 victory for the non-forfeiting team).

However, that's because in college, the play doesn't end on an extra point attempt with a change in possession. Up to now, in the NFL, it did (a turnover on a 2-point attempt automatically ended the play), and there was no "1-point safety on a try" rule.

Now that the NFL is allowing the ball to be run back for 2 points following a turnover on a try, can the defending team also, in theory, score 1 point by forcing a 98 yard safety on the try?

by MJK :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:52am

Oops, slight edit. The defense has NEVER scored a conversion safety, although it is possible. The offense has scored a conversion safety (worth one point) twice--and one of them was Texas versus Texas A&M (the other was Oregon versus Kansas State). The offense scores a point if there is a turnover on the try, the defense attempts to return it, and somehow commits a safety (runs back into their own endzone and gets tackled).

I can think of one scenario where a defensive conversion safety would be plausible. If the offense tries for two, commits a turnover, and the defender runs the ball almost all the way back, but fumbles before crossing the goal line, and the offense bats the ball out the back of the endzone or recovers in the end zone.

by tuluse :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:05pm


by SandyRiver :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:33pm

I think, since possession had changed to the defenders, that the batted thru/recovery in the end zone by the (original) offense would be a touchback, EP fail. If that team were to recover that last fumble at theie own 2 and circle back across the goal line to try a return, then get tackled there... Nah! Would never happen.

by andrew :: Sat, 05/23/2015 - 11:32am

It could happen for the (original) offense, though, if a qb throws an interception on a 2 pt conversion int he end zone, the defense runs it out then at the 2 gets tackled back into the end zone, it ends up going down as a 1 point safety.

Except that scenario wouldn't allow for the 6-1 score. The 98 yard safety yeah is pretty improbable.

Wonder if teams will line up someone from their defense like 20 yards in the backfield to stop a return just in case?

by alpha :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:11pm

Given how well the NFL thought out its post-inspection football custody procedures, I would expect no one has given this any thought. Any live ball could (should be able to) result in a safety. The likelihood may not be that low if a "keep hope alive" lateral-like-crazy situation came about after a defense got the ball and decided it really needed those 2 points. Maybe in a case where so little time remains that their chances on the ensuing kickoff return was lower than re-enacting the Stanford Band Play. The NFL deserves a black swan event like this next year.

by Travis :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:09pm

Up to now, in the NFL, it did (a turnover on a 2-point attempt automatically ended the play), and there was no "1-point safety on a try" rule.

The NFL did have the "1-point safety on a try" rule pre-2015. But as you said, play ended when the defense took possession, so the only way it could possibly happen was if the defense batted the ball back into the end zone. (It never did.)

More than you really want to know on the history of the one-point safety here.

by ChrisS :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:36pm

What happens after a blocked kick? Can the offense recover it and score? If so do they get 1 point or 2?

by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:33pm

Good question - also, and this might be some silliness, but could the kicking team still theoretically fake a kick from the 15 and go for the conversion? Or does setting up the play form the 15 signify "this is a kicking play only, no returns nor fakes."

by Travis :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 2:10pm

The rule proposal doesn't specify, but if it's anything like the current NCAA system, the offense can advance a blocked extra point for 2 points so long as the recovery occurs behind the line of scrimmage.

by alpha :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 9:56pm

A blocked kick couldn't be a live ball for the defense to recover, but dead for the offense. That'd be a farce. I'd really dislike this rule change unless its 2 points for advancing a PAT ball into an endzone in any manner, in either direction.

by BJR :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:08pm

If we end up seeing more 2 point attempts instead of kicks, this will have made the game more exciting.

Then again, I would have much preferred doing away with XP attempts altogether, simply awarding 7 for a TD. There's more than enough complexity in the NFL without this peripheral and time consuming layer.

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:39pm

very difficult for everetyobfy involved. better soplution would eb to narrow goalposts .

by nat :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 11:42am

One interesting side effect of the defensive scoring provision in this new rule is that we will almost definitely see a team kneel on an extra point this season.

Up by 4 after scoring a TD, very late in the game: neither one nor two points helps me, but giving up a point or two - however unlikely - hurts me a lot.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 1:13pm

Oh you're right - just what the fans were clamoring for: more kneel-downs!

by Travis :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 1:44pm

If college football is an indicator, kneeldowns on extra points will only happen after final-play touchdowns that put a team up by 1 or 2. (A Belichick-type might extend this to final-minute touchdowns that put a team up 9 or 10.)

by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 1:50pm

Sure, it won't be a big deal, but it be somewhat more regular than the current frequency of "something I have never seen in my life." This rule-change only has downside...

by tuluse :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 1:51pm

Usually NFL teams don't play the PAT if they win as time expires.

by Travis :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 2:10pm

NFL teams are (or were) required to attempt the extra point after last-play touchdowns.

4-8-2-c: If a touchdown is made on the last play of a period, the Try attempt shall be made (except during a sudden-death period).

Most notable examples:

1. The Fail Mary Game: The Seahawks and Packers were called back to the field for the extra point after the Fail Mary put the Seahawks up 13-12.

2. Patriots-Bills, 1998 Week 13: The entire Bills team had left for the locker room after the Patriots scored the winning touchdown, so the Patriots ran for the two-point conversion against an empty defense.

by nat :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 2:07pm

Really? They kick up by 1 with five seconds left? Or even go for two?

It's not just the athletes with a bad education then.

by Travis :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 2:29pm

In that situation, they'd most likely go for two with a safe play (QB keeper, FB dive, etc.).

The odds of a defensive two-point conversion (FBS 1988-2012: 48 out of 7,605 two-point attempts and 99 out of 103,592 kicks) are at best comparable to that of the tying field goal.

by polyorchid :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 4:05pm

If this is part of the evolution of the eventual banishment of the extra point altogether, ultimately leading to the banishment of all field goals altogether, then I'm all for it.

Yeah, it's called football. I know. Unfortunate. Who watches this sport because of field goals or extra points? I don't know of anyone.

by alpha :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 4:38pm

A late drive to get within FG range for have a chance to force OT just dosen't do it for you, huh? Desperate Hail Mary's with more pass interference controversies wouldn't be better.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 5:47pm

Yeah, kicking makes for the most interesting strategic and dramatic elements in the game - take a long FG or go for it on a short 4th down? Eek out a kick on a snowy day after a tough drive or watch a hail mary fall flat and draw a controversial flag? The 3 point wrinkle (and how it doesn't match up perfectly with the 7 TD+XP score) makes for almost all of the strategic fun of the game...

by polyorchid :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 6:44pm

Of course I recognize the force of your point. I'm referring to the act of kicking the field goal or the extra point itself. And, no, I can't imagine what I'd replace the field goal with. Not right now. I just know I don't like kicking, or kickers.

And I would love it if touchdowns were just worth 7 points and there were no gimmicky extras involved. Y'know, people would think you were nuts if you wanted a rule that said every time a goal was scored in hockey or soccer there was some untimed play with a 97% chance of getting you an extra one-sixth of a goal. I feel like it's an archaic holdover that would be better done away with.

by alpha :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 10:45pm

The PAT, especially the kick, has been and still will be anticlimactic, usually. But it has a purpose.

First, football must be a mostly continuous sport from youth to pro. Getting rid of the conversion play altogether would be terrible. At youth and high school level, due to the low scoring nature of the game, PATs are essential to break ties. Despite the passing madness of 21st century pro football, this is still true in many NFL games. And even at the pro level, I wouldn't want to lose the opportunity for 2 FG + TD + 2-pt. conversion = 14. It is a fundamental part of the game's scoring system. The sport would be just a bit more boring without that path.

Keeping the PAT run/pass, but losing the PAT kick, would also degenerate the sport. Below the NFL and NCAA, differences in skill and leg strength make the chance of converting a try kick highly variable. Even today, many high schools cannot attempt a kick from scrimmage other than a punt because they don't have a kicker good enough to trust. Taking away the try kick means the youth and high school teams that develop kicking games have those opportunities to show their superiority reduced. But the same knuckleheads who install bubble screen offenses in Pop Warner would try to emulate the pro rules because they want little Johnny to develop toward "the next level". It would be a shame if kicking for points was lost there.

The original effect of the option to kick or run/pass from the same 2 yard line spot was to make it a little riskier for the defense to go all-out to block the kick. Trotting out an NFL kicker who is so overspecialized that he cannot actually play football long ago took this away from the pro game. It is still very real at lower levels.

Even with yesterday's change, most NFL coaches will still kick for a tie and play overtime, rather than to go for 2 to win in regulation. If the NFL had chosen to move up the 2-point conversion spot to the one yard line, more coaches would. Domination at the line of scrimmage on the goal-line should be a decisive act in football. And more games could avoid overtime, reducing injury risk to tired players.

The PAT used to be spotted at the spot of the preceding touchdown. If the NFL really wanted to make the PAT less anticlimactic, they would re-connect it that spot, limit it to the 50-yard line, and go back to the kick/run/pass option. If this happened, the hashmarks should revert to the pre-1972 spread (20 yards from sideline rather than 23). Field Goals would become harder, so great place kickers would really stand out (Fantasy would benefit from that). I think the passing game has advanced so much that returning to wide hashes would revitalize the sweep, without any damage to this ultra-developed pocket throwing game. I love the sweep.

The more I think on it, the more the move back to the 15 yard line for PAT kicks makes for better pro football. More kicks should be blocked, which will reward especially good PAT kick defense. When there are multiple ways for teams to be excellent, and a variety of ways to score, the sport is just better. Place kicking, in my opinion, is crucial.

by MJK :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 11:12pm

So as a fun and silly exercise, here is how I would replace kicking if I had to:

There are three times a team kicks--FG, PAT, and kickoff.

* PAT is the easiest. A TD is worth 7 by default, or 6 with a chance of 2 if a team goes for a conversion, just as is often suggested.

* The trick with getting rid of kickoffs is that you want to leave the possibility of the onside kick, or something equivalent. So I would give teams a choice of either simply giving the ball to the other team at their 20 (i.e. an automatic touchback), or taking possession of the ball at their own 30, facing 4th and 10. From there they could either attempt a conversion, or punt it (assuming you haven't gotten rid of punts as well), although choosing this and then punting would be unlikely (unless you lose yards on a pre-snap penalty), because few teams net more than 50 yards reliably on a punt. But if you have ROBO-punter, go for it.

Yes, I know that 4th-and-10 is probably slightly easier to convert than an onside (especially an expected onside), but that would add to the fun. And since almost no coaches currently would go for it on 4th and 10 from their own 30, I suspect that it wouldn't change things too much (i.e. teams would rarely choose this option unless they needed the onside in the endgame).

* I would replace the FG as follows. After any play where a team ends with possession of the ball at or inside the opposing 40, they can immediately elect to end their drive and get a few points: 1 point for being between the 40 to the 31, 2 for being between the 30 and the 21, 3 for being between the 20 and the 11, and 4 for being inside the 10. This would lead to some very interesting strategic decisions, especially if you're facing, say, 4th and 2 from the 31...

All this assumes that you keep punts. But if you wanted to get rid of them as well, then you could just auto-award a 40 yard change of field position to a team that chooses to "punt". With the above rules, this would lead to a very interesting decision if you were at, say, the 41 yard line facing fourth down--gamble on getting a yard to get a guaranteed point, or guarantee pinning the other team at their 1...

Note that I like kicking, so I wouldn't advocate for this. But if you forced me to get rid of kicking, this is what I would do.

by alpha :: Thu, 05/21/2015 - 11:19pm

Nice. Yeah, I'd watch 73 minutes of curling before that.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 05/22/2015 - 1:12am

Yeah, if the idea is to make the game less gimmicky and tedious, I'm not sure that formulation is the answer! Part of the joy of football is that it's so extremely weird - you can't watch it and pick up the gist of it quickly like with hockey, soccer and basketball. It's arcane and rule-bound and sputtering and just plain strange - that's a lot of the charm of it, not just the athleticism and violence.

It's America's cricket or rugby or jai alai where outsiders are just baffled by what they're seeing - it's not just another "put the ball/puck in the net" game. It has first down markers and batted ball penalties and safeties and endless laterals and illegal forward passes and occasionally kickers. That's what makes it great.

by tuluse :: Fri, 05/22/2015 - 12:52pm

Love that description.

by polyorchid :: Fri, 05/22/2015 - 7:56pm

I appreciate this point of view, and from now on, every time I actually forget to fast-forward through an extra point, or go do something else during an extra point, and find myself staring at one, I will try to remember what you have said. When you start watching at an early age and are immersed in football your whole life, it's easy to lose sight of what you're saying there, and I think it's a good point, I really do, but I don't think I'll be watching many extra point tries.

by Bobman :: Sat, 05/23/2015 - 2:12am

Having read through four days' worth of comments above, I am apparently the only one twisted enough to read the header "Extra Points Will Move to the 15" and wonder how and where exactly FO will move the XP articles. It makes no sense. I can still click on them, right?

And yes, I knew about the PAT moving to the 15, but on this site, reading "extra points," I no longer think pure football, but football as interpreted by FO. Well, the thought only lasted a couple seconds, but it was disorienting to see how my mind was working (or not working). I blame Roger Goodell.

Yes, I am a brainwashed drone whose imaginary best friend is ROBO-PUNTER. I need a life. But in the interim we call off-season, how may I serve you... master?

by MC2 :: Sat, 05/23/2015 - 3:32am

Actually, I thought the same thing for a second.

by nat :: Sat, 05/23/2015 - 7:47am

We gain:
More two point conversion attempts
More blocked or missed extra point kicks
Wacky defensive scoring opportunities a few times a year
Kneel down extra point plays a few times a year

We lose:
Fake kicks
Scores off botched extra point snaps
Drop kicks from two point conversion formations :-)

The league gains:
Ad revenue

While I could do without the defensive scoring stuff and the resulting reason to kneel, it looks like a wash for fans and a gain for league revenue to me.

No big deal, in other words.

by tuluse :: Sat, 05/23/2015 - 11:06pm

You forgot "clean, concise rule" for the lose column.

by nat :: Tue, 05/26/2015 - 3:51pm

I agree. Although it only fails to be clear and concise because of the defensive scoring provision. If it were just doing try-kicks from the fifteen, it would be simple:

Extra points are taken from the fifteen or the two, at the team's option. If taken at the two, kicks do not score any points.

Penalties will get a little weird. But they already are a bit weird for extra points, so that's not really a change.

by mktgdir@gmail com :: Sat, 05/23/2015 - 9:04am

I think one key point which needs to be considered is that the 48% conversion rate for 2-points is the league average. Now that the risk/reward equation has changed with the move to the 15 yard line on kicks, one might consider that teams with a 55% success rate on 2-point conversions would be more inclined to pursue this option than those with a 40% success rate. These 55% coaches will work to find a handful of 2-yard goal line plays with their roster with a 65%+ chance of success for their teams, run them like heck in practice until they're perfected, and strategically pull them out when needed. Two 2-point conversion attempts at 65% success probability leads to 4 points 42.25% of the time, 2 points 45.5% of the time and 0 points only 12.25% of the time. With the new 15 yard line rule on kicks, the success rate of two kicks yielding two points is reduced sufficiently (99%*99% = 98% vs. 93.5%*93.5% = 87%) to make this risk/reward scenario more fruitful for those teams which can master a portfolio of short yardage plays.

by Camille :: Mon, 08/31/2015 - 3:26pm

Coaches probably won't treat it like this immediately, but doesn't this completely flip things and make it the best choice to go for 2 most of the time and only go for 1 in specific game situations? A 2 pt conversion is about a 50% chance, but instead of an almost 100% chance for 1, it's now about 90%. http://www.pulsionerotica.com/video/1645_Amateur-pov-girlfriend-gets-fuc...
I think that's a severely negative change that makes some gimmick 2 point play more valuable and devalues the rest of the football played on the field.