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NFL Gets New PAT Rules Wrong

The NFL announced changes to the way extra points will be attempted starting this coming season. But will it really add more excitement and unpredictability to the play?

The NFL changed the format of the extra point attempt at the owners’ meeting Tuesday, as per USA TODAY. Under the new rule, the extra point attempt will be moved to the 15-yard line, basically making it a 33-yard field goal, while allowing the defense to score 2 points if they return a blocked attempt to the opposite endzone. The two-point conversion will remain the same.

But why?

New PAT Rules Miss the Mark

The common reasons cited for the switch are injuries between aggressive linemen along with it being a wasted play.

As far as the injury concerns go, yes, that’s a valid concern. According to this flyer published by the NCAA that recorded data from the 2004 to 2009 seasons, special team plays account for 13.6% of all competition injuries. That’s a disproportionately high number for a unit that is only on the field for a few plays per game.

But the new rules don’t make the game any safer. The kicks will still happen at about the same rate they always have. Just because the kicks are longer doesn’t mean they’re any safer. In fact, there is probably a greater chance of injury as the longer kicks are more likely to go awry, meaning that the opposing team will try harder in an attempt to block the kicks, leading to more injuries. As far as safety goes, the new rules don’t make the game of football any safer.

The main reason the NFL owners voted to change the PAT was the fact that fans were getting bored with the former way. After a player scored the touchdown, the special teams unit would meander onto the field and kick an extra point that was rarely missed. Then there’d be a commercial break after which a kickoff would go for a touchback, and then back to commercials again before the offense trotted back onto the field.

Television producers killed the old system with their constant commercial breaks, leaving the common fan enough time after every touchdown to head to the bathroom, take a nap, and/or raise a family. It was too much, so, by making the PAT more exciting, hopefully fans will remain engrossed in the action.

But it’s still not more exciting.

The old way of kicking PATs from the two-yard line was basically automatic, with a success rate of 99.5 percent. 33-yard field goals, which is what the new system amounts to, were slightly less successful, with a success rate between 93 and 94 percent.

That’s only a slight difference as 33-yard field goals are still basically automatic. Even worse, expect that accuracy percentage to increase due to kickers becoming more specialized at kicking 33-yard field goals, just as they have mastered touchbacks. Kickers who can’t reliably make the new PAT won’t remain in the league for long, and it’s only a matter of time before that 93 percent accuracy rate will be hovering around 97 percent.

It all adds up to a subtle tweak that won’t change anything. The game will still be boring for about five minutes after every touchdown.

The NFL tried; they really did. And they deserve credit for that.

But not too much credit. The new extra point format doesn’t change much. The system generally needed an overhaul, and it didn’t get one. It’s like getting a new paint job on a car that needs a new transmission. It’s a start but it doesn’t fix the problem.

If the NFL really wanted to fix the problem, they should have taken the Philadelphia Eagles’ suggestion and moved the 2-point conversion to the one-yard line. While it disrupts the symmetry of a yard-per-point, it’d make the game a lot more exciting. Touchdowns from the one-yard line, which is what the proposed two-point conversion would basically be, had a 57.5% success rate last year. There’d be some exciting football being played as teams would go for two more often.

Besides, if nothing else, it might help Tim Tebow keep a job in the NFL as a two-point conversion specialist. That’s a guaranteed way to add excitement to the NFL.

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