The Extra Point: Eliminating Football's Most Boring Play

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Will extra points, like this one taken by Washington kicker Kai Forbath in 2013, become a thing of the past? (Richard Lipski/AP)
Will extra points, like this one taken by Washington kicker Kai Forbath in 2013, become a thing of the past? (Richard Lipski/AP)

There’s football talk aplenty in each tavern, bar, and joint.

The Super Bowl? Nah, that’s not it. They’re talking extra point.

Perhaps because the Super Bowl won’t be played until Feb. 2, this week NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, desperate to keep his sport in the public eye, floated the idea of doing away with the post-touchdown, one-point kick.

Barry Petchesky, who wrote about that possible change for Deadspin this week. Petchesky and NFL long snapper Nick Sundberg, who has just finished his fourth season with Washington, joined Bill Littlefield.

BL: I want to begin with you, Nick. I want to give you the opportunity to make the case for retaining the extra point try, which some people want to eliminate just because they feel it’s become too automatic.

NS: Well, I want to argue for it because the reason it’s become so automatic is because we have been demanded to perform at the highest level on every single snap. Ninety-nine percent isn’t good enough for us. It has to be 100 percent. So what we’ve done is, we’ve risen to the occasion.

We work year-round to become perfectionists at our craft. You know, we take this very, very seriously. There are 32 people in the world who have my job, and I’m lucky enough to be one of them. So saying that, I think Mr. Goodell’s argument that, “Oh, it’s become too automatic; let’s get rid of it,” is a bit disappointing.

BL: So they’re punishing you for getting too good at what you do.

NS: Exactly.

BL: Now I understand that you would be OK with moving the ball back—20, 25 yards, whatever—to make the kick more challenging.

NS: Honestly I wouldn’t mind that. Now, my kicker texts me after the interview I did the other day and said, “50-yard extra points. Are you crazy?”

BL: Barry, Commissioner Goodell’s suggestion was that a touchdown would be worth seven points, rather than six, and then a team could elect to try to run or pass the ball into the end zone. Success would mean they would gain one point for a total of eight. Failure would mean they’d have a point taken away. They’d fall back to six. Tell us about your alternatives to that change.

BP: Roger Goodell’s alternative is boring, and one of my favorite ideas would be to force the player who scored the touchdown to be the one to kick the extra point. I’d love to see an Adrian Peterson or a Tom Brady lining back up there. And, you know what, that would be good press for the kicker. Maybe people would realize that, hey, what they’re doing is a really great skill. And at least Nick would keep his job.

BL: And if the quarterback were the guy to push the ball across the goal line there’d have to be another guy to hold the ball, too, cause that’s often the quarterback’s job.

BP: Oh yeah, it raises all kinds of points of strategy. If you’re calling a play from the goal line, do you call one specifically for whoever the best skill position player kicker on your team is? Does the other team know what’s coming? It opens all these new dimensions that sort of add a new angle to what’s currently the most boring play in football.

BL: Nick, have you been tempted to hang up yet?

NS: No, not at all. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised to see how many guys are actually athletic enough to kick a field goal, one of 10 times. But the only argument I have with that is I don’t think I could ask Robert Griffin to take time out of his day from watching film, from working with receivers, from studying plays, to go kick footballs. To go practice. I think that’s something that would add so much more to what they already have on their plate.

BL: You know, listening to you guys, I wonder if the problem isn’t in labeling. Everybody knows the point after as the “extra point.” What if the NFL started calling it the “critical point” or “the point of no return” since there is no return on an extra point try. Would that resolve the issue, just make it more exciting?

BP: Why do we call him the long snapper? Why don’t we just call him the “awesome snapper?” Anyone can hand it to a quarterback that’s right behind him. We've got to brand this. The "critical point." The "extra cool point." Something like that. But it is critical. Even with or without the name, a point matters.

How many games do you see decided by two, three, four points in a game where there’s four touchdowns scored? These are very much a point. And we need to figure out a way to make it feel as important as it actually is. Nick, you’ve got the job where no one notices you until you screw up. I mean, what’s that like?

NS: I don’t mind it. I don’t think it’s really that big a deal. You know, a lot of people talk about, "Oh there’s so much pressure, stress in your job." But I believe the more you work at something the easier it gets. Hundreds of thousands of times I’ve snapped a football to the point where it’s become second nature. I can do it with my eyes closed.

BL: All right, I want to just get to one final questions guys, and, Barry, I’ll give you the first opportunity to answer it. What’s the likelihood that we will see a change to this rule anytime soon?

BP: I think it’s pretty close to 99.6 percent, which was the rate of extra points completed successfully this past season.

BL: And Nick, what do you think? Is this a change that you’re likely to see soon?

NS: I sure hope not. It’s tough enough being a specialist as it is in the locker room. I hear it all the time: “Your job is so easy. Your job is so easy. Why are you even here?” This would make it even worse, so it’s definitely disappointing that we’re even having to have this conversation.

This segment aired on January 25, 2014.


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