Say goodbye to the most ridiculous play in sports – the extra point from the two-yard line, which kickers converted more than 99 percent of the time. “The extra point is a completely useless, boring play in football when guys are making it 100 percent,” says former placekicker Gary Anderson, who, in 1998, became first man in NFL history to nail every field goal and extra point attempt during the regular season. “All of the fans go to the restroom.”
This season, the NFL will implement its biggest rule change in years by moving the kick to the 15-yard line, hoping to encourage more teams to go for the two-point conversion. It’s part of a broader push to protect offensive players – like allowing receivers to protect themselves from contact after catching the ball – and boost scoring (Notably, the new extra-point rule also allows defensive players to return blocked kicks and turnovers for two points.) “How do we create a more exciting play?” asked Rick Smith, the Houston Texans’ general manager, after the league approved the new rule in May.
“It’s going to add a certain level of strategy in the game,” says Anderson, 56, who made 99.2 percent of his extra-point attempts (and 80 percent of his field-goal attempts) during his 23-year career. “The big picture – I see it totally as a positive.”
Yet it’s unclear just how the extra-point change will play out. The new extra-point attempts will be a total of 33 yards, and kickers made 92.8 percent from that distance over the past five seasons. So coaches will have to consider more complicated math after scoring a touchdown: Will dropping the extra-point probability from 99 to 93 percent prompt them to try for a conversion play they make only 48 percent of the time? “It’s not like there’s any advantage. No kicker’s getting any advantage over another,” Anderson says. “That would be my attitude if I was still kicking – ‘I’ll fancy my chances from 33 yards over the guy we’re playing against.'”
Anderson adds, though, that the answer depends on the coach, team and situation. “Let’s say I have Peyton Manning or Tom Brady,” he says. “Maybe I can make those two-point conversions 60 percent of the time.” And, he adds, the NFL could keep moving the line back if the one-year trial run works for the new rule.
“Maybe they’ll get away from the kicking completely,” he says.