NFL: What Does the 43 Yard Experiment Mean?

Photo Courtesy of Alan Kotok, licensed through Flickr via Creative Commons

Even during the offseason, the NFL finds a way to make the news. The league, in preparation for the 2014-2015 season, is currently hearing proposals on how to fix the extra point. If you don’t know the rules of football, after any touchdown a team may kick a field goal for an extra point, or a PAT (point after touchdown.) Currently, the football is placed as at the second yard line. The NFL may move the ball to the 25th yard line for the extra point. That’s a 23-yard difference. That’s much further.

Why would they do that? It’s because kickers are way, way too good at scoring them right now. According to, kickers converted 99.6 percent of PAT’s last year. That’s almost all of them — all but 5, actually. There’s no excitement. No drama. If kickers have become so good at the extra point, why not just have the touchdown count for seven? NFL head coaches went for the extra kick about 1,200 times more than they attempted a two-point conversion last season (exact numbers: 1267 PAT to 69 2-point attempts) because NFL coaches are much happier with something that gets points 99 percent of the time instead of 50 percent. Go figure.

By moving the PAT line back to the 25 yard line, the league would be introducing a much bigger risk with the extra point — teams took 297 field goals from 40-49 yards last season, and missed 52 — a welcome change from the current system, where when the choice, as a viewer, is between the extra point or the 2-point conversion, the 2-point is going to win every time. It’s more exciting because of the increased risk for failure, and coaches hate it for the same reason. Forcing the coach is forced to pick between the conversion and something that only works about 80 percent of the time sounds much more fun for a fan. Until your team botches the call and the extra point goes wide and you lose the game, of course.

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It’s clear that the NFL isn’t going to leave the extra point alone. Back in the 2013 AFC game, when Wes Welker was busy injuring his old Patriots teammates, Commissioner Roger Goodell let it slip that the league was considering abolishing the extra point all together. “There’s one proposal in particular that I’ve heard about,” he told NBC. “It’s automatic that you get seven points when you score a touchdown, but you could potentially go for an eighth point, either by running or passing the ball, so if you fail, you go back to six.”

That’s a less appealing idea than moving the extra point line back; if you think about it for more than 30 seconds, you’ll realize that it’s effectively the same system as right now, only without the hassle of having the actual kick (99.6 percent on PAT’s is really close to an “automatic seven points.”) The result wouldn’t change anything on the field. While there will always be kickback from the fans who find any kind of change anathema to the ‘spirit of the game,’ remember that the league moved the goal posts to the back of the endzone after the 1973 season.

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