Just three years after moving the kickoff spot to the 35-yard line, rendering most kick returns as moot, the league is looking at eliminating the extra point at some point in the future … perhaps the very near future.
The position of kicker in the NFL has always been critical (Scott Norwood is no Adam Vinatieri when it comes to clutch Super Bowl kicks), but underappreciated in the NFL. Kickers used to be position players who could also kick the ball. Even pure kickers weren't held to a very high standard for success. Longtime Viking Fred Cox made just 62 percent of his career field goals. A number like that would have a kicker out of work forever in the modern era.
Kickers have adapted to the changes made in the NFL. They got so good at kickoffs, the kickoff line was moved from the 40-yard line to the 35- and eventually the 30-yard line before concerns about injuries on kickoffs got the mark pushed back to the 35-yard line in hopes of having more touchbacks. Mission accomplished.
Appearing with Rich Eisen on NFL Network Monday, Commissioner Roger Goodell hinted that the Competition Committee might consider a proposal to eliminate the extra point as we know it. Goodell observed that 1,256 of the 1,261 extra point attempts last season were made, claiming that somehow that success rate is something bad for the league.
Goodell went one step further, coming up with a potential alternative to the extra point that would seemingly keep the system essentially the same, but simply eliminate the extra point as part of the game.
"The extra point is almost automatic," Goodell said. "I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200-some-odd. It's a very small fraction of the play and you want to add excitement with every play. There's one proposal in particular that I've heard about. 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."
While it doesn't sound like much, it's yet another change designed to marginalize special teams. Rules have been changed to almost prohibit teams from blocking extra points. Discussions have taken place to eliminate kickoffs, which can provide some of the most exciting, game-changing plays in the game. Now they're looking at eliminating extra points. It would seem the kickers and kickoff returners are becoming endangered species in the NFL.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.