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It's about time for the NFL to give extra-point tries the boot

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SEATTLE — It's time for the NFL to kick the extra point to the curb.

In a league where the pinnacle is Super, the point after touchdown is entirely superfluous.

What play, other than the clock-killing kneel down, is so virtually automatic? There were 1,191 extra-point tries during the 2013 regular season, and four misses, all of which were blocked, one each by Chicago, Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Detroit.

For millions of viewers, the PAT is nothing more than time to get up and stretch, head to the bathroom, maybe channel surf.

So it was welcome news this week when Commissioner Roger Goodell told NFL Network that this off-season the league's competition committee will look into abolishing the extra point. The concept would be to make all touchdowns worth seven points, and teams that go for what's now a two-point conversion would either gain or lose a point, making the score worth eight or six.

Goodell acknowledged there's likely to be pushback, as there always is from football purists, and said a concern is, "Is that going to discourage people from going for two?"

I don't think it will have any effect. The equation doesn't change. Teams that fail on conversions now wind up with six points, and they choose to go for two because they want that additional point, not because they're worried they'll miss a PAT try.

One complication to dumping the play is the NFL will need to carve out a little extra time for TV to show replays of the touchdown. The PAT gives networks that time now.

"Otherwise, I don't think anybody would miss it," said Fred Gaudelli, producer of NBC's "Sunday Night Football." "Come on. The philosophy of going for two doesn't change."

Well, maybe some people would miss it. No player wants his role further minimized, so kickers wouldn't be happy about the league scrapping extra points.

San Francisco's Phil Dawson tweeted: "Eliminate PATs? Success rate too high? QBs better be careful. The forward pass is becoming increasingly efficient. # penalize progress."

It's understandable that kickers might hate the idea. Nobody wants their job to become less relevant, and extra points give them an extra leg swing and another chance to test the snap-hold-kick operation. Who wouldn't want to make a few layups before shooting that 20-foot jump shot?

The downside of extra points for kickers is they are absolutely expected to make them. If a guy makes 30 in a row, it's … yawn. If he misses one, though, he's a goofball.

"If you miss one of those," retired kicker Michael Husted said, "it's a cardinal sin."

Yes, every so often lightning strikes.

In 2007, New Orleans was trailing at Jacksonville, 20-13, and scored an unbelievable, multi-lateral, 75-yard touchdown in the final seconds. The clock expired during the play. It was one for the ages, the NFL's answer to "The Play" in the 1982 California-Stanford game.

All Saints kicker John Carney had to do was make the extra point.

And he missed it wide right.

But that's a once-in-a-decade gaffe in the NFL, if that.

Missing a PAT is like tossing a coin and having it land on its edge.

"It's virtually automatic," said New England Coach Bill Belichick, whose kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, was 44 for 44 on PAT tries this season. "That's just not the way the extra point was put into the game. It was an extra point that you actually had to execute, and it was executed by players who were not specialists, they were position players.

"It was a lot harder for them to do. The Gino Cappellettis of the world and so forth, and they were very good. I don't think that's really a very exciting play because it's so automatic."

But he has another argument for tossing the play, a more compelling one. It's another opportunity for injuries. Star Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a broken forearm last season while blocking on an extra-point try when the Patriots were up by 35 points.

Talk about a waste. Give that play the boot.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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