While the NFL has some character flaws in the aftermath of domestic abuse, drug suspensions, Deflategate, and its tone-deaf fumbling of whatever comes next, the league continues to show that it knows what fans wants. And how to give it to them.
And now one of the most boring plays in football just got a lot more interesting.
The NFL will move extra points back to the 15-yard line this season, making the actual distance 32 yards — no longer just a chip shot for kickers. But two-point conversions will continue to be played from the 2-yard line, enticing some daring coaches to go for two like the Food Network has lured many health-conscious viewers off summer beach diets.
Extra points after touchdowns had become an unspoken signal to viewers and spectators that was time to hit the bathroom, grab a fresh beer, or get another helping of liquid cheese on their nachos. Texans GM Rick Smith called the old extra point a "ceremonial" play. On the rare occasion, depending on the score, the clock, or the coach's testicular fortitude, you would get a two-point try. The new rule was ratified by a 30-2 vote by NFL owners.
"The league simply wanted to make it a meaningful competitive play," Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis told denverbroncos.com. "They succeeded in doing that by moving the kick back to the 15, where the percentage is obviously slightly less in terms of the number of kicks that are made than they were at the [2-yard line] and perhaps incentivizing coaches to go for two a few more times during games and also raising the intrigue of the play."
With the rule change, the potential for more exciting two-point attempts has been beefed-up. Teams will still get the ball at the 2-yard line, but the league mixed in a new wrinkle this week by adding that defenses also have a chance to steal those points on returned blocks, fumbles, and picks on the play. In the past, turnovers and blocks ended the play immediately.
The new rule also places even more importance on the role of the kicker, a player overlooked and under-appreciated despite the weight he often has in the final outcome. Think about it: The only time you really care about the kicker is when he comes in with the game on the line and nails a winning field goal with little time left on the clock. Outside of the quarterback, no single player on the field has as much impact on victory or defeat, and the new rule will make the loveless job that much more stressful.
Of course, hitting an extra point from 13 yards further back won't immediately change the role of the kicker. But moving it back adds a little more spice to what had been the most boring play in the game. And if the new rule keeps more eyeballs on the product for a few extra seconds each Sunday, the NFL will have accomplished its goal.
Now if it can just do something about those insufferable sideline reporters…
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