Changing the PAT

Both Deadspin and Peter King had pieces discussing possible changes to the nearly automatic PATs in the NFL. It seems like one possibility involves moving the PAT kick back to the 15 yard line, effectively making it a 32 yard field goal. According to the Deadspin article this drops the predicted success rate from 99.6% to around 90%. If an average teams scores about 40 touchdowns a year that would mean about 4 missed extra points. That might be enough to swing the outcome of a one game per team per year. Is that enough?

The more drastic changes would either be to do away with the extra point completely, or make more radical changes that could significantly increase the impact of the play. An example of a radical change would be some sort of variable point system based on the distance and the way the conversion is attempted. Kicking from the 10 yard line might be worth one point, while kicking from the 30 yard line might be worth 3. Running a regular play from the 5 might be worth 2 points while a regular play from 15 might be worth 5. This would all sorts of new strategy to the game, but probably would upset “purists” a bit too much.

Moving the spot for kicking back, which is what is actually being thrown around, might increase the number of two point attempts, but probably not by a significant margin.

It also might just make sense to eliminate the point after try all together. At a 99.6% success rate, and again assuming that the average team scores around 40 touchdowns a year, that only equates to around 5–6 missed extra points per season, or about one per about every 50 games. The odds of a missed extra point actually factoring in to the outcome of a game at this point is so minuscule. In the name of “player safety” it would certainly make sense to eliminate the extra 6 or so times a game players are awkwardly trying to block a kick. It seems unlikely that most fans would miss this at all.

It is very clear that something has to change. Either eliminate something that adds no value, or make it valuable by increasing the reward and difficulty.