The Issue With Extra Points

Jacob Myers

Zane Gonzalez was an 80 percent kicker in college at Arizona State, so it would make sense for him to be a solid NFL kicker. He was picked up by the Browns to replace Cody Parkey, who went 20/25 on field goals and 20/21 on extra points in the season prior. Those numbers aren’t amazing, but they’re surely not bad. Zane Gonzalez came into the season with somewhat high expectations. The Browns were coming off a let-down 1-15 season where they could use a boost at nearly any position, including kicker. Yet, in the next season, he did little to improve on anything Parkey had set before.

Gonzalez took five fewer field goals then Parkey, yet he missed the same amount. Going 15/20, it was surely time for another player to take over. Yet, he stayed. And that is where we find ourselves now. In week two, Gonzalez went 0/2 on extra points and 2/4 on field goals, and it can be easily inferred that he lost the game for the Browns. I may be a little bit swayed being a Browns fan, but it is understandable that Gonzalez, even after the last two games, was a major reason as to why the Browns lost.

That brings us to why this all matters. Why does Zane Gonzalez leaving 11 points off the scoreboard over two games matter? Well, it shows how kicking in the NFL shouldn’t influence how a game turns out. Games should not be won and lost in the NFL based on how many extra points a kicker misses. I fully understand why the NFL moved the extra point back from the two-yard line, but now it seems ridiculous that games are coming down to how many kicks are being missed rather than how many touchdowns a team scores.

Take Steelers against Browns, week one. A game where two missed field goals made more of a difference than a last-minute touchdown by Josh Gordon in the end result. Chris Boswell, as well as Zane Gonzalez, both missed a field goal in overtime to give their teams the win and the game ended in a tie. Tyrod Taylor’s beautiful touchdown pass to Josh Gordon in the ending seconds meant little to nothing to any fan, as it was overshadowed by the botched kicking.

Kicking is unnecessary in the NFL. More specifically, extra points. Field goals are fine given that the game shouldn’t purely end based on touchdowns, as that would make the game exciting but also repetitive. It’s exciting to see a kicker make a 50 or more yard field goal, or a walk-off field goal to win the game. Yet, extra points don’t add any excitement to the game unless they’re missed or blocked. Games should not be decided purely based on if a kicker misses an extra point, but rather off of a key play or a missed block. Those types of finishes are much more exciting than missing an extra point.

Three years ago, the NFL attempted to make extra points more exciting by moving the ball back from the two-yard line to the 15. In 2017 alone, kickers across the NFL missed 68 extra points, with only three teams making every single attempt (Atlanta, Miami and Carolina). Dallas had the worst percentage made among all teams, with below an 83 percent extra point conversion rate (29/35.) Yet, when kickers attempted field goals from within 5 yards of the old extra point distance in 2017, not a single field goal was missed. Also, due to moving the distance back, trick kicking plays essentially disappeared. Who is there to kick/hold that will have to throw a dart 30 yards in the end zone with extreme accuracy? And do all of that for two points? The NFL could fix this by making it a three-point conversion, or the kicker could take a 40+ yard shot for a field goal instead of an extra point to award three points. These ideas are all more exciting than a simple extra point.

If you were to interview any football fan (that wasn’t associated with kicking at some point) about what their favorite part of football is, little to no one will say that extra point kicking is their favorite, so why have it be such an integral part of the game? We all know that the NFL is trying to market to every audience and reinstate itself as the marquee American sports league over the NBA. What better way is there to do that than to take out the parts of the game when most fans aren’t watching? Keep the exciting parts of the game right in front of the viewers for as long as possible, and get rid of the single point scores.

All in all, an extra point should not seal the fate of a team. The money is where the action is, and the NFL knows that. Only a few steps need to be taken to give viewers (more specifically Browns and Vikings fans) a game where they don’t have to worry about if their kicker can make a 30-yard single point, and if their quarterback and defense can help the team win. No offense to Zane Gonzalez, but the quarterback who threw a touchdown in overtime to win the game should be trending on Twitter instead of the kicker who missed an extra point in regulation that forced the extra period.