Inside Slant: FGs almost automatic, too

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's suggestion for eliminating extra points makes perfect sense and, if anything, is long overdue. For me, the real question is whether the undeniable elevation in place-kicker accuracy merits a larger overhaul of the kicking game.

We'll get to that thought in a moment. But first, as you might have heard, NFL kickers converted all but five of their 1,267 extra-point attempts in the regular season. Of course, that conversion rate of 99.8 percent isn't much better than it was, say, 12 years ago. In 2001, all but 19 of 1,027 extra-points were converted for a 98.1 percentage. In other words, extra points had been near-automatic for a long time.

One proposal making the rounds, according to Goodell, is to give teams the full seven points for a touchdown. The team could turn down that seventh point in exchange for a two-point conversion opportunity, in which case they would get a total of eight points if they make it but six if they do not.

It's debatable how often teams would take that option. Despite the overall increase in offensive efficiency over the past decade, there hasn't been a net gain in either two-point conversion attempts or success rate. The chart provides a 12-year snapshot. Coaches have continued to take the near-automatic extra point, and it's hard to imagine them increasing their risk tolerance if the NFL makes it a literal gift.

Goodell's interest in extra points stems from a desire to make every play exciting, of course, and one day you wonder if he'll hit the same breaking point with field goals.

There has been a tremendous jump in accuracy over the past decade, and already there are some calls for at least making the average kick more difficult. (Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger argued recently for narrowing the distance between the uprights, which has stood at 18 feet, 3 inches for almost a century.)

Check out these numbers:

  • In 2001, NFL place-kickers converted 76.3 percent of their attempts. That included 52.1 percent of attempts from at least 50 yards.

  • In 2013, those conversion rates rose to 86.5 percent and 67.1 percent.

  • The two Super Bowl place-kickers, Matt Prater (Denver Broncos) and Steven Hauschka (Seattle Seahawks) combined to convert 58 of their 61 attempts this season. That's 95 percent, and it includes 9 of 10 conversions from at least 50 yards.

The field goal is now creeping close to the near-automatic status of extra points, and it's not just from close range. In 2013, NFL place-kickers converted 89.7 percent of their kicks between 18 and 49 yards. So already, we're seeing nine out of every 10 reasonable field goals being converted and two out of every three from 50 and beyond.

We've already seen the NFL start the process of eliminating kickoffs, mostly for safety reasons, and the league would be justified in doing away with extra points as well. The next big frontier is field goals, and it's only a matter of time before they are addressed as well.

All numbers courtesy ESPN Stats & Information.