Extra-Point Experiment a Fruitless One for NFL

With only one second on the clock Friday night inside the Edward Jones Dome, Greg Zuerlein lined up for a 59-yard game-winning field goal attempt from the Saints’ 41-yard line.

One of the reasons why it was a potential game-winning attempt for Zuerlein is because his counterpart, New Orleans’ Shayne Graham, missed an extra-point attempt following a Khiry Robinson 1-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. And the only reason why Graham missed the extra point (besides the fact that he hit the left upright, of course), was because the NFL is toying with a moronic new experiment in preseason.

Greg Zuerlein
Zuerlein (R) runs through drills at training camp

Due to extra points becoming a near guarantee for kickers over the years, the NFL has decided to move point-after attempts back to the 25-yard line for preseason play this year. In Week 1, only two kickers – Graham and Carolina’s Jordan Gay – missed extra points, which would lead some to conclude that moving point-after attempts back isn’t that big of a deal. (This is assuming that you’re someone who believes in small sample sizes.)

But since when did the extra point become such a hot-button issue for the NFL? When was the last time anyone paid $80.00-plus for a ticket to watch a kicker? (No offense, “Greg the Leg.”)

And when did the league decide that putting more emphasis on the kicking game was a smart idea? This seems like a step in a strange direction.

Let’s play this out for a second. Let’s say that the NFL adopts this new rule and moves the extra point back to the 25-yard line full-time. And let’s say that it’s Week 17 and the Rams have an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with a victory over the Seahawks in Seattle. The Rams are down by seen with two minutes remaining, and Sam Bradford and Co. start on their own 6-yard line. Bradford then leads the Rams on a season-defining drive that eclipses every second of those two minutes, and he winds up drilling a pass to Kenny Britt between two defenders for a touchdown. All the Rams have to do is kick an extra point to tie the score and send the game into overtime.

But Zuerlein misses. Season over. Because of an extra point.

Now, I realize that I’m overstating things in this scenario. For starters, no game is ever won or lost on one play. I get that. Plus, from a general fan’s standpoint, moving the extra-point attempt back would only add to the drama at the end of the game, not take it away.

But in that same scenario that I outlined above, the NFL is essentially telling its fans that Bradford’s clutch drive is equal to a 33-yard extra point attempt by Zuerlein that’s only worth one point. How does that make sense?

Here’s another thing to consider: What if Britt is flagged for excessive celebration using the same hypothetical scenario above? What, does Zuerlein have to attempt a 47-yard extra point now? That’s ridiculous.

The NFL has an outstanding product. The game alone is a draw to millions of people, but it also has a bevy of stars to whom fans are attracted every Sunday. None of those stars include kickers. (Again, sorry, Greg Zuerlein.) So why put any more emphasis on kickers than need be? Why even flirt with turning such a gimmick into a full-fledged league reality in 2015?

Quite frankly, I don’t care that the extra point is virtually a guarantee in today’s NFL. And while I credit the league for not being complacent, putting extra points on steroids does nothing to improve the game. In my eyes, it only serves to put unneeded emphasis on a play that most of us use to run to the bathroom so we don’t miss anything important.

More: Pros and Cons of Rams’ Debut vs. Saints