Over the past week, the NFL convened in Phoenix for its annual meetings to discuss a myriad of topics. One topic that got my attention, perhaps more than any other was the potential change to the standard point after touchdown.
We know how it goes currently - score a touchdown, line up for, essentially, a 19 yard field goal. Kickers make that in their sleep (26 NFL kickers made 100% of their XPT last year) and it's more afterthought than anything else. Down by seven, it's nearly automatic. Down by eight, it's time to score and go for two but not until it's late in the game. As such, it's a pretty easy decision for the most part. Coaching mantra says take the points; don't chase them.
But, what if the choice is to have ball is moved to the one yard line (or 1.5) vs. an extra point kick from snapped from the 15 yard line (essentially a 32 yard field goal)? Apparently, those proposals are now on the table for consideration. How does that change a coach's decision-making process?
Coaches are typically risk aversive and when given a more conservative route, they're going to take it. But, the change is going to test NFL coaches belief in mathematics/percentages/gut feel.
According to Alex Speier of Pro-Football-Reference.com, in 2014, teams scored a TD 57.5% of the time (run or pass) and over the past three seasons, they scored a TD 55.1% of the time.
The top ten kickers hit 90.1% of their kicks from 30-39 yards. It's not a perfect measurement as some were less than 35, some longer, but in general that exact percentage is less than 100%.
So, based on last year's percentages, 100 extra point attempts from the one "going for two" would yield 116 (rounding up) and 100 extra point "field goal" attempts would yield 90 points. That's a difference in 26 points, just under a two point difference per game in a 16 game season.
That's a lot of math to consider and for coaches that coach the game based on feel, it's going to make them very uncomfortable. It'll take some getting used to in keeping the offense out on the field for a two point attempt each and every TD, but current history (and math) says to go for two each time.
It may sound radical to some, but it's just change and it's applied mathematics. It's certainly not as "radical" as Pulaski Academy HS (Arkansas) head coach Kevin Kelley's philosophy.
No punts. Ever.
No traditional kickoffs. Ever. All onside kicks.
Kelley studied percentages long ago and found that the percentage chance of making a fourth down attempt v. the other team scoring inside his 40-yard line favored going for it.
Sure, it's high school. Sure, millions of dollars aren't at stake. But, Kelley stuck with his philosophy and it's produced championship after championship. He's gone for it from his own one yard line often. Once in a game on statewide TV vs. a much larger school, his team jumped out to a 29-0 lead before the other team ran an offensive play. He has critics, and many of them, yet he's right. When he says why he does it and explains it with the numbers, it's hard to argue. Yet, people disagree. Why?
Because...well, it's different.
What will people say this fall when the NFL does something different? I can't wait; this is long overdue.