When the NFL spring meetings get underway in San Francisco on May 18, the league's 32 owners will vote on three proposed rule changes that would change the extra point and the two-point conversion.
Today, teams can kick an extra point from the 2-yard line to make touchdowns effectively worth seven points. This is such an automatic thing that it's more of a formality to bring out the kicking unit for an easy point that has a success rate surpassing 99 percent most seasons.
Or, said team can go for a two-point conversion from the 2-yard line. The two-point conversion had a 47.5 percent success rate (27 of 56) in 2014. Only four seasons since 1994 have produced a conversion rate of at least 50 percent.
Given the numbers above, it just makes sense to go for the safe extra point as opposed to the two-point conversion, in most circumstances. But what if the extra point wasn't so safe? And what if the two-point conversion was easier?
These proposed rule changes are all similar, but here the specifics for each one:
1. The New England Patriots submitted a proposal that would have the ball snapped from the 15-yard line if a team decides to kick the extra point -- making the kick a 33-yard attempt. The two-point conversion is unaffected here.
2. The Philadelphia Eagles submitted a proposal that's similar in that the extra point would be moved to the 15-yard line, but there are two distinct differences: The two-point conversion would be attempted from the 1-yard line as opposed to the 2-yard line, and the defense would be able to score on a turnover. That includes on potentially blocked extra points. Safeties award two points.
3. The last proposal is similar to the Eagles' proposal and comes from the competition committee. It's the same as Philadelphia's proposal save for the two-point conversion, which would still be played from the two-yard line if this one were to pass. Safeties award one point.
For any of these three proposals to pass, 24 of the 32 NFL owners have to back them. It's unclear what's favored at this point, but which one would be the best for the league, really? Which one would create the most excitement while remaining competitively balanced?
The first proposal changes things the least and that might actually appeal to NFL teams. Typically, things in the NFL get done on an iterative basis, with too much change in a given offseason generally considered a bad thing. New England's plan is to simply make the extra point tougher. A 33-yard field goal isn't exactly impossible, but it's not exactly automatic.
If you're looking to spice up the extra point, then this is the proposal for you. It could lead to an increased number of two-point conversions, and it can also lead to a whole lot of teams losing games by a single point due to a missed extra point. On top of that, moving the extra point at all could drastically increase the value of kickers in the NFL.
Proposal No. 2 basically takes all of the changes suggested and melds them into one. Moving the two-point conversion to the 1-yard line is a lot more significant than you might think. While the two-point conversion carried a 47.5 percent success rate last season, teams found a lot more success from the 1-yard line during normal drives.
Last season, teams had a 57.5 percent success rate both rushing and throwing for touchdowns from the 1-yard line, according to stats gathered by the Boston Globe. That's a significant difference, and if you couple that with the extra point also being moved back, we could see a much higher percentage of teams going for two.
That would still carry the same negatives as any, though. It's a calculated risk, but teams that play it safe could wind up losing plenty of one-point games.
One interesting aspect of the second and the third proposals is making the ball live for extra point or two-point conversions. This means a fumble, interception of blocked kick wouldn't immediately call the play dead. Every football fan has had that moment where they see a two-point conversion picked off and wonder why the defender isn't doing anything with the football. It's never really made any sense that defenses couldn't score on that kind of play.
One thing to note with this rule is that any scores by the defense are worth two points, which might be a solid compromise for teams not wanting to change too much.
The third proposal is much like the Eagles' plan, save for the two-point conversion remaining at the 2-yard line. Depending on how much change the league is willing to deal with, this could be easier to swallow. It makes things more interesting from a defensive perspective and makes the extra point not as automatic. One key difference is what happens when either team records a safety.
We're not likely to see this happen much, but with the second proposal, if the defense recovers the ball outside of the end zone and then runs back into it and is tackled, the offense is awarded two points. Under the committee's proposal, the team that scores the safety is awarded a single point.
There are minor differences in all of these, but each and every rule could have a massive impact on the game going forward. It will be interesting to see what comes out of those meetings.