NFL Should Look to Their Roots…Rugby

Posted: January 21, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Rugby conversion taken from tight angle.

Rugby conversion taken from tight angle.

The National Football League’s Commissioner Roger Goodell has hinted that he could see a time when the ‘extra point no longer has a place in the NFL’ and if the league does move to replace the extra point they should look to rugby to find the best way to add excitement and meaning to the point after.

The extra point has become so routine it is the best time for fans to head to the bathroom or grab a hot dog.  Kickers converted 99.6% of the extra points in 2013 (1,178 for 1,183 attempted).

“Are there any plays in the game that really are not consequential?” Goodell said on Yahoo Sports. “You want to add excitement with every play.”

The NFL could look to rugby for answers on how to make every play consequential and with a simple rule change accomplish that goal and it would not require changing the scoring system.

It is hard to argue with the notion of looking to rugby since American football grew out of rugby.  The term touchdown came from rugby; to score in rugby a player literally must ‘touch down’ the ball to score the try and not just reach it over the goal line.  And the line of scrimmage developed from the rugby scrum and the scrummage to win the ball.

In rugby the conversion kick must be taken from a spot on a vertical line out from the place the ball was touched down for the try.  The kicker can decide how far from the goal line he places the ball.

When a try is scored in the center of the endzone it is brought out much like in American football and spotted in the center of the field.  But in the scenario when a try is scored in the corner, the kicker must spot the ball near the sideline with very tight angle.

Kickers would have plenty of new challenges with this rule change.

And teams could be encouraged to go for a 2-point conversion if the angle was too tight or in the event the extra point was being kicked from the side of the field a team’s kicker did not like.

The rule would make plays other than the conversion more exciting as well.  Since where you score a touchdown directly influences the conversion, the decision making process in how a team scores the initial touchdown will be changed.  The risk of a run on a 3rd and 2 may be a better option than taking an easy fade to the corner with a mis-match due to the placement of the resulting conversion.

Should the extra point rule be changed in the NFL?  Should the top domestic American football league look to rugby for the answer on making the conversion more exciting?  Talk about rugby on Rugby Rugby’s facebook page.

  • Matt Manley

    The NFL plays between the hashes. They recenter the ball on every down, so even if they did choose to kick from the relative side of the field, there is no way to fit all those bodies next to the side line, so they will move it to a hash mark on that side. Not very interesting.

    I could only imagine a world in which they made the conversions look exactly like rugby; charge downs and all.

    The role of the kicker would suddenly become far more important and guys like Jonny Wilkinson could kick into his 50s. (In football, it would be his only job)

  • dfleenor2013

    Yes that would be an issue but really only need a guard and tackle on either side so you could pull the conversion out and place 5 yards from sideline to allow room. Teams would need to be able to shift to the one side depending on the spot.

  • ericmarseille

    It’s been years literally that I’ve made my opinion that :

    – In American Football, the extra point should be attempted from a perpendicular to the point where the touchdown was made, just like in rugby (contest allowed, just like in rugby for transformations)

    – In rugby, tries should be scored when the ball has entirely crossed the line, held by an attacking player, with at least one part of his body touching the in goal zone (which symbolically links the ball to the in goal zone), or when pressed on the in goal zone (no need then, the ball being oval, that it is entirely in the in goal zone).
    Also in rugby the transformation should be tried from the perpendicular to the point where the ball crossed the line, not from where it was pressed on the in goal zone (this rule would prevent those ridiculous “return to the center” which are ugly, first, but also lead to a flurry of injuries because the defenders relax first before having to make awkward tackle attempts).

    I’m sure both sports would benefit tremendously from such rules.