CALGARY — Suddenly, the lowly extra point is a hot topic of conversation.
The conversion conversation was ignited south of the border when National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said his league was considering eliminating the point-after-touchdown.
It turns out the matter has already been mulled over by Canadian Football League decision-makers.
“Our rules committee discussed the idea of eliminating or altering the convert several years ago and as recently as last year,” newly appointed CFL vice-president of officiating Glen Johnson told the Toronto Star this week.
“We plan on continuing to explore this idea, but no change is imminent.”
The “no change is imminent” part is good news to the Stampeders who use their feet to earn a living.
“I think eliminating the extra point is a bad idea,” said placekicker Rene Paredes, who led the CFL in scoring in 2013 — including 49 conversions — and was the league’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.
“I’m trying to look at it not just as a kicker,” he said. “The extra point is how football has always been played. When you think about how long it’s been a part of the game, why change it?
“Then, if I do look at the situation strictly as a kicker — or as a specialist, as Chevy (long-snapper Randy Chevrier) would say — the extra point is 30 per cent of what we do. We don’t want that taken away from us.”
Punter Rob Maver, who was a kicker in university and during his rookie CFL season, was so fired up by the suggestion extra points should be eliminated that he took the time and trouble to sit down and draw up a list of counter-arguments.
“They’re saying it’s an automatic play,” said Maver. “So if they start eliminating extra points, what’s next? Kneeldowns at the end of the game? The exchange between centre and quarterback?
“And it’s not really that automatic. If you have a game riding on a short field goal or an extra point — ask the long snapper or the holder or anybody blocking how automatic it is to try and hold off a 300-pound guy who’s trying to block the kick.”
Maver’s checklist also includes the following points:
* The extra point is a microcosm of the importance of execution in football
* Eliminating the extra point means the disappearance of the strategy of going for the two-point convert late in the game
* Faking a one-point convert and going for two will no longer be possible
* The loss of the extra points at the grassroots would cost young kickers opportunities to develop and hone their technique and would ultimately lead to a decline in the quality of kickers at higher levels. “It would be a trickle-up effect,” said Maver
* At the pro level, not having the opportunity to kick extra points would negatively affect field-goal accuracy. “Extra points are a lower-pressure live reps within the game. It’s a chance for the kicker to get his rhythm,” explains Maver.Supporters of the extra point suggest talk about eliminating the play is a dangerous precedent of unnecessary tinkering.
“If it starts here,” said Maver, “where does it end?”
In some ways, kickers have become the victims of their own success. Only a couple of extra points are missed in any given season and the percentage for field-goal kicking has continually climbed, with Paredes setting a new CFL single-season record of 94.7 per cent in 2013.
“As a specialist, you’re striving for perfection and now it seems you’d be being punished for trying to achieve it,” said Paredes.
And when the so-called automatic extra point goes awry, the consequences can be dramatic. And memorable.
Maver points to the 2000 Orange Bowl, where Michigan beat Alabama in overtime because of missed extra point by the Crimson Tide.
In 2003, the New Orleans scored an improbable touchdown with multiple laterals on the last play of the game, only to lose by a point — and get eliminated from the playoffs — when the extra point was missed.
Closer to home, a blocked extra point by Keon Raymond in the 2012 Western Semi-Final at McMahon Stadium helped the Stamps knock off the Roughriders. Instead of Saskatchewan taking a 17-14 lead, Fred Bennett took the loose ball the other way for two points that tied the game at 16-16.
Calgary then took the ball on the ensuing kickoff and moved into position for a go-ahead 50-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
“That completely turned the momentum around,” said Paredes of the extra-point block. “It was such a huge play and it played a big part in allowing us to win that day.”
“I just hope they leave the extra point alone,” said Maver. “It’s not hurting anyone, is it? The whole idea is just outrageous.”