When NFL owners voted to move the extra-point attempt back 13 yards this season, a lot of fans probably didn’t think it would matter all that much.
Steve Weatherford, however, knew better.
“Well, I knew a lot of people sitting on the couch were like, ‘Oh, this is the NFL. You move it back a few yards. What’s the big deal?’” the Super Bowl champion punter said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “But I’ll tell you what: The degree of difficulty and the margin for error has increased by double. I think we’ve seen that already in four-and-a-half weeks. Guys are struggling. It’s no longer a play as an NFL kicker when you walk out there (and do it without thinking about it). You’re not going through the motions anymore. It’s not just a chip shot. It’s not a 20-yard field goal anymore. Instead of them snapping the ball from the 2-yard line, they’re moving that back an entire first down plus some. So the degree of difficulty is raised.”
Kickers have been less effective this season kicking both extra points and field goals. In fact, several kickers, including Josh Scobee, have already been released.
“If you look at the struggles from NFL kickers just in general, I think it has not only made the extra point more difficult, but a lot of times NFL kickers like to get out there for either a kickoff or an extra point as their first play of the game because that kind of gets your jitters out,” Weatherford said. “It kind of gets your mojo going a little bit. And when these guys are unable to really kind of get a confidence kick in there . . . as we have seen, the success rate is miserably low this time of year.”
Damon Amendolara believes kickers used to treat extra points almost like practice putts, but now we’re seeing kickers miss chip-shot field goals.
Is that linked to the higher degree of difficulty for extra points?
“One hundred percent,” Weatherford said. “It’s not something where you can go out and mentally be like, ‘All right, let’s get this extra point in and now let me start my game. Let me get ready for 42- or 52- or a 48-yard field goal.’ Now you’re going out there and you’re hitting a 38-yard field goal right out of the jump. It’s much more difficult because you don’t get to boost your confidence with that gimme kick. I think that has not only affected the success percentage of the extra point, but it’s also affected the success percentage of field goals in general because the kickers aren’t able to get out there and boost their confidence with that quote-unquote practice putt or practice kick.”
When watching NFL games at home, Weatherford used to go to the bathroom or grab food or a drink after a team scored a touchdown. The extra point was so automatic that he felt there was no need to watch it.
“You can’t do that anymore,” Weatherford said. “People are missing them now. It’s such an important part of the game because 79 percent of NFL victories are won or lost by three or less points. So if you think about that on average, teams are scoring 2.9 touchdowns per game, so let’s just go ahead and round it up and call it three. Well, there’s your three points right there. Those are three extra points on the three touchdowns.
“So the game is definitely evolving, changing,” Weatherford continued. “It’s also valuing the kicker much more than what it did before. They’re not hitting these easy extra points anymore. You need a savvy kicker in there. You can’t roll the dice on these young kickers anymore like you used to. You got to think twice before you’re like, ‘I don’t know if I want to pay this guy who’s in his ninth year $2.5 million to kick field goals for me because I can get a rookie for $400,000.’ That rookie is not going to be ready for what he’s about to be thrown into because you don’t kick those. You kick regular extra points when you’re in college.”