By Paul Wanecski
The NFL has made it a habit this last decade to capitalize on the television market. So much so that they have structured the game to advertise and merchandise the NFL product more effectively than any sport in the history of television. Tremendous strides have made the NFL the most profitable organized sport in the United States. Sometimes they forget the simple stuff.
Last year, an extra point kick was missed 7 times, a play that the NFL has long seen as automatic. With the recent rule changes to the point after attempt (PAT), the line of scrimmage following a touchdown is being moved back to the 15 yard line (the math to figure out the length of the field goal is this: The end zone is 10 yards deep and the ball when kicked is snapped to the holder 7 yards behind the line, so every kick you add 17 yards) making for a 32 yard attempt for one point. The NFL also adapted something found in the NCAA, which was that a defense can now score two points if they recover the ball following a blocked kick or failed two-point conversion and return it to their own end zone. The most intriguing thing about this addition is that they made one glaring error with instituting this new standard; what happens with a penalty following a touchdown like “excessive celebration”?
Before we get any deeper, reviewing the rules as they stand, the NCAA and the NFL really do not see eye to eye on how penalties following a touchdown are handled. According to RuleTool.com:
Rule 10: When a foul(s) occurs after a touchdown and before the ball is ready for play on the try or there was a live-ball foul treated as a dead-ball foul on the touchdown play, enforcement is on the try or the succeeding kickoff, at the option of the offended team. If there is no kickoff, the accepted penalty is enforced on the try (A.R. 3-2-3-V).
Via NFL.com, they state a rule on a point after attempt as:
Penalty Enforced on Following Kickoff
Basically, the NCAA allows for the offended team to select if the penalty will be assessed on the point-after attempt or on the ensuing kickoff. The NFL doesn’t do that. According to current NFL rules, a penalty like unsportsmanlike conduct will be assessed on the ensuing kickoff. The offended team has no option to accelerate this penalty on the point-after try, which now creates a gigantic gap in the rule book. So, with the rule as it stands, the team penalized is allowed that standard attempt to score points where the team offended is granted the opportunity to return a kick.
Imagine a scoring team gets hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following a touchdown. Under current NFL rules, the point-after attempt (regardless if it is an extra-point or two-point conversion attempt) would happen without penalty and the yardage of the penalty would be placed on the kickoff. If they were to adopt the NCAA rule where the offended team were to choose which of the next two plays that penalty is assessed, you could be looking at a 47 yard extra-point attempt (with the new rule, the PAT is placed on the 15 yard line, the penalty would add an additional 15 yards which would be placement of the ball on the 30 yard line, add the 17 yards per kick and you get the 47) or a 17 yard two-point conversion attempt. What is the reason for the rule to force the penalty on the kickoff when if placed on the point-after attempt, a penalty like unsportsmanlike conduct would now directly impact the team instead of being an afterthought? Since the NFL has moved the ball for kickoffs to the 35 yard line, touchbacks are a common part of the game. Moving the ball back to the 20 yard line would allow for a team to attempt a kick return but that also creates a possession where the kicking team could recover the ball and possibly score six points. So by not adapting the assessment of penalties following a touchdown to the point-after attempt, the NFL seems to be more in favor of creating a situation where the penalized team could possibly score six points on the ensuing kickoff instead of creating a more likely scenario of the offended team score two points on a turnover during the point-after attempt.
The NFL sure is one confusing organization.