On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: MurphyTakes5@packers.com
At last year's annual NFL meeting, there was a strong feeling among head coaches, general managers and owners that we had to make changes to the extra point. In recent years, kickers have become so accurate (over 99.5-percent accuracy) that the play is nearly automatic and is no longer a competitive play. There was no consensus on how to solve the problem, though, and we decided to conduct two experiments: first was moving the ball back to the 15-yard line on extra points for the first two weeks of preseason games; and second, doing the same for the Pro Bowl while also narrowing the goal posts from 18 feet, 6 inches to 14 feet.
With the ball placed at the 15-yard line, the extra point becomes the equivalent of a 33-yard field goal. Kickers typically make 94 percent of kicks from this range, and our experience in the preseason was consistent with this figure. In the Pro Bowl, the kickers really struggled with the narrow goal posts. I think the consensus was that 14 feet is too narrow.
At this year's annual meeting, the owners went a step further and voted to ask the Competition Committee to further study the issue over the next month and present a recommendation on changes to the extra point to be voted on at the spring league meeting in May. Based on the discussions we had last week regarding the extra point, I think the recommendation will include some combination of the following changes:
- If a team decides to kick the extra point, the ball would be moved to the 15- (or 12-) yard line.
- If a team decides to go for two points, the ball would be placed at the 2-yard line or the yard-and-a-half line.
- Allow the defense to score two points by returning an interception, fumble recovery or a blocked kick.
I think giving teams this option would be good for the game, as more coaches will decide to go for the two points, which will certainly not be an automatic play. We considered putting the ball on the 1, but the concern was that it would favor the offense too much – with offensive players allowed to block within a yard of the line of scrimmage on passes and quarterback sneaks an option from the one.
I don't think the goal posts will be narrowed this year, since this would have an impact beyond the extra point. With the improving accuracy of kickers, though, I think the goal posts will eventually be narrowed, although probably not all the way to 14 feet.
I would be surprised if the extra point is not changed this season. It would be a big change for the league, but one that will add some excitement to what has become a dead play.
Now, on to your questions:
A question from Brian
Instant replay: Here's my suggestion: Everything is reviewable. And all replays are done at actual play speed, just as seen by the official(s). If a change or reversal is evident in "real time," make it. Otherwise, live with the call standing as called. If one needs to slow down the action to see a ball's minute movement, it's hardly irrefutable evidence. Let's get on with the game. It's a game of inches, not microns.
Have you been talking to Bill Belichick, Brian? This is what he proposed this year. His view is that every play of every game is already reviewed, so why not allow coaches to challenge any play. His proposal was not passed, though, due to concerns this would expand replay beyond its original roots by reviewing the subjective decisions of officials. There was also concern it would lengthen the games. The league did take a big step in this direction a few years ago, though, when it decided to review all scoring plays and turnovers.
A question from Jason
Do other sports organizations inquire about how to restructure themselves to become as successful as the Packers? Ex: Brewers, Rattlers, small businesses, etc.
Great question, Jason. We obviously have a unique ownership structure, as we are the only community-owned team in the United States' major professional sports leagues. Also, most professional sports leagues, like the NFL, require a single controlling owner. Still, I do get questions from people within the NFL about certain aspects of our organization. I vividly remember Jerry Jones asking in 2011 how our stock sale worked. The CFL has three community-owned teams – the Edmonton Eskimos, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, and we will periodically get questions from them about our structure. Also, community-owned teams are more common in European soccer and we've had questions from some of these teams.
A question from Ruth
Can you provide an update on what the league is doing to protect players from head injury and its long-term ramifications?
Player safety, particularly as it relates to head injuries, has been a high priority for the NFL for many years. In recent years, we've made a number of rule changes with an eye toward reducing concussions. These changes included further protection for defenseless receivers and moving the kickoff up to reduce the number of kickoff returns. Although it is still too early to draw permanent conclusions, it appears the changes are having a positive impact. Concussions this season were down 25 percent from 2013, and 36 percent from 2012. Also, the owners approved the addition of a medical timeout at last week's meeting. The spotter (a certified athletic trainer located in the press box) will now be able to call down to the field to take a player who appears to be disoriented off the field. We all realize the future of the game will be impacted by how we handle this issue. We have to make the game safer at all levels, not just in the NFL. USA Football, with its "Heads Up Football" program, has done a great job in making the game safer at the youth and high school levels.
John from Ashwaubenon, WI
Is the NFL becoming a television-driven league, and is this good for the game?
There is no question, John, that television plays a very important role in the NFL. Television and the NFL have been great partners for decades, and TV is the main reason the NFL is now the most popular sport. Football is really made for TV with its natural stoppages, strategic decisions and fast action. The television ratings in recent years for the NFL have been outstanding. Last year, 34 of the 35 highest rated shows were NFL games. Over the last 10 years, television ratings overall have dropped 25 percent, but the ratings for NFL games have gone up 25 percent. NFL games are one of the few shows that people watch live anymore, and broadcasters are willing to pay a premium to cover NFL games. As a result, we've seen significant increases in the revenue from new TV deals, and national revenue for teams has been growing at a much faster pace than their local revenue. I think this is good for the game from a competitive parity standpoint. Still, though, the gameday experience has to remain a priority. We don't want attendance to drop off, and the concern long term is that, as the at-home TV experience continues to improve, people will question whether it is worth it to go to the games in person. The league and its teams have been very proactive in this area, and have made a number of changes to improve the experience for fans in the stadium. The improvements we've made to Lambeau Field, (i.e. new sound system, new videoboards, new gates) have all been to improve the fans' gameday experience. For younger fans, WiFi is a huge issue and we've made improving this a top priority.
Bill from Crivitz, WI
I read that the Bills and Jaguars will be playing in an Over the Top broadcast. What the heck is an Over the Top broadcast?
I'd never heard this term either, Bill, until a few weeks ago. An Over the Top broadcast is one that is only available on the Internet (and fans will be able to watch on their computers and various other devices). I think this is really the wave of the future. More and more people are watching games and shows through the Internet rather than traditional TV. The League is viewing this game as an experiment – they will be able to learn quite a bit about the audience for this type of broadcast, as well as who they might be able to partner with on these broadcasts in the future. The broadcast should also help the NFL from an international standpoint. The game will be played in London at 8:30 a.m. CST. This early start will allow more fans throughout Europe and Asia to watch the game. Also, since the game will be available on the Internet, it will be much easier for fans around the world to watch the game than if it were broadcast traditionally. Again, the NFL will learn a lot from this broadcast, and it will be interesting to see how quickly these Over the Top broadcasts grow. Looking to the future, the NFL is well behind other sports in terms of international popularity, and the Over the Top broadcasts present a great growth opportunity for the NFL.