Artificially inflating the challenge of an extra point is pointless

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL will experiment this preseason by moving extra points back to the 20-yard line, making it a 37-yard attempt. Considering the value of this in terms of excitement, the league is setting itself up for a big wide-right.

The failing experiment that is the kickoff in the NFL will touch on the suddenly problematic extra point - the bane of existence for so few.

The NFL voted down a proposal to move the starting position on a kickoff from the 35-yard line to the 40-yard line, which is the more political way to say "let's eliminate kick returns all together." It doesn't appear the fact more than half the teams in the league (17 of 32) drilling touchbacks on at least 50 percent of their kickoffs is good enough.

How many more returnless kickoffs do you want? Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham recently told Sean Hammond of the Post Gazette "I enjoy the kickoffs, it's an exciting play."

He probably feels it's exciting because Suisham finished second to last in the NFL in touchback percentage of 27.9, one of just seven kickers in the league to average less than 40 percent. Carolina saw less than one of four of the team's kickoffs returned, and Denver, with its performance-enhanced air, drilled 81 touchbacks on its 115 kickoffs.

And the league wants to move it up five yards. For everyone but Suisham - a guy clearly employed now for his ability to kick at Heinz Field, largely considered the worst kicking environment in the NFL, not for his ability to boot the ball out of the end zone.

The modified experiment fans will have to joke and choke their way through in the 2014 preseason is randomly turning the extra point - even more automatic than a touchback off the kickoff - from a 19-yard kick that's rarely missed (just five misses on 1,267 tries in 2014, according to Hammond) to a 37-yard bonanza of excitement.

Why 37 yards? Why not? It's completely arbitrary and random on the surface, although it seems like that distance represents some kind of committee-approved acceptance between "easy" and "challenging."

And all this for one point.

A league that wants to drive scoring up will risk challenging that pointless initiative, but perhaps not by much. Only two teams missed three field goals from the 30-30 yard range, New Orleans and Arizona. The Steelers, along with Miami, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Oakland, missed two. Eleven of the 32 teams in the league were perfect at that distance, and no team attempted fewer than five field goals between 30-39 yards.

Obviously, these numbers don't tell the whole picture, but as far as the Steelers' 2013 season is concerned, if extra points were now 37 yards long, they'd be money at home, and probably have to keep an extra kicker on the roster in seasons the team plays at Oakland.

Eliminating kickoffs and arbitrarily increasing the difficulty of extra points is a roundabout way of attempting to fix something that isn't broken. It's silly to suggest creating more angst and frustration surrounding kickers somehow improves the game itself and the fan experience in watching it.

We'll see Suisham in two preseason games getting his 37-yard work in this season. Odds are excellent he'll make them, and with it, draw little to no reaction from fans.

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