Among NFL rule change proposals is a fourth-and-15 play replacing an onside kick

Frank Schwab
·3-min read

There has been a severe overreaction to the onside kick becoming mostly obsolete.

Due to change in the rules to help player safety, recovering an onside kick became harder than ever. And instead of just letting that be the case, the NFL is thinking about a radical change to its rules to make it easier to get an onside kick.

Among the NFL’s rule change proposals is allowing teams the option of a fourth-and-15 play from their own 25 to maintain possession after a score, according to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero. It can be used a maximum of twice per game. There’s “growing support” for the rule in the NFL, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB.

If you wanted more randomness in the outcome of your NFL games, this is the rule for you.

Onside kicks could be replaced

Onside kicks are fun. But they give teams that are trailing by multiple scores for almost the entire game a chance to steal a win it likely didn’t deserve. That happens, but it was OK when the onside kick percentage plummeted and deserving teams had a better chance to finish wins.

There also is no word on if the rule can be used an entire game. Would a calculating team — perhaps the Philadelphia Eagles, who proposed the new rule and are smart about analytics — start using this option the maximum of twice a game in the first half, assuming the risk of giving away field position is worth the benefit of extra possessions? Smart coaches will think this through, if there’s no limits on when they can use it. There is a line in the rule proposal summary that says “a team who is trailing in the game” can use the option, which would eliminate the option for a team that is leading or tied to use it, if that is part of the final rule.

People might strangely long for the days of more onside kicks being recovered by the kicking team, but this has a chance to have some very unintended changes to the NFL.

Onside kicks have become very hard to recover under new safety rules. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Onside kicks have become very hard to recover under new safety rules. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

NFL will vote on new rule

The new play will be exciting, if it passes. It will also be interesting to see how coaches leverage it to their advantage, in a way that was not intended when the rule was written up.

It also will make for more outcomes that aren’t necessarily fair. Fairness and entertainment don’t always line up, however. The league will vote on the proposal and others — like “booth umpire” with access to a video feed to assist on-field officials — at a video meeting on May 28 according to the AP.

The strange nostalgia over onside kicks isn’t just being left alone. The NFL seems determined to bring it back in some way, and an extra play for the offense deep in their own territory is gaining steam. Get ready for the game to have a pretty big change.

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