XFL considered taking away punts, field goals in rule changes

Sporting News

The XFL revealed its rulebook earlier this week, and there are some notable differences between the new football league and the NFL.

In coming up with ways to make the sport true to football but also unique from its counterpart, the league considered some dramatic changes. Speaking with Sport Business, commissioner Oliver Luck said the league pondered the possibility of removing field goals and punts from the game.

"In football you have four downs to make 10 yards and a punt is a safety valve. If you have four downs [without the ability to punt] how would you coach? That was the question," Luck said. "We talked about it and a fourth down is a hugely important play if it's from your 20-yard line because if you don't make it you're giving the ball away [very close to your end zone]. But the thing was we couldn't test it. To truly test it where coaches had their livelihoods dependent on the decision, it was too hard to do.

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"We talked about it, it's fascinating, it might be a great way to play the game, it might not be, but we felt we were not the right beta test for something like this."

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Removing punts would have been a dramatic move had the XFL actually implemented it. In explaining the process for making the rules, Luck said fans "didn't want gimmicks or things that were inauthentic." Removing punts would have certainly felt inauthentic, and that's likely why the league didn't go through with it.

In a similar fashion, Luck said removing field goals was also considered.

"If you take the field goal out — and we had already decided that extra points were not going to be plays from kicks but from scrimmage — then you're really taking the foot out of football," Luck said. "The kicker becomes irrelevant, all you need is a kicker for kickoff, and we thought it might be a bridge too far. Some day it might happen, but there is something still magical about a 48-yard field goal to win a game. It's still a great play. We didn't want to take that aspect out of the game."

If punts and field goals were both removed, then the XFL may as well have gone the route of the AAF and eliminated kickoffs as well. Football with no kickers.

Instead, the league actually came up with some innovative ways to change kickoff and punt returns. Currently in the NFL you often see touchbacks on kickoffs and fair catches on punts, as the league has made rule changes to make touchbacks more appealing. The leading kick returner in the NFL for 2019 was Cordarrelle Patterson with 825 yards. This marks just the second time since 1982 that the kickoff return leader finished below 900 yards.

It's nice the XFL was considering such radical changes, but it's probably for the best the league didn't go through with them.

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