Considering a kickoff change

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2012 – 8:01 am

Born out of the constant discussion to make the NFL safer and prevent some of the dreaded concussions that have obviously become one of the league’s top topics, there has been talk about changing the kickoff rule again — this time, taking kickoffs out of the game altogether.

Certainly, that would be a drastic measure. The idea this time comes from first-year Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. Schiano, who watched one of his Rutgers players, Eric LeGrand, become paralyzed when he was hurt on a kickoff play, devised this idea: After Team A scores, instead of a kickoff, Team A would then have the ball on its own 30-yard line (just like a kickoff now) but would be handed, essentially, a 4th-and-15 play. The team could either punt from there or go for it (which replaces the possibility of an onside kick). Fail to gain a first down would give Team B the ball wherever it ended up, just as if it had been a normal fourth down situation.

Schiano first floated the idea back in 2011 when he was still at Rutgers. It has come up again, and now NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has taken notice. Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the NFL’s competition committee (as is Ken Whisenhunt), said he thinks the kickoff situation will be addressed the next time the committee meets in the offseason.

There is a lot to consider with this, and changing the kickoff doesn’t necessarily mean going with Schiano’s drastic move. The league has talked often about how the most recent kickoff changes — moving the ball up, in particular, and other tweaks — have changed kickoff returns. Injuries are down, but so are electrifying returns. Touchbacks are way up.

Instituting the “Schiano rule” would impact the rosters. Punters would become more important. Kickers a little less so, now needed to just kick field goals and extra points (although some teams, who have punters kicking off, already have this situation). If you are a return man who can’t handle catching a punt in traffic, your chances of making it to the NFL decrease (you wonder what would have happened to a rookie seventh-round pick named LaRod Stephens-Howling if the current kickoff rules had been in place in 2009.) Patrick Peterson would get more chances to take one back, that’s for sure.

From a pure entertainment standpoint, such a new rule would certainly create an interesting wrinkle, not to mention making every post-scoring play look like a safety just happened. It seems a little too drastic to me. But at this point, given the way the league is trying to get safer, the game is clearly evolving, and that’s not going to stop.

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36 Responses to “Considering a kickoff change”

  1. By D on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Just a matter of time before the PC crowd kills this sport. If the NFL wants to curtail the rate of concussions, go back to the way the game was played in the 50’s and remove the helmets. Players then would learn to tackle correctly with their heads up and players could not go for the knock out hit or be a Cecil missle, but would have to wrap up. (sorry Adub)

  2. By johnnybluenose on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    i think this is a great idea. but would the proposed rules also apply to the start of the game and the second half? the only downside i see is that it eliminates the element of surprise, like what sean payton did to start the second half of the super bowl a couple of years ago. change comes slowly to the nfl but i hope this gets serious consideration.

  3. By Dynosoar on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Scott H,

    In the last post you raised some questions for me. Are you saying you see Wade Phillips as a better DC than Ray Horton? Also, who would you rather see as next seasons OC (assuming there is a change at the coordinator position)? Norv Turner or Chip Kelly?

    I should be clear that I’m not calling for a change in coaching. If it happens it happens and I won’t have any influence, I understand that, but I like speculating as much as anyone.

    0-15 3rd down conversions, really? However, how much of that is the play calling and how much is the execution. Not knowing what play was called or how the plays are practiced and not being able to watch the game and see the execution (or lack thereof) I really can’t answer those question. I have faith that Whizenhunt can evaluate all this.

    But if we are to have a change, I like Chip Kelly, although I do feel Norv Turner would be huge for us. Like I said, I’m not calling for a change, just getting involved in the speculation. I’d be pleased as punch if our current OC put together a dominant offensive scheme and we wouldn’t have to have any change. I’d love that.

  4. By Dynosoar on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Hold on a minute!

    Kurt Warner for Offensive Coordinator. He can read a defense. He can teach that to the offense. He and Whizenhunt work swimmingly well together. He’d make more than NFL network (I presume). He’d, well, he’d be perfect!

    (Again, not calling for a change, but if a change needs to be made, Kurt would be perfect.)

    Imagine Wihzenhunt, Horton and Warner leading this team. I can and it’s a grand fine vision.

  5. By Dynosoar on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    As to kickoff returns, I like going back to the 30 for the kickoff. Yes the player from Rutgers had as serious an injury as any I’ve ever seen, but this is football and being football he could’ve suffered the same injury on a pass or runn play. Do we eliminate all run plays or pass plays do to injury.

    I don’t hear of rugby players suffering these injuries and they wear zero padding. (Although they might and I just don’t hear about it, we don’t get much rugby coverage.)

    D, you hit it dead on. Take away the helmets and the game would change, but I hate to think of the collateral damage until players adjusted.

  6. By Sackman on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    I have been without TV and internet for the last week, but did I just read that Skelton is named the starting Quarterback again. R U kidding me, he gives us the best chance to Win. We don’t need to win anymore this season we need a high draft pick for a quarterback next year. The coach needs to keep the Rookie in there, unless he is worried about his job security? He made the decision to switch QB’s in the middle of the season which cost us the season. Now he want’s to put Skelton back in to do what? He made his bed now he needs to just lie there period!!! I quess 1 bad decision is not enough!

  7. By Scuba steve on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Horrible idea. Stop changing the game. If the kicking team converts and keeps the ball then scores and converts again. Then it will be an extremely one sided game.

  8. By Patrick Eagan on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    football without a kickoff is like having hockey without a puck drop… I don’t like it.

  9. By Brent on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    In my opinion, the issue of safety for the NFL is not really for the NFL. What is at stake are all the high school and college programs out there that eventually feed into the NFL. If there are not changes at the tope to make the game safer, you will eventually have fewer programs producing the talent, because there will be more moms not signing permission slips and lawsuits with payouts on kids that were never good enough to make it to the next level. I actually like Schiano’s modified kickoff idea – I think it is even better than what we have now with all the touchbacks.

  10. By DanishCard on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    I like it – punts are more exciting than kickoffs. smaller margin for error and easier to fake. If it makes football safer it would be great…

  11. By BIG RED on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Stop changing the game. This game is becoming very feminism, sooner or later women will be trying out for the game. It’s like taking out the dunks and the fast breaks from the basketball games. That’s the fun of the games watching someone do something spectacular. Why not change the commissioner and make Deacon Jones the commissioner.

  12. By D on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Since there is a good chance Whiz if the HC next year will need to hire another OC, some NFL names to consider for that role here:

    Norv Turner (will be fired soon)
    Marty Mornhinweg (unless Andy Reid gets another HC job)
    Chirs Palmer (fired in TN)
    Brad Childress (will be fired in Cleveland)
    Randy Fichtner (Steelers QB coach, prior was WR coach)
    College Names:
    Jimbo Fisher (FSU)
    Bobby Petrino
    Jim Tressel
    Mike Bellotti

  13. By Patrick Eagan on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    beg todd haley to come back as offensive coordinator!

  14. By O-H on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    If the NFL wants to help eliminate some head injuries they can start with properly fitted helmets. Helmets come off way too often in the NFL. A properly fitted helmet does not come off that easy!

  15. By Louisville Card on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    The new kickoff rule sounds better than what they have now. They should just go back to the old rule, but that will never happen so why not? It would increase the amount of touchdowns off returns to a higher rate than before the original rule change and make it easier to get the ball back if you’re down as well. A lot of upside but what if say a team like the colts in their hay day or the Rams with Warner decided to go for it every time the other team could possibly never get the ball or at best just a couple times. Would there be some sort of rule to prevent that from happening Darren?

  16. By Darren Urban on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Louisville —

    RE: Going for it

    Not as I understand it. Your defense would need to make a play.

  17. By donttakelosses on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    On side kick one of best plays in football. Kick off from 50, tees it up. No running full speed 30-40-50 yards to build head o’ steam.

  18. By john the draft guy on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    The interesting part about this rule is after a team scores, they get the ball back with a 4th and 15.

    So if you are down by 3 scores with 5min left and you score, you now have an option to go for the 4th and 15 play or punt and play defense.

    The onside kick would be eliminated but the new wrinkle of going for it puts pressure on a defense.

    4th and 15 is hard but not impossible.

    I wonder if Bilicheck and Brady go for it even when they are up by 3 scores.

    I hate breaking from tradition but it is interesting and coaches would have to really coach it differently.

    I did like that onside kick the Saints did in the Superbowl to start the second half though.

  19. By john the draft guy on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Patrick Eagan;

    Rumblings out of Pitt are guys like Mike Wallace aren’t too happy with the Haley offense. It is not playing to their strengths. Look at there numbers and they may be right. Even with Big Ben, no big plays.

    Whiz, Haley, Warner with Boldin and Fitz was a perfect marriage. It will never be the same because Warner isn’t here.

    I think Norv Turner would have to be on the top of my wish list.
    He never was a good head coach in SD or Wash, but he is a great OC and knows how to handle young QBs. If you are drafting a young QB to be the franchise, you better find someone who can work well with him. Norv Turner and Landry Jones would be a perfect match.

  20. By D on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    How does this sound for the 2013 Off line starters:

    L. Brown, N. Potter, L Sendlien ,Barrett. Jones, R Massie

  21. By suspence716 on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    DId they fire whisenhunt yet?

  22. By Chuck 1 on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Off topic, but WTH,
    Random thoughts:
    • I believe that Whiz is a good (not great) coach and hope that the Bidwills let him
    attempt to turn the ship around in the final year of his contract. Injuries and
    bad personnel decisions e.g. Snyder, Heap, Gay, etc. have been too much to
    • I would like to see Graves, Keim, Miller, Grimm and the QB coach fired after
    this season.
    However, I don’t believe that Michael has the cajones to fire Graves and Keim.
    Therefore, I want Graves, Keim and Whiz to be put on “probation” in 2013.
    The draft and FA decisions and season record in 2013 should determine
    whether they are retained after the 2013 season.
    If the Cards have another season like 2012, throw the bums out but, again
    I don’t think that Michael will fire Graves even then.
    • I don’t believe that Keim has received enough blame for the poor draft and FA
    personnel decisions over the last few years.
    • Horton is not ready for prime time i.e. to succeed Whiz or anyone else as HC.
    • If Whiz is fired, hire Bill Cowher as HC.
    • I believe that Kolb is a better QB than Skelton (see stats) and, if healthy, and a
    new FA QB isn’t acquired in the offseaon, should be designated the 1st string
    QB at the start of Preseason.
    • I want to see Skelton succeed in the remaining games i.e. win every one.
    • I disagree with some fans who want the Cards to lose the remaining games to
    get a high draft pick. Graves, Keim and Whiz will probably screw up those
    personnel decisions.

  23. By john the draft guy on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Chuck 1,
    I agree I want to win the last 4 games. Always play hard and play to win the game.

    My only problem about the probation is this;
    If you give them one year, then they won’t want to go with drafting a rookie QB. Instead, they will try anything to win now, which sounds good. But in reality, is one of the reasons we are in the spot we are.

    Drafting a QB (other than the highest rated QB coming out of college since Elway in Andrew Luck and the perfect marriage of coach and player with RG3) usually means ups and downs that first year or two.

    But look at Russel Wilson, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeton, and Cam Newton, just to name a few. They infused life back into their teams that seemed to be lifeless. Have they been perfect? of course not. But those teams are moving in the right direction.

    Saying one year, make or break, no head coach will put that on a rookie. So, you either fire Whisenhunt at the end of the year and begin fresh with coach and QB, or allow Whisenhunt a couple of years with a rookie QB to turn this around.

  24. By johnnybluenose on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    darren. there are reports stating that dockett is being fined six figures. what exactly did he do? did he and rhodes both lie about the alleged ” spitting ” incident? this is getting strange. why is it so hard for this organization to provide information to its fans?

  25. By Darren Urban on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    johnnyblue —

    RE: Information

    I don’t think the organization wanted any of this out there. It’s not hard. It’s a choice wanting to keep things in-house.

    Bottom line, if the coaches told the defense to allow a score for strategy reasons and then a player wouldn’t do it, I assume there has to be a strong reaction.

  26. By in fitz we trust on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Hey goodell, people keep getting hurt at the stadiums,is it time to ban those too now?

  27. By georgiebird on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    the new rule would be terrible for the Cardinals – any down and long yardage is the situation that I fear most from the Cards’ defense. And I can see it now- “Defensive holding”- 5 yards and a 1st down for Team A. (Team A would not be the Cardinals).
    Since most defensive penalties give the offensive team a 1st down, this rule will never make it- unless the NFL has a new set of rules for the 4th and 15 play-how ridiculous!.

  28. By siege911 on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Sounds fun but I’d prefer they change the Overtime rules to match college football before they worry about kickoffs. Current overtimes are basically won by a coin toss (statistically anyways).

  29. By Campbells on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Changing kickoffs won’t be well received. Maybe more alternatives should be considered.

    How about this: One deep guy receiving the kickoff, all others lined-up 7-yards from kicking team. Kick treated like a punt, so if it’s not touched by the receiving team first, they still retain possession of the ball (where it was first touched). 7-yard spacing prevents receivers from getting much separation, which reduces velocity of the hits.
    If that’s not enough, eject any player using their head gear during a kickoff.

    Just food-for-thought.

  30. By Patrick Eagan on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    @ in fitz we trust…. Love your comment !

  31. By Chuck 1 on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    john the draft guy,

    As I stated, i believe that Kolb should be announced as the #1 QB up front at the beginning of training camp, assuming that he is fully recovered from his chest injury. {I am concerned that when he is sacked, his ribs, that are healing UNDER his sternum (out of position), could puncture his lungs. And, no, I’m not an MD} 🙂

    I would want Graves, Keim and Whiz to draft the BQBA (Best QB Available) with their first pick. (I understand that there are no Lucks or RGllls available). However, he should easily be better than Skelton or Lindley.

    I would want them to release Skelton or Lindley, maybe both if the Cards can sign a decent B/U.

    Their second pick should be an OL.

  32. By phillycards on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    Isn’t fining dockett a reverse bounty? Ill take money away because you tackle?
    I really question expection levels of people who want whiz back.
    I never saw haley whiz boldin and warner working well together. That’s confusing to read.
    I saw boldin yelling at whiz. I saw haley and warner working well together.
    I saw whiz bring us losing streaks and slumps even in his good yrs

    How can anyone rationalize keeping these coaches? We haven’t won since 2009.

    Since whiz has been here he has never provided consistent offense. Never.we went from and offensive power to a offensive flower.

    Bring back kolb and fire whiz period. The later sooner

  33. By dan on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    I sent a letter to Goodell about 4-5 months ago about changing the number of players on the kickoff coverage and return teams. I think it should be all smaller speed guys, about 5 guys including kickoff return man with 4 blockers and 7 guys in coverage plus a kicker……8 guys total.

  34. By cobra on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    Chuck 1 and johnthedraftguy:

    I agree with you both on some things. Problem is, the NFL may be a sport of the past in the near future. Any sport can be violent. For instance, would anyone want an elbow from Shaq, take a headshot from a Randy Johnson fastball, a jockey being trampled in a race, hockey player hit with a puck or just being flat out cold cocked, a soccer player taking a knee to head or just using his head constantly without protection?

    Safety should be an issue, but where do you stop the rule changes? How many sports have had as many rules changes in the last 100 years? Maybe Football will be like the Earth, it begins great, then changes destroy it, only to begin again? If anything, there needs to be an evolution in protective gear for players.I guess what I’m saying is, when you take the “Foot” out of Football, you may as well call it “Passball”.

  35. By Chris Lewis on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    I agree with Scuba Steve, this is the dumbest idea ever. The team that just scored gets a chance to score again if they convert on 4th and 15? That’s ludicrous. If you’re going to do something stupid by eliminating the kickoff, at least give the other team the ball at their own 20 or 30. Too many rule changes. I realize it’s a dangerous sport, but c’mon, let them play. The kickoff return is one of the most exciting plays in football. You’re hurting the sport if you take that away.

  36. By chase potter on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    whats the difference in a punt return vs a kick off, either way you got the same blocking and the same amount of people charging you for the tackle, if yall would watch the games you would see that there are alot more viscious hits on a punt than a kickoff, atleast on a kickoff the returner has time to see where the other team is coming from, on a punt the returner barley has time to catch the ball before being BLINDSIDED so before yall deside to change the rules again and put more players in harms way, checks your facts and pay attention the games on tv and see what happens. And yes I referred to yall as YALL!

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