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Breaking down the kickoff rule fallout

Garrett Hartley Super Bowl XLIV onside kick Getty Images

So now that the kickoff point has been moved from the 30 back to the 35 (it was once at the 40), what does it all mean?

Here are our thoughts.

First, the move will obviously increase the number of touchbacks.  With legs getting stronger and the distance to the end zone now only 65 yards, a 70-yard kick makes the taking of a knee likely and a 75-plus-yard kick removes all doubt.

Second, coaches will be less likely to devote roster spots to kickoff specialists and/or to kickoff return specialists.  Both class of player had better be able to do something else, or else.

Third, keeping the touchback point at the 20 will make teams more inclined to return the ball out of the end zone, since the break-even point will be easier to achieve.

Fourth, teams could be somewhat more inclined to try onside kicks, since the ball will be five yards closer to paydirt if the kicking team recovers — and five yards farther away if the kicking team doesn’t.  Some think the elimination of the running start (the window has been reduced to five yards) balances that out.  In a tight window like that, however, it may not matter.  Besides, the difference in teammate ETA can be accounted for in the kicking of the ball, with the kickers coming up with ways to get the ball to the 10-yard point.

Fifth, and finally, the move represents a rare decision by the league that will impact field position and, in turn, scoring.  When the league moved the kickoff point from the 35 to the 30, the goal was to improve field position and, in turn, offensive production.  That benefit will now evaporate.

Sixth, and finally, the new kickoff point will become a potential factor in postseason games that go to overtime.  If a team has a kicker with a strong leg and that team wins the toss, the team should instruct the kicker to put the ball in the front row of the end zone seats, pinning the receiving team at their own 20 and eliminating the possibility of a one-play extra session.  Then, if the kicking team can force a three-and-out, a game-winning field goal could be only a couple of first downs away.

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20 Responses to “Breaking down the kickoff rule fallout”
  1. gd2484 says: Mar 22, 2011 9:28 PM

    I really don’t care about this until they get the other stuff straightened out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. 1liondriven says: Mar 22, 2011 9:28 PM

    There’s one reason the league did this and one reason only…revenue.

  3. FinFan68 says: Mar 22, 2011 9:28 PM

    I still don’t see why they wanted to move it in the first place. This “modified” change is less bothersome than the entire proposal and could prompt an offside kick whenever there is a defensive penalty that is “assessed on the kickoff”.

  4. Kave Krew says: Mar 22, 2011 9:29 PM

    The NFL doesnt do anything without an unadvertised agenda to better serve themselves.

    This has to do more with the roster spot than anything else, including “safety of the players”

    One or two less less specialists spots that cthat could be utilized at other positions – returners and kick-off only kickers that could be utilized at other positions.

  5. brownsfn says: Mar 22, 2011 9:33 PM

    Why must they continually change things that make the game WORSE….Why do the continually try and ruin the game? *News flash* if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!! Its really not that hard of a concept to understand is it??

  6. aec4 says: Mar 22, 2011 9:34 PM

    I think another point will be teams do not need “special teams” aces to guard kicks if they have a strong legged kickoff guy. Look at College. They do not defend kicks. They have a guy who can kick it into the stands.

    I’d get a kicker who can kick it through the end zone every single time, and then I can dedicate those roster spots I may use because the guy is a good KO coverage guy to other positions

  7. heybeerman95 says: Mar 22, 2011 9:37 PM

    Here is a simple idea quit screwing with the rules. Every stinking year.

  8. jamoe17 says: Mar 22, 2011 9:49 PM

    The third point is out of context and misleading. The fact that they considered bringing it out to the 25 is moot, because they aren’t. And in actuality, the returns from the endzone would likely decrease considering the kicks will likely be deeper into the endzone and thus make it more difficult to ‘break-even’.

  9. raiderapologist says: Mar 22, 2011 9:55 PM

    You still have to fill out the bottom of the roster. Adjusting to a rule change is almost as easy as bluffing about who you like in the draft.

  10. fballguy says: Mar 22, 2011 10:01 PM

    For those who complain about long, boring replay challenges…get ready for two TV timeouts sandwiching a touchback after every score.

    Fballguy

  11. jhorton83 says: Mar 22, 2011 10:17 PM

    For some reason, the first thing I thought of after this rule change was that the Ravens are probably regretting that massive contract (for a kicker anyway) they gave to Billy Cundiff mainly because of his record number of touchbacks last year. Suddenly, all those touchbacks aren’t nearly as difficult and you’re left with Billy Cundiff the field goal kicker.

  12. danderoo says: Mar 22, 2011 10:30 PM

    Thanks Mike. Your explanations are as clear as mud. Now I am really confused.

  13. macjacmccoy says: Mar 22, 2011 10:32 PM

    I hate that the 2 man wedge stayed in. Not for any safety reason but for how erratic the officials were when calling penalties. There were dozens of times when I noticed a team using an illegal wedge and the officials did nothing. The teams would have two 2 man wedges an inch from each other which was essentially a 4 man wedge. Then they would call a penalty when a single player who obviously wasnt a part of the wedge would get to close to the 2 man wedge. Then other times they would call an illegal wedge out of the blue when there clearly wasnt one. To me it seemed like they would just call it a penalty when they felt a team was due or when they felt like making a point.

    Its such a wish washy penalty that they are never going to get it right. They should just get rid of the wedge all together or get rid of the rule. They should be making rules that make the game smoother not ones that foster confusion, human error, and bias.

  14. rashardmendenballs says: Mar 22, 2011 11:44 PM

    This has to be the only product that I know of, that the “managers” of the company do everything in their power to make it worst and less appealing for its customers year after year.

  15. davikes says: Mar 23, 2011 2:05 AM

    #7 This will also lengthen the careers of very accurate but relatively weak legged kickers, and make is harder for younger kickers to get a start. Not that anyone really cares.

  16. dladd79 says: Mar 23, 2011 2:36 AM

    This is some punk sh!t. I’m so tired of these stupid rule changes from the 30 to the 35 wow, and the politically correct fair overtime rule. I say why be so fair isn’t the NFL a f#ck%n mans game.

    Next NFL rule change co-ed football!!! Damn-it I’m sooo tired of these sissy’s with all the change. What happened to Tradition and good old sayings like “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”

  17. gruder007 says: Mar 23, 2011 3:24 AM

    It looks as though other teams have now finally found a way to contain Devin Hester & Danniel Manning. And don’t ever say player safety is involved, not when you want to go to an 18 game season.

  18. realtimeeyes says: Mar 23, 2011 8:23 AM

    The NFL is using “safety” as reasoning for moving the kickoff to the 35.

    So are they admitting that when they moved the kickoff from the 35 back to the 30 in 1994 that they didn’t consider the safety of the players?

    This is probably going to be used against them in these upcoming court hearings when they try to play the “player safety” card.

  19. hsatpft says: Mar 23, 2011 2:10 PM

    jamoe17 spotted a mistake. Point 3 should read “…keeping the touchback point at the 20 will make teams LESS inclined to return the ball out of the end zone…” instead of “…keeping the touchback point at the 20 will make teams MORE inclined to return the ball out of the end zone…”

  20. realkelevra says: Mar 23, 2011 4:53 PM

    “Third, keeping the touchback point at the 20 will make teams more inclined to return the ball out of the end zone, since the break-even point will be easier to achieve.”

    I’m sorry, I don’t follow the logic. Why exactly, if more balls are going into the end zone, would they risk returning it?

    If anything, the balls are going to go deeper in the end zone. Why risk not making it to the 20 when they could just take a knee?

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