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New touchback rule has NFL teams kicking shorter

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cassius Marsh (91) tackles Miami Dolphins' Jakeem Grant on a kickoff return in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

The NFL’s new touchback rule appears to be having the opposite of its intended effect.

Through 14 games of the 2016 NFL season, 61.8 percent of kickoffs ended in touchbacks, according to ESPN. That’s down from 68.9 percent of kickoffs ending in touchbacks in Week One last year.

That’s not a huge decline, but the fact that there’s a decline in touchbacks at all shows that the new rule isn’t doing what it was designed to do. When NFL owners voted to move the touchback after kickoffs from the 20 to the 25-yard line, they hoped that it would incentivize returners to keep the ball in the end zone and therefore reduce kickoff returns and the injuries that come with them. Instead, coaches are instructing their kickers to kick shorter and land the ball in the field of play, rather than the end zone: In the first 14 games 81.9 percent of kickoffs have reached the end zone, whereas 90.7 percent of kickoffs reached the end zone in Week One of last year.

It’s still too early to say what the ultimate effects of this rule will be, but it seems very unlikely that it will reduce the number of kickoff returns. More likely, it will increase the number of kickoff returns. Which defeats the purpose of the rule.

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50 Responses to “New touchback rule has NFL teams kicking shorter”
  1. fordbw says: Sep 12, 2016 12:36 PM

    Ha ha ha! Love it!

  2. justkeepinitclassy says: Sep 12, 2016 12:36 PM

    I’m not going to claim to be the smartest guy in the room, but this seemed like the obvious result. This contradicts the player safety movement and I hope it gives them a bit of pause before they pass the next dumb new rule.

  3. TB12RALLYCRY says: Sep 12, 2016 12:37 PM

    That was a huge difference in the Patriots game last night…usually Ghostkowski booms then to the endzone…BB has him pooch kicking them …….field position played a huge role in that game …Kudos BB…….great strategy

  4. bucsorbust says: Sep 12, 2016 12:37 PM

    The effect of the rule cannot be determined, not yet anyway. This kickoff continues to be driven by tactics–every KR is not the same. For example, if there is a dangerous returner like Eric Weems, you keep pushing the ball out the back. If you have a weak KR or one who is prone to fumble, kick it shorter. Until one gets into knoggin’ of the kicker and coaches, no conclusions can be made.

  5. mvp43 says: Sep 12, 2016 12:37 PM

    Maybe the NFL needs a “common sense” committee. Any one of us here knew that would be the outcome.

  6. jackedupboonie says: Sep 12, 2016 12:37 PM

    That touchdown % will only go down….and the injury totals will go up. Another NFL head slap rule change….Jeff Fisher must have somehow been behind this latest one.

  7. a1b24312 says: Sep 12, 2016 12:37 PM

    stupid rule, just like the longer PATs

  8. weepingjebus says: Sep 12, 2016 12:39 PM

    So predictable. No sport is risk free, not even online chess. At a certain point you have to play.

  9. petersjeffrey36 says: Sep 12, 2016 12:40 PM

    i dont get this.. people called it as soon as announced, and i am a supporter of real rule changes for player safety but this isnt it, has any one compiled the numbers on how many people are injured during kick off, is it really that much more then a typical play? As i really dont notice any more stopping of the game after a kick off compared to other plays due to injury

  10. buzzedlitebeer says: Sep 12, 2016 12:41 PM

    …and everyone saw this coming..except the brilliant owners.

  11. sportzfan says: Sep 12, 2016 12:42 PM

    Idiots running this league. Next time try polling all the coaches because the ones on the competition committee aren’t too smart.

  12. iladelphxx says: Sep 12, 2016 12:44 PM

    They learned this from the government

  13. stillers213 says: Sep 12, 2016 12:48 PM

    The NFL will never learn to leave things alone. I’m a huge NHL fan and contrary to the NFL almost all of their rule changes make sense.

  14. factschecker says: Sep 12, 2016 12:49 PM

    Lets not say anything and hope they don’t notice. Kickoffs add a lot of excitement to football. Taking knee after knee does not add excitement.

  15. mik888 says: Sep 12, 2016 12:49 PM

    It also creates a real oddity in the game with touchbacks on kickoffs coming out to the 25, but touchbacks on punts coming out to the 20.

  16. mellimac says: Sep 12, 2016 12:55 PM

    Now that is funny, because I thought the new rule was to encourage putting ball in field of play, rather than end zone. I like the new rule…adds a dimension of strategy to game. Before, every kicker was aiming for end zone…it was a boring play.

    I agree with above commenter about stats on kick offs…lets see the injury stats on kick offs.

  17. grogansheroes says: Sep 12, 2016 1:04 PM

    The NFL is like the Fed Govt. They always think they know what’s best. And they’re always wrong.

  18. jackedupboonie says: Sep 12, 2016 1:04 PM

    Present state of NFL football…..hold your breath when your team is about to sack the QB, because there is a 50% chance the 6 inch contact area won’t be obtained and a 15 harder and auto first down is coming. Also…don’t get too happy if you just came back from 7 down to score a last minute touchdown….because you still have to kick a 33 yard field goal for that last point.

  19. beniselite says: Sep 12, 2016 1:05 PM

    Agree 100% with factschecker

    The new rule is awesome – I was actually excited to watch kickoffs yesterday.

  20. concord148 says: Sep 12, 2016 1:15 PM

    My name is Stupid, please don’t use it on kick-offs.

  21. chesswhileyouplaycheckers says: Sep 12, 2016 1:15 PM

    And absolutely no one outside of 345 Park Ave is surprised.

  22. bigredgoog says: Sep 12, 2016 1:15 PM

    go back to the 20 yard line for touchbacks but change the kickoff spot to the 40 yard line. Then you would see teams try and kick out of endzone and returns would diminish.

  23. uab9253 says: Sep 12, 2016 1:24 PM

    Why don’t they just eliminate kickoffs then and spot the ball at the 20 after the opposing team scores? Jesus – they want to drain all of the excitement out of everything.

  24. mrbigass says: Sep 12, 2016 1:30 PM

    I noticed even when the ball was caught in the end zone they still brought it out….

  25. puckskin says: Sep 12, 2016 1:35 PM

    This is what happens when you have a bunch of suits in the competition committee making up the rules.

  26. financialmusingsblog says: Sep 12, 2016 1:37 PM

    Everyone but the NFL knew this was glimg to happen. Brought to you buy the same NFL that doesn’t know what a catch is.

  27. MichaelEdits says: Sep 12, 2016 1:40 PM

    Don’t change the rules again. We like kickoff returns.

  28. dmretrogames says: Sep 12, 2016 1:40 PM

    As anyone with a brain figured out as soon as they announced the rule.

  29. kissbillsrings says: Sep 12, 2016 1:46 PM

    I actually LOVE the new rule… Adds both strategy & excitement back to the kickoff….
    Pats would normally kick the ball thru end zone & now they are just pinning opponents deep in their own territory….

    Even if they eliminate the rule after 4 games it’s opened up a can of worms for the NFL now… Coaches like BB with really good emphasis on Special Team players/plays will focus on perfecting this part of the game….. High shorter kick offs near the 5yd-goal line to allow his players to pin teams deep now looks more inviting….& if the opposing team has a stud return guy he can still kick the ball thru the end zone!!!

  30. edukator4 says: Sep 12, 2016 1:50 PM

    jackedupboonie says:
    Sep 12, 2016 1:04 PM
    Present state of NFL football…..hold your breath when your team is about to sack the QB, because there is a 50% chance the 6 inch contact area won’t be obtained and a 15 harder and auto first down is coming. Also…don’t get too happy if you just came back from 7 down to score a last minute touchdown….because you still have to kick a 33 yard field goal for that last point.

    _________________________________________

    i wish i could up vote more. however you forgot about the secondary having to politely ask the receiver not to catch the ball, or have to try to arm tackle him because every receiver drops their head coming over the middle

  31. footballfan825 says: Sep 12, 2016 1:51 PM

    I thought there would be more taking a knee based on all the practice they get during the national anthem.

  32. mmack66 says: Sep 12, 2016 1:53 PM

    bigredgoog says:
    Sep 12, 2016 1:15 PM

    go back to the 20 yard line for touchbacks but change the kickoff spot to the 40 yard line. Then you would see teams try and kick out of endzone and returns would diminish.
    ——————

    Try and kick out of the endzone? They already sail through the endzone as it is right now.

  33. charger383 says: Sep 12, 2016 1:54 PM

    5% kickoff should be returned for TD and 25% for a long gain

  34. firecracker87 says: Sep 12, 2016 1:58 PM

    – NFL Frames Brady & Pats: $5million for bogus report + millions in court costs.

    – NFL suspends Brady to create parity: lost draft picks, $1million fine, Brady lose $$ per game.

    – NFL creates new rule and Pats use to win games anyway: Priceless

  35. athwartships says: Sep 12, 2016 1:58 PM

    All a conspiracy to remove the kick off completely. Keep parrying it down till owners just relent that the kick is pointless…easy vote in a season or two tops.

  36. mmack66 says: Sep 12, 2016 2:21 PM

    The only thing keeping the kickoff from being disappeared, is that they haven’t come up with a good way to keep the two commercial breaks the kickoff gives them.

    The would have to sell the ball placement to a sponsor.

    “This post touchdown 20-yard line ball placement is brought to you by Draft Duel and Fan Kings”

  37. fwippel says: Sep 12, 2016 2:21 PM

    Any football fan able to think two inches beyond the end of his own nose would have realized that this would be the result.

    The name of the game (on kickoffs and punts anyway) is field position. Why give the opposing team the ball at the 25-yard line if you can pin them deeper?

    The next thing you know, these wizards of smart will be running for President.

  38. leroymn says: Sep 12, 2016 2:28 PM

    A little too early to make the claim the new rule is having the opposite impact as desired. This is a very small sample size and there are numerous other aspects that impact how many times the ball is kicked into the end zone, including indoor vs. outdoor stadium, wind conditions, specific circumstances of the game, etc.

    With that said, it seems logical that it will have the opposite impact.

  39. tangotwo22 says: Sep 12, 2016 2:38 PM

    Belicheck said when the new rule was adopted the what the league was trying to achieve might actually encourage more returns. If only the NFL was as smart as Bill. The NFL is clearly the worst run professional league in existence and its not just Goodell, it’s the idiot egotistical owners who pull all the strings.

  40. firecracker87 says: Sep 12, 2016 2:52 PM

    If you remove the kick-off you’ll be removing one of the most, potentially, exciting plays in football – the onside kick.

    Should have kept it placed where they had it. Then give the team incentive to blow it in the end zone by granting 1 point if they make it through the goal posts.

  41. bspurloc says: Sep 12, 2016 2:53 PM

    .
    dumb rule.

    When a dude breaks one the crowd goes NUTS.
    that is what football is about but apparently the owners dont care about the fans.

    But then again if the OWNERS were the ones who pushed for this rule, why are they not telling their coaches to not run out of the end zones?
    This all makes no sense.

  42. therealraider says: Sep 12, 2016 3:23 PM

    And the number of significant injuries suffered during a kickoff during those 14 games was 0 .. which was the same as week 1 last year.

  43. salscobrakai says: Sep 12, 2016 3:23 PM

    Just because you’re a billionaire owner doesn’t mean you have common sense.

  44. marima07 says: Sep 12, 2016 3:35 PM

    NFL continues enacting the Law of Unintended Consequences with every micromanaged manipulation of the rulebook.

  45. annapterp says: Sep 12, 2016 4:02 PM

    When the league goes as far as eliminating the kickoff is when I will stop watching.

    The slow decline of the NFL continues…..

  46. returntoexcellence says: Sep 12, 2016 4:05 PM

    Have we even stopped to consider that the NFL knows exactly what it is doing? I know I know, they certainly don’t have a great track record lately. However, this rule gives the fans more of what they want (more kick returns) while allowing the NFL to appear it’s trying to make the game safer. If we keep screaming and chastising, they may be forced to get rid of the rule after this year. As someone said above, let’s all just shut up about it and enjoy the return attempts none of us wanted to lose anyway.

  47. tomtravis76 says: Sep 12, 2016 4:06 PM

    Come on, the owners knew what they were doing, hide behind player safety so the networks can get their massive collisions and monster hits. Kicking it out of the endzone is penalizing the kicking team by now moving it to the 25…don’t we call this a game of inches?

    Does anyone really care anymore? Nothing is really being done, so its either continue watching the product that is put out and hand over your time and money to the billionaires or don’t watch and support it.

  48. gauchosporlife says: Sep 12, 2016 4:34 PM

    And you wonder why the NFL doesn’t know what a catch is.

  49. Sinuous Sausage says: Sep 12, 2016 8:44 PM

    Ah, so it’s just like progressive economic policy

  50. bkostela says: Sep 13, 2016 12:06 AM

    I have to say, I thought the PAT rule was dumb at first, but now I love it. However, I can’t see the kickoff rule having any positive change on the game.

    But at least the NFL tried. “In the name of safety.” That’s what will hold up in court.

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