The NFL’s new touchback rule appears to be backfiring.
Although the league wanted to reduce the number of kickoff returns and therefore the number of injuries when it moved touchbacks from the 20-yard line to the 25, the opposite appears to be happening. According to the Baltimore Sun, 37.3 percent of kickoffs have been returned this season, an increase from 30.1 percent of kickoffs returned through the first two weeks of 2015.
That’s because some teams have employed the strategy of purposely kicking short in order to pin the opposing returner between the goal line and the 25. Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg’s team doesn’t do that on every kickoff, but he explained that it can be an effective strategy.
“People don’t necessarily want to give up five yards,” he said. “We, on special teams, fight for every inch. If you’re saying, ‘We’re going to take five yards from you,’ we’re going to fight for every inch, not just five yards.”
Other special teams coordinators probably would have told their owners that before the owners voted to change the rule. This appears to be a rule change that the owners made without getting enough input from the coaches.