Schiano’s idea for replacing kickoffs traces to LeGrand injury

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On Thursday, TIME disclosed that Commissioner Roger Goodell has mentioned a possible replacement for kickoffs that would give the team that otherwise would be kicking off possession of the ball at its own 30 yard line, with a down-and-distance of fourth and 15.  Goodell said the idea came from Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano.

On Friday, Schiano talked about the idea in a session with the media.

“That happened before I was head coach of the Bucs,” Schiano said, via  “It happened when I was still at Rutgers.  I was with Commissioner Goodell and we were talking about it.  He expressed his concern about the health of the players in relation to the kickoff play.  Certainly with my experience with Eric LeGrand I had similar feelings.”

LeGrand,  a former Rutgers (and, technically, Buccaneers) player, suffered paralysis as a result of a neck injury during a kickoff return.

“This is just something that I dreamed up and as I said to [Goodell] I am not sure that all the details are there,” Schiano added.  “You got to find the percentage.  I think the percentage of an onside kick is about 15 percent.  So you want to make sure that whatever that fourth-and-blank is, it is about 15 percent over a bunch of years.  And that would be the ideal amount of yardage needed.  So at least you have an onside kind of equivalent percentage wise.  I think you can have a lot of exciting stuff.  You open the game with a blocked punt or you open a game with – who knows what could happen, right?”

The idea still has a long way to go before it becomes a rule.  Still, the fact that the Competition Committee will be exploring the elimination of kickoff in the offseason coupled with the reality that, as we’ve been told, there currently are no other ideas for eliminating the kickoff while preserving the ability to retain possession via a simulated onside kick means that Schiano’s idea is the clubhouse leader.

“I understand traditionalists don’t agree, but there used to not be the forward pass too,” Schiano said.  “The game would be pretty boring without it.  I am not saying it is right or wrong.  I am just saying you got to be able to think outside and whatever is best for the players.  At the end of the day, these guys are the ones that are putting it on the line.  It is not the coaches.  It is none of us.  It is the players that bodies go; it is a violent game and that’s one of the things I love about it is the physical part of it.  There are areas that are more susceptible to injury.

“One of the things that when I was researching I think it was like in the kickoff rules 17 percent of the catastrophic in juries happened on kickoffs.  Yet it is only about six percent of the plays in the game.  Well that’s disproportionate right? Things like that are reasons that led me to that, but obviously it is a personal thing with me because of Eric LeGrand.”

At first, I didn’t like the idea, because of the natural human resistance to change.  I’ve since become fascinated with it.

Plenty of you have yet to share my fascination.  Keep making your views known in the comments, and in the poll.

66 responses to “Schiano’s idea for replacing kickoffs traces to LeGrand injury

  1. I’d be interested to see how it works – maybe they could practice it in the preseason or during Training Camp scrimmages between teams.

    While I’m not necessarily for it, I’m not so opposed that it’s not worth a look.

  2. I see alot of people voted it as a bad idea. It is a good idea, doesnt mean it should be a rule right away but its the ever-evolving type of thinking that will help the game. Its changed over time, it will continue to change, just cause you hate the idea doesnt make it bad, it just makes it not your favorite. Further, it doesnt mean it shouldnt be explored.

  3. Give it a shot – see what happens in some preseason games.

    For the love of GOD don’t use playoffs as the Guinea Pig like they did with the new OT… that always struck me as silly.

  4. The way I see it the options are going to come down to getting rid of kickoffs and starting at the 20 or the “silly” idea that Goodell/Schiano have suggested.

    I choose the “silly” idea because it is more exciting and give a team that is behind a chance to pick up some points.

  5. How would timing work? Would this be an un-timed down? Otherwise if a team scores with 3 seconds led hey can go for it on 4th and run the clock out

  6. They should have the kicker still kciking from the 35 but the defensive special team players placed an arms length away from the offensive players between the 50 and the opposing 20 yrd line.

  7. I wonder what his thoughts are regarding potential injuries from crashing the victory formation. I hope Andy Reid has enough balls left to do it to him this weekend.

  8. It is hard for me to believe he is for player safety when he completely disregards the kneel down at the end of the game. Although arguments vary on whether his tactic is right or wrong, the possibility of getting hurt is still there–just like during kickoffs. Not as serious as what happen to that kid, but would schiano stop blitzing during kneel-downs if someone got hurt?

  9. Why not just start the receiving team on the 20/25 yard line?
    Why bother even kicking anything at all when like 95% of the kick offs end up in the back of the end zone or with the returner taking a knee?

    Sheesh. And in our household we are beginning to understand the new OT rules. By the time we learn them, now we may have to learn a bunch of other things too?
    And if they are so concerned about player safety, then why change the OT rules so that it’s no longer sudden death? You know. First team to score, wins. That’s it. It’s over. But not any more. Keep playing those guys and see who else gets hurt.
    I understand the need to keep it safe but can’t they keep it simple too?

  10. I don’t see a true comparison with comparing the invention of the forward pass with the kickoff. I will admit I lovemthe kickoff and kickoff return. Injuries happen during football games in general, not just during kickoffs. I feel a better solution would be to move the kickoff coverage team 20 yards closer (while leaving the kickoff kicker at the 30 yard line. The impact of the collision is what causes the injury. Remove the distance and have less of a colission. Not ideal, but better than having no kickoff at all. Also, coaches need to continue to emphasize keeping the head up on tackles.

  11. Yada Yada Yada. More points more excitement for the “fans” and more revenue for the fat cat NFL owners. The whole idea behind special teams is to put your young players and non-starters in there to work their way onto the roster. If a cheap undrafted free agent gets hurt, whoopty do!

  12. So Schiano is interested in safety when it has affected him or someone on his team, but not when the opposing team is in the V formation and he instructs his D Line to attack defenseless players? Just wanted to make sure I was getting this correct.

  13. For those comparing the victory formation to kickoff returns, give it a rest. Stop hating on Schiano. If your team crashed the victory formation and caused a fumble, you would be all for it. I’m not saying I agree with it, but geez, give it up.

  14. I think, from an actual impact perspective to the game, this is the single most over blown topic ever.

    It wouldn’t drastically change the game. If we told kickers that they couldn’t use a tee, then the rule would effectively be the same. What I think would be better for the same is to move the defensive players closer to the coverage team.

    More space = more speed = more momentum = more likely to cause an injury. It’s really that simple. It’s why I also think the 5 yard contact rule should be abolished. Less space between the DB and WR would necessarily mean fewer big blows to the head.

  15. “At the end of the day, these guys are the ones that are putting it on the line. It is not the coaches. It is none of us.”

    Then let the players decide…

    & I assume that nobody has ever been hurt on a punt return? What happens when they decide there are too many injuries caused then? They aren’t thinking this through…

  16. Schiano has been in the league for how long now? A bit premature to start rewriting the basics is it not? Let’s pump the breaks for a second before throwing the game for a loop.

    For a coach who is known for being ultra aggressive on freaking kneel-downs, that seems contradictory to be the main proponent of player safety on Kickoffs.

    I’ve never seen such desire to change & alter a nearly Perfect Product. Leave it alone.

    Lastly… didn’t moving the Kickoff forward pretty much eliminate Kickoffs? The Touchback % is extremely high now.

  17. i do like the start the game with a punt idea. less collisions from each side, say u punt from the 35 that will end up at the 5 or endzone and u still could run it out… thats an idea i could get behind.. but eliminating that excitement to start the game..thats something that will just drive me away almost completely..

  18. Just end it, I mean it really to me hasn’t been exciting since Hester was doing his thing, and really only one super bowl was determined by a kick returner, so who cares.

  19. My first thought is as a purist, don’t change the game. There are guys who make their living on special teams. There are teams that can’t compete offensively or defensively, but have great special teams and so scrape out a few wins.

    But then I think… I’m not the one putting my life on the line to play the game. So I at least entertain the idea of what this suggestion would look like…

    I think it would be exciting to see if a team would go for it at this down & distance.

    One thing to consider, though, is that a penalty on a kickoff doesn’t change the fact that the receiving team gets to keep the ball. On an offensive play, 4th down… a defensive penalty gives the offense another chance. Hell, a defensive holding, pass interference, illegal contact, or personal foul actually *gives* the offense a first down. So definitely things to think about.

  20. I understand the safety concern but guys do not get hurt on every kicckoff of every game. Some injuries are freak accidents.
    I think Eric Legrande was a wedge buster on the kickoff so the kickoff did not injury him as much as the assignment his coach had him doing. I apologize if I am wrong but the NFL needs to teach better techniques. Seriously, will they get rid of the pass play because of the neck injury to Darrell Stingley? Will they get rid of the pass rush because of the neck injury to Dennis Byrd?
    It is not the plays that hurt players as much as it is the technique they use during the game. Most injuries are just accidents.

  21. I wish there was an option for “interesting idea” or “I’ll have to think about it” instead of just “great” or “bad” idea.

  22. Yeah, Schiano please spare me your concern for player safety you aren’t particularly credible based on your need to blow up a kneel down.

    I understand why they want to do away with the kickoff…and I don’t think its because its unsafe, but rather the NFL has de-balled it to the point of irrelevancy.

    I have seen players destroyed on kick-offs, I have seen players blown up on draw plays, I have seen players blown up on long pass plays. Lets just agree, that if you put on shoulder pads and a helmet every week you pretty much have signed a liability waiver to get blown up regardless of whether its on a kick-off or a draw play.

    Wonder what will happen a receiver gets blown up by a free safety of the gimmicky fourth and 15 go for it option.

  23. Taking the foot out of football. Get rid of helmets since they are being used as weapons. Get rid of shoulder pads because they can hurt guys not wearing helmets. Pants are slowing the game down so wear shorts instead. The points at the end of a football could hurt somebody, make it round instead. Tackling is too dangerous, especially to unsuspecting receivers so lets just keep the round ball on the ground and push it with our feet. Instead of trying get past a goal line, which is quite violent and dangerous to do, maybe they should just set up a big net at each side of the field and try to push the ball into it. There, problem solved, Goodell. You’re welcome.

  24. My God, will people just get over the crashing of the V formation already?
    He only does that when his team is behind by one score or less in an attempt to get the ball back, there is nothing illegal and it’s actually wroked for him in the past. Why should one team just quit becasue the other decides they’ve had enough while winning?
    If the other team doesn’t like it call a standard running play or shotgun snap like the Bucs themselves do now.

    In terms of changing the kickoffs, STOP IT!!!!
    Nobody is forcing them to play the game, it’s fairly obvious it’s a physical game hence all the padding so they know the risks and they are financially rewarded for it.
    It should be a case of “Here are the rules, read them and then sign this injury waiver stating you know the risks. You don’t like the rules or the risks don’t play the game.”

    How is it that the salaries are going up and up yet the risk involved and the actual work they do is decreasing? You can’t look at another player the wrong way during a game now and practices of all kinds have been cut. Fairly soon the NFL will be Manning playing Brady at Madden while both are paid $75 million a year.

  25. I don’t really like the poll options. It’s not a good idea or a bad idea, so much as a stupid idea when one could come up with better ideas. So if that’s the only choice, well then it would be more apt to being a good idea, but if we are allowed to consider alternative ideas, then it makes it less apt to being a good idea. The question is just not framed well for statistical relevance and accuracy at getting at the truth of what you are trying to get at.

  26. This is another place where the NFL could take advantage of a Spring “minor league” like they had with NFL Europe. Not only could you get playing time for practice squad players and street free agents, but you could also test new rule like this. It would also be a place to train new refs, get young coaches new opportunities to coach players and call plays, and spread the game to places that don’t see football much. The NFL was really short sighted when they closed the league. It wasn’t losing that much money. The NFL could have easily absorbed the cost of 30 mil per season. That’s less than 1 mil per team. that’s a drop in the billion dollar bucket…

  27. Might as well just get rid of all special teams. If no special teamer can make the Hall of Fame, they shouldn’t have them at all. Get rid of kick-offs and just have them start at the 20. Eliminate field goals and extra points. Instead of punting the ball, make it a rule that anywhere on the field that an incomplete pass lands on fourth down, that’s where the ball gets spotted. Just like they do with a punt now.

  28. How many guys have been paralyzed blowing up “victory” formations? Shut up and let the guy talk – he’s making a little bit of sense here.

    And call the play what it is – a kneel down. Its not a “victory” formation when half the time it’s used is by teams that are tied or behind going into halftime.

  29. I like it. The game will go through changes forever. Everything on this earth evolves. Everything except large parts of the human race that is.

  30. You sissies opposing the kneel-down shenanigans will just not let it go…You guys know the NBA is on if you don’t want to watch contact sports…

  31. You give Peyton Manning 4th and 15 and he will convert it almost 50% of the time. I am not sure if I completely understand how this would work and would love it explained to me more.

    If a team scores a touchdown, instead of kicking off to the other team, the team that just scored the touchdown gets a 4th and 15 and can either convert it, or the ball goes to the other team at their 20 or 30? If that is the case, some teams will just play keep away all game, and one team may not get the ball for a whole half. Is this correct?

  32. I think it makes no sense. I like the way it is now. It’s already fixed in my opinion and the rules of football in general haven’t been tampered with.

  33. For everyone who is shooting down this change to the rules, you need to consider the history of football. In the early 1900’s Teddy Roosevelt threatened to ban the game completely due to the violence and death. The result of these controversies was the invention of the forward pass. Can you imagine football without the forward pass, because I can’t. For all of you who are solely against changing the game, you need to realize that everything (and I mean everything) is always still a work in progress. Those who resist change or innovation always get left in the dark.

  34. The problem I have is the 30 yard line. A punter would have to launch one >70 yards to get a touchback, and 60-69 yards to get something inside the 10. Only 4 punters this year have broken 70 yards on a punt… every kicker can reach the end zone on a kickoff from the 35.

    At an average gross punt of 45 yards, the ball will land around the opponent’s 25 yard line which all but ensures a return to somewhere between the 30 and 35. That’s far better field position than the kickoffs produce.

    Also, if punt rules apply, a muffed punt can’t be advanced by the kicking team – during a kickoff, that ball is 100% live if fumbled or dropped.

    Another detail will be requiring a certain number of defenders/return-team members within 7 yards of the line of scrimmage to prevent the downfield collisions this plan is designed to eliminate.

  35. A lot of players would be unemployed if they get rid of kick offs…….i.e. Brandon Banks of the Redskins.

  36. All those who don’t like it, get your head out of your butts. What are the chances you convert 4th and 15? From your own 30? And who would really go for it except towards the end of a game where another score makes the game more exciting, more relevant? Geez, nothing is so sacred about the boring kickoff returns since they’ve been moved up again, at least give them a try in preseason. How often is an onsides kick converted? Please, grow up and try something different. Oh, the game, the game. The game garners like $9 billion/year, you don’t like it, don’t watch.

  37. I think this is one of the stupidest ideas ever. Its a damn shame what happened Eric LeGrand, but this is ridiculous.

    Football by nature is a violent game, those who play should understand that they take a risk everytime they go out there. Furthermore, injuries like LeGrand’s are rare, extremely rare. This proposed rule change isn’t about making the game safer, its just one more layer to protect Goodell and the NFL from a lawsuit should the unthinkable happen. If this keeps up in a few years the helmets and pads will be gone and the NFL will be a full fledged flag football league.

  38. Do you people even read???

    1. The idea was devised when he was at Rutgers after watching LeGrand get paralyzed, not 3 months ago after the Giants game. Besides, he has been helping all levels of football in creating a procedure for handling spinal cord injuries ie Quincy Black’s injury this year.

    2. He also never said 4th and 15 was the end all be all. He said do research and whatever the percentage to equal onside kicks success rates should be used. It may need to be 4th and 20 or 30 even.

    3. As for the kneel down play. The same collisions happen every time a punt block or FG block is called. The “problem” with the kneel down play is that no one had ever done it.

    4. Rule changes have happened in football since it’s inception. The largest being the adoption of the forward pass Schiano mentions 1906, but also the two point conversion 1960, moving goal posts to back of the endzone 1974, horsecollar tackles and facemask penalties were added, etc.

    Ultimately, the game has always changed and will continue to change. The kickoff will be taken out of the game due to the severity and frequency of the injuries. Schiano is trying to think about a solution that still gives the game excitement instead of just starting at the 20. Kudos to him, and for anyone who can’t use their brains for something other than complaining, run down on a couple kickoffs and experience a couple kickoffs yourself!!

  39. It’s a stupid idea from a source with no NFL cred whatsoever. If kickoffs are still an injury problem – and I do not accept that they are until we see the results from the first year of the new rules – there are probably 10 changes better than starting the game with a punt.

  40. I hate the idea of the 4th and 15 things. Why not just require 7 players from the kick-off team, and a certian number of players on the receiving team to be within 10 yards of the ball on kickoff?

    Essentially, you would force them into a “punt-type” formation for kick-offs.

  41. nygiantstones says:
    Dec 7, 2012 4:47 PM
    So Schiano is interested in safety when it has affected him or someone on his team, but not when the opposing team is in the V formation and he instructs his D Line to attack defenseless players? Just wanted to make sure I was getting this correct.
    You are not even in the same zip code as correct. The V formation was established as a “safe” play. That means safe from a turnover, not safe from injury. The defense has every right to try to get the ball and that is exactly what the Bucs have done. Nobody has gone after anyone’s knees. If the OL is “defenseless” at an offensive snap, that is completely on them.

    As for the kick-off proposal. I absolutely hate the idea. Keep kick-offs in the game. That said, if they are hell-bent on changing the game, then this idea is better than just getting the ball on the ___ yard line.

  42. the first two times i votes an emphatic no on this issue. today, i may vote yes. the thing about it is, in ten years we won’t even remember that something we believe is so fundamental to football even existed. im not saying this is the right answer, but I am becoming more open to ideas.

  43. Here’s an alternate idea:

    After scoring, the scoring team will have two options.

    1. Concede the ball to the opponent who will then start from their own 20.

    2. Attempt a 50 yard field goal for a chance to retain possession. If the FG is good they will keep possession and start from their own 20. If they miss the FG the opponent is awarded possession at the spot of the kick (their own 40).

  44. Agree with the comment about Schiano and his disingenousness given his position on kneel downs. Bad idea to eliminate kickoffs.

    Schiano ought to go back to the college game if he wants to start messing with the game since they messed with it with overtime rules, to say nothing of the lack of a playoff system.

  45. I think they should eliminate the extra point first. Those are just a waste of time.

    I think a better Idea would be to have the kicking team punt from the 50 so that way there is still the excitement of a kick return but the kicking players don’t get a full head of steam.

    If they want to onside kick they have to do it at the 50 and if they recover they take it at their own 30 but if they don’t recover the receiving team gets it at the 50.

  46. There clearly needs to be more discussion on this issue. The play impacts several layers of rules and strategy. Is the ball live on the kick/does it need to travel 10 yards? Does the ball need to stay in bounds? What happens on penalties? Currently, there is no way for the kicking team to regain the ball on a kickoff but a simple defensive holding (when ball is not kicked) or roughing the kicker, etc. would result in an automatic first down for the kicking team. How will it be handled in overtime? (FG and converted 4th & 15 option does not give both teams possession)

    This rule would place even more emphasis on the passing game and teams with “elite” QBs would have an even bigger advantage. RBs would become less important than they already are. There are a ton of potential unintended consequences with a change as drastic as this. You’ve seen how the rules are written, how confident are you that the lawyers will write it well enough that it is clear? Personally, I do not see the need for change since most kickoff returns have already been eliminated. The constant tinkering is ruining a once great game. Please stop it.

  47. I like the concept, but it would give high-powered passing offenses an advantage over high-powered run offenses.

  48. I’m not saying I support getting rid of kickoffs. I’m undecided. But I would make a couple of points:

    Kickoffs are rarely exciting. Even those that aren’t touchbacks usually result in a returner running to about the 20 yard line and getting tackled. I would venture to guess that less than one in twenty results in an exciting play.

    The numbers don’t lie. When you compare the amount of catastrophic injuries overall to the number that occur on kickoffs, there is a clear connection.

    Eliminating the kickoff would certainly not be the “end” of football. Did college basketball “end” when they got rid of the tip off? I’ll bet many of you didn’t even know they had, and college BB is as big or bigger than ever.

    Over the last 20 years, there has been rule change after rule change that people squawked would be the “end of football”. Yet football is bigger and more popular than ever.

    There is something exciting to the OPENING kick off of the game and the second half, due to the anticipation and excitement. Here’s my compromise: Kickoff to start the game the second half, and any time the scoring team is down by 8 points or less with less than 3 minutes to go (thus allowing for on-side kicks), and start at the 25 instead of kicking off for other points of the game.

  49. Leave the NFL and the legacy of the game alone.

    The game of football is a violent sport. Players get paid millions of dollars to put it all on the line for this intense game we call football.

    Roger Goodell acts like the overly protective mom that just won’t let her son do anything. It’s time to let go and realize injuries happen. It’s a contact sport.

    Hey there party kids! Let’s all just pretend to be drunk, because alcohol is bad for you.

  50. OK, the LeGrand thing is really sad. So forgive me if this comes across as very callous:

    Joe Theismann’s career ended on a pass play when he got sacked. Should we ban the D-Line from rushing the passer or remove pass plays altogether?

    I understand the emphasis on safety, but the players know what they’re getting into. Freak injuries are part of the game. There are risks and there are rewards. The guys who want the payday and no contact should master baseball or basketball.

  51. The fact that attorneys are the driving force in the league these days has already badly effected the game and will soon outright ruin it.

    Wait till the coaches have to have a legal assistant on the sidelines to clear every play through so the league can make sure any particular formation might not result in additional liability to the league.

    Football will die an agonizing death from the fan viewpoint and it won’t even be a slow one with the people running the league these days.


  52. Nope. Nothing callous about comparing a guy who retired with a broken leg after a lengthy pro career to a guy who can’t move any part of his body below his neck and has to blow into a straw to move his wheel chair.

    Almost exactly the same thing.

  53. I was initially opposed to the idea, but I’m quickly warming up to it. Crunch the numbers to determine how many “yards to go” will equal the expected (not surprise) onside kick success rate and figure out where the mark to actually punt from will result in the receiving team’s starting field position to match the current average, then test it out in preseason. Compile data (stats, injury rate, etc.), listen to feedback from players, coaches and fans and institute it the following season after ironing out the kinks.
    Let’s face it, kickoffs are boring with 2 exceptions: when a player takes it to the house or the onside kick. If I understand the new proposal correctly, the receiving team can still return the punt for a TD and the desperate punting team would still have the chance to convert one exciting, low-percentage play to maintain possession.
    It’s intriguing enough to be explored.

  54. Let’s call it 4th and 20, not 4th and 15. If you start with 4th and 15, a penalty could give “certain” teams an advantage. And, I think they are trying to warm us up to that idea. It’s very interesting that the 15 yard thing is mentioned.

    A PI call could be different yardage wise, but the whole 15 yard thing makes me think it could be a little skewed.

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