League could consider adjustment to kickoff point

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Last week, former NFL special-teams coach Mike Westhoff complained about the movement of the kickoff point back to the 35.

But unlikely some (i.e., me) who’ll make a complaint without offering a solution, Westhoff offered this proposal:  Kick the ball from the 25, limit all 11 members of the kicking team to no more than five yards for a running start, and mandate the placement of eight of the 11 members of the return team within 10 and 20 yards of the kickoff point.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com reports that the Competition Committee will at least consider the idea, which could cut down on the high-speed collisions that can cause serious head and neck injuries.

But the rule has no chance of being adopted absent proof that the risk of injury will be no greater than the current arrangement.  The rule was changed to make the kickoff play safer; the league won’t change it to anything else if there’s a risk it will be more dangerous.

The league still hasn’t completely shelved the idea of getting rid of the kickoff completely, with Commissioner Roger Goodell floating last year the possibility of replacing the kickoff with the team that would be kicking off facing fourth down and 15 from its own 40, with the option of punting or trying to gain 15 yards to keep possession.

Regardless, safety has supplanted all other concerns on this issue, including Westhoff’s worry that the league’s diminished emphasis on special teams will prevent the rise of another John Harbaugh, who had been a special-teams coordinator in Philly for years before spending one season as a defensive backs coach, before being hired by Baltimore.

But it’s a zero-sum game.  For every assistant who won’t climb the ladder via special teams, some other assistant will climb the ladder another way.  And the next Harbaugh will realize that the circumstances have changed, and he’ll adjust his strategy toward a path more likely to make it to the top of the profession in an age where there’s a limited way to get noticed based on how an assistant coach handles kickoffs and kick returns.

20 responses to “League could consider adjustment to kickoff point

  1. I suppose if you line up your players 20 yards from the point of the kick, it will make the onside kicks pretty easy…

  2. Imagine Peyton Manning with the 4th and 15 rule in place. He easily could throw 10 TDs in a game and keep the ball for an entire quarter, if not half.

  3. Coach John Harbaugh is the greatest coach in the the history of the NFL. I am so glad to have him coaching my team.


  4. Bill Belichick says: Oct 7, 2013 9:54 AM

    I suppose if you line up your players 20 yards from the point of the kick, it will make the onside kicks pretty easy…
    BB, the proposal is lining up 8 players between 10 and 20 yards, not 8 guys 20 yards from the point of the kick. If, however, the rule is mandatory in all situations (as in allowing no more than 8) then having only 8 in the 10 to 20 yard box will make onside kicks easier, but they’ll still be 10 yards off the ball, not 20.

  5. What about this: On kickoff, give the kicking team the choice of these options:

    1) Don’t kick – other team gets the ball automatically at the 20.

    2) Kick as normal – if it is a touchback, other team gets the ball at the 30 (if you really want to discourage kicks) BUT this allows for the option of an onside kick at any point in the game.

  6. Here’s a rule change I’d love to see: Give the team trying a field goal, extra point or during a punt or kickoff a bright orange (or similar color) football for these kicks so we could all find it more easily and see if it made it through the uprights. Right now sometimes it gets lost in the crowd and can be difficult to follow its trajectory. During those rare times the kicks or punts are blocked, face or onside it would help both players and fans find the ball.

  7. The whole 4th and 15 thing is stupid to me.. As mentioned above, Manning and Brees could pick those up likely 50% of the time.. The owners and Goodell are going to kill a good thing, they are already suffocating the fans with these stupid safety rules.. Handicapping defenses so they can have scores like 51-48. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice would have blown this league out of the water with these stupid rules..

  8. Hard to see how you can get any proof of effects of any proposal unless you try it for a while.

  9. They could get rid of the pads, helmet, and ball and just have the players just chat with each other on the field for an hour. That would also be safer.

  10. PLEASE stop printing the last name of that fat guy from SI. Him using that name is offensive to me and since I am offended YOU MUST LISTEN!

  11. They’re over thinking this.

    Leave the kickoff at the 35, but extend the “out of bounds” rule to the back of the end zone as well…ie if you kick it out of the back of the end zone, the receiving team get’s it at the 40.

    This will result in more pooch kicks…which take longer to develop…thus fewer high speed collisions. No one ever gets hurt on a pooch kick…and it keeps the KO return an exciting part of the game. Unlike the mockery they’ve turned it into currently.

  12. Clarification on paragraph #2…If the kick off lands out of the back of the end zone, the rec’ing team takes possession at the 40. If it hits the ground in the field of play or end zone, then rolls out the back of the end zone, normal touchback rules…ie the 20 yard line…apply.

  13. Under the new rule the ball will not actually be kicked, but each team will be allowed to choose one player to play “patty cake” at the 50 yard line with each the other team’s chosen player.

    Whoever wins the round of patty cake must then apologize to the other team for hurting their feelings by winning that “play” and may place the ball at the “receiving team’s” 20 yard line if the “receiving” team “wins the kickoff” and at the 10 yard line if they “lose the kickoff play”.

    Each player involved may also be given 5 yard penalties for “slapping the other player’s hand too hard” and a 10 yard penalty for “playing patty cake with a mean expression on your face”.

  14. The solution to injuries on kickoffs can be solved by awarding points for a kickoff kicker who puts the ball through the uprights – 2 points – then if that is made, the kickoff team keeps the ball and then eliminate the onside kick. If the ball does not go through the upright, the receiving team gets the ball at the 30 yard line automatically. Put some skill back into the kickoffs.

    There is no real skill in constant touchbacks and kickoff returns should only be used for the first possession by the team receiving the ball in the first and second half (that way each team gets one try per game) and each team in OT should get one try. And only on those “kickoff returns” would players be able to engage the opponent.

  15. Wasn’t it Westhoffs guys who we’re trying to trip players running down the sideline a few years back?

    Yea he’s definitely looking out for player safety…

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