Onside kick alternative will succeed about as often as pre-rule change onside kicks

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The fourth-and-15 alternative to the onside kick, which NFL owners are considering, is likely to be successful about as often as onside kicks were successful before the NFL changed the rules to make them more difficult.

From 2013 to 2017, the five seasons before revised kickoff rules made onside kicks harder, the success rate was of onside kicks was 16.3 percent.

In the 2019 season, NFL offenses that needed to gain 15 yards (running plays on third-and-15 or fourth-and-15) were successful 15.9 percent of the time.

So the alternative to the onside kick should work about 16 percent of the time, just as onside kicks worked about 16 percent of the time — until the NFL changed the rules.

Since the revised kickoff rules were implemented in 2018, onside kicks have been successful only 10.5 percent of the time. That’s not an enormous drop-off, but considering how vital the onside kick is to last-minute comebacks, there was concern in and around the NFL that they had become too hard to recover. The alternative will be a bit easier to convert, and comebacks will become a little more feasible.

43 responses to “Onside kick alternative will succeed about as often as pre-rule change onside kicks

  1. Psychologically I think teams will be more comfortable with the 4th and 15 play. Teams can envision themselves successfully executing a play from their playbook more than they can tracking down a randomly bouncing ball.

  2. Onside kicks are last ditch efforts that require a solid special team and luck. That’s what makes them exciting. Never meant to be a Mahomes special. Don’t change this rule!

  3. Why bother? So if you score with x minutes left you get the ball back for one play to make 15 yards and a new set of downs? Am I missing something?

  4. What were game circumstances of all the 3rd and 4th downs you analyzed?

    If I’m up 16-7 in the 4th quarter and am facing 3rd and 15, there’s no way I’m risking a turnover. I hand the ball off and punt, knowing my defense has played well the whole game.

    To me, that scenario should be thrown right out of the data pool. Only the “backs against the wall” scenarios should count.

  5. A big part of the early success rate for onside kicks (pre 2019) was the element of surprise as many of them happened prior to last-ditch, 4th quarter attempts.

  6. The NFL is getting like the federal government…If it ain’t broke, break it.

  7. If there is a judgement call of defensive holding do they get an automatic first down?

  8. A 15 yard completion for Dwayne Haskins and Terry MacLaren is a layup. There will be games in which their opponents will virtually never see the ball on offense. This is a bad rule for the NFL but terrific for the Skins.

  9. The analysis also doesn’t account for penalties, particularly defensive holding/PI.

  10. Ok, but there should be a caveat: No DPIs will be called on this play.

  11. They shouldn’t do this. If you’re down that big late, you SHOULD LOSE! Stop artificially giving people chances. If you stink it up for 58 minutes, you shouldn’t get to steal a victory on some B.S. fluke.

  12. Including 3rd downs in the analysis muddies the data. Teams that are leading late are not going to take a lot of risks and, conversely, teams that are trailing late will frequently settle for shorter yardage on 3rd and long to setup 4th and manageable.

  13. How long before Belichick figures out how to get a cheap 5 yard defensive illegal contact, simply running into a defensive player seems to always work, and the automatic 1st down penalty. Then the other team, if they can’t stop the offensive, never gets the ball back. Besides the other teams kick off, a team could control al,most every possession (if they can score), especially with the field position on “the new on-side kick.”

    Take away the penalties then the defensive players simply mug the offensive players.

  14. It’s interesting to see those stats. I have a feeling that game circumstances will make this somewhat apples & oranges with that, though.

    Right now, no one can do a 4th & 15 to get the ball back after a score. So I would guess a lot of those failed plays are teams whose offenses are struggling facing defenses that have momentum.

    Under this new rule, it would be teams who just scored trying that play – in other words, a team whose offense was just *successful* gets to do it, and a defense that just *failed to stop them* gets to defend it.

    I think that’s going to make a difference. Maybe we’ll get to find out.

  15. I like this one. This does a great job of balancing player risk vs chance of success.

    I think you’ll see a LOT more teams going for it with this. And it’s easy to tweak back to 4th and 20 if teams pull it off too much

  16. .
    change the rules back…
    The injuries on kick off’s was a bogus thing
    The percentage was something like .01%
    this was all based on a bogus injury fix to appease the courts, NONE of the whines ever stated the PERCENTAGE

  17. I didn’t know so many people were in love with the onside kick. I don’t like that they change a ton of rules every year but this one seems like it will only make things more interesting. And as to the success rate being the same, that may be true right now but I bet every team would start coming up with and practicing some interesting 15 yard plays that were not previously a part of their arsenal. Should be fun

  18. The difference between 16.3 and 10.5 is 5.8 or 35.58%.
    Now, depending on how one judges these things, maybe “That’s not an enormous drop-off”, but I’d say it’sHUGE. If you think not, then consider absorbing the same cut in your salary.

  19. Well, I suppose it will be okay so long as they wear masks and maintain social distancing.

  20. Oh how I long for the days when no one cared, including the players, about the players’ brains.

  21. 96,000 Americans have died from the pandemic. How many more before the 2020 NFL season is called off?

  22. “I don’t like that they change a ton of rules every year . . .”

    I think, on average, they change four or five *parts* of rules a year. That’s not what anyone should call “a ton”.

  23. 4th and 15 will succeed more than the onside kick used to before the rule change…

  24. This is a terrible rule change. It just gives the advantage to the teams with the best QBs, and those teams already have the advantage!

    While the percentage of conversions may be the same, its going to be a lot easier for teams with a top 5 QB. Other teams like the Bears, have almost no chance at converting a 4th and 15. Teams like the Chiefs will probably convert 75% of the time.

  25. The question not addressed here is this: where does the opposing team get the ball if the “4th and 15” attempt is unsuccessful? It seems like that would have a huge impact as far as how often this play was attempted.

  26. Why try to change NFL football into a “make it, take it” basketball scenario? Do they really want teams that are nightmare matchups on certain defenses to just keep the ball all half? There are already certain teams where the strategy is to use a slow methodical long drive to eat up the clock and keep them off the field. This rule can eliminate that strategy because that high powered offense would rather chance a 4th and 15 than waste 10 minutes hoping for a stop or a field goal. The penalties are also a concern and any iffy call or non-call will be scrutinized as THE game deciding event. I don’t care what the percentages are. I want the raw data to see if the reason given for the change that happened a couple years ago was actually effective at all. If not or there was only a negligible difference, change it back to the old way and let the strategy guys and their players decide the darn game.

  27. This just means that more games are going to be decided by the refs, since pass interference is going to come into play on almost every attempt, and whether or not it gets called is anyone’s guess. There’s just a big push to take the game’s outcome away from the players. I guess the league has to make up the revenue somehow.

  28. Watch the ravens go for it after every single score, they are going to be racking them up like crazy.

  29. I heard they’re going to run the clock on this 4th and 15 attempt. OK, so a team scores with 15 seconds left. On the 4th and 15 attempt, if I’m the defense, I hold every skill position player to keep them from getting a reception. Let’s say that play takes 10 seconds and the D gets a 5-yard holding penalty. But now they have only 5 seconds. Even if they gain the 20 yards and keep the ball, the game will be over. Don’t think Belichick isn’t thinking about things like this.

  30. So Mahomes ans Rodgers get a chance at a last second Hailmary wihtout the need to recover a kick?

  31. The question not addressed here is this: where does the opposing team get the ball if the “4th and 15” attempt is unsuccessful? It seems like that would have a huge impact as far as how often this play was attempted.

    From what I’ve read it would truly be a “4th and 15” play. The ball gets turned over on downs at the spot of the last play. So somewhere between the 25 and the 40, unless there’s a sack or fumble.

  32. another attempt to reward mediocrity by replacing game planning and team discipline with with chance.

  33. What are the special teamers going to spend their practice time on when onside kicks are taken away?

  34. Onside kick is a last chance for a team in a desperate situation. The proposal is a chance for a dominant team to mercilessly run up the score. Another joke from the league of billionaires. Get the officiating right ( sky judge) and the rest will take care of itself.

  35. As a Seahawk fan, I hate this. The Seahawks give up more 3rd and 15+ conversions than any other team in football. They’d be giving up these conversions every week.

  36. Onside kicks themselves are a little gimmicky. The proposed change is even more so.

    I’m fine with the current success rate of onside kicks at around 10%. It should be a rare outcome in helping decide a game for teams that are behind, not a dependable strategy.

  37. People want classic football. They want deep kickoffs, wedgde-blocking, big returns, onside kicks, and quarterbacks with balls who can take a hit.

    -People want a game where the defense is allowed to play the game too. Farting is not roughing the quarterback.

    -Fact: Football players get hurt; they always have and always will.

    The XFL sucks so why move in that direction?

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