Fourth-and-15 onside kick alternative will test tired defenses

Getty Images

Ever since the Commissioner first floated the fourth-and-15 kickoff concept in his 2012 Time “Enforcer” profile, it has seemed inevitable that it would make its way to the NFL.

It soon could, not as a replacement for the kickoff (yet) but as a twice-per-game alternative to the onside kick, which has become harder than ever to convert, thanks to changes to the kickoff formation that have removed the running start for the kicking team’s players.

Several years ago, someone asked Roger Goodell who he roots for. Said Goodell, “Whoever is trailing.” And it’s that mentality that compels the NFL to come up with ways to allow a team that is behind by multiple scores to close the gap in what otherwise would be a lost cause.

Despite the statistics regarding the usual success rate for fourth-and-15 plays in the normal course of a game, consider a factor that Simms previously mentioned on PFT Live as we discussed the merits, or not, of replacing the onside kick with a one-shot scrimmage play: When it’s time to line up for a fourth-and-15 play as the alternative to an onside kick, it will be the defense that just surrendered a score (possibly at the end of a long drive) that will have to suck it up for one more play. If they fail, they then get to stay out on the field and continue to be gashed while gassed.

Again, it’s good for the game because the team that’s trailing will have even more hope. There’s also something to be said for a team’s fate to be determined by the ability of the defense to make a stop and not the arbitrary bounce or hop or skip of an oblong leather ball.

Right or wrong, the time has come for the fourth-and-15 play. If passed this week, it likely will be a one-year experiment, with the possibility of permanence by 2021. If it sticks, there’s a possibility that it will spread, potentially replacing the kickoff in its entirety.

54 responses to “Fourth-and-15 onside kick alternative will test tired defenses

  1. “Again, it’s good for the game because the team that’s trailing will have even more hope.”

    I don’t think so. I think this will have the unintended consequence of being converted far more often than onside kicks for the reasons you bring up, and allow too many teams to come back from games they should otherwise lose.

    Especially since you know most of those plays will be pass plays, and the league will then have to choose to officiate them like hail mary’s, ie the defense can get away with a lot more bumping and contact, or officiate them like normal so any ticky tack penalty by the D will hand the team going for the 4th and 15 an easy 1st down.

    Nope, this rule change absolutely sucks.

  2. This rule is not good. My concern is that more successful conversions will be the result of penalties, not good plays.

  3. One play will tire the defense?

    Sounds like better conditioning needs to be implemented

  4. Good luck placing bets once this rule is implemented. Anyone saying the risk is higher with the ball at the 25 is failing to see that the team going for the 4-15 has nothing to lose if they are down with next to no time remaining. I see over/unders and point spreads being like playing roulette going forward.

  5. I imagine a lot of teams will be trailing the Redskins at game’s end this season and in desperation might give this gambit a try. But, realistically, does anyone think for a second that Chase Young would allow the quarterback to get the pass off?!!? Not a chance. Chase will snuff out the throw in a blink of an eye so you might as well go for the kickoff.

  6. Like many others I’m against this for obvious reasons one of which is what happens when a defensive penalty is called that gives the offense an automatic 1st down? Go back to the old rule!

  7. No, you just give the penalty yardage and still make them convert the 4th and 15 from the new line of scrimmage. The only weird thing is if the offense scores a TD. You don’t want touchdowns on the onside kick play.

  8. It’s possible for one team to get only one offense possession per game. Final score 70-0

  9. pkrlvr says:
    May 23, 2020 at 11:19 am
    Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just go back to the old kickoff rules for onsiders only?
    ——–

    Because a guy with a 20 yard full steam running start at a stationary player is dangerous.

  10. Gee good thing they got rid of the PI replay now that there will be a ton more long passes with the game in the line.

    What’s the over/under on teams that get gut punched by bad officiating on these 4th and 15 plays this season?

  11. Seems to me the offense will be tired, too. Unless the prior TD was scored by special teams or the defense off a turnover.

  12. If it was a good thing for the game, they wouldn’t adopt it. Seriously, when was the last time they did something right? It’s twilight zone on steroids.

  13. Why don’t they just reduce how many yards the ball has to go before the kicking team can touch it? Go from 10 yards to 7 yards or something.

  14. “No, you just give the penalty yardage and still make them convert the 4th and 15 from the new line of scrimmage. The only weird thing is if the offense scores a TD. You don’t want touchdowns on the onside kick play.”

    So imagine this: running back is by himself in the flat, the QB throws the ball to him and he makes it 12 yards downfield where he gets tackled by his facemask and the refs call the facemask penalty.

    Are you going to take away the yards the RB gained prior to the illegal tackle? Make it 4th and 15 from the 40?

    4th and 3 from the other teams 48?

    First and 10 from from the other teams 48?

    It’s not cut and dry for either case.

  15. Stupid rule changes like this are killing this sport for me. It’s almost like the NFL wants to eliminate its old-school fans.

  16. Please just stop changing things simply for the sake of changing them. If there was a need for this in football then I’m sure it would’ve come up by now.

    It’s like the NFL thinks that they’re a failing brand or a new entity trying to compete with established competition ..
    I.e. ABA basketball and the three point line ..

    The only thing these rule changes will do is push people away. Leave it be !

  17. I hate this rule. So lets make it dumber than what it is. If you fail on the 4 and 15…the other team gets the ball and 7 points.

  18. Absolutely Noooooooo,………..
    Why give a team down by multiple scores a second chance ? Even if it’s by less than 7 points.
    To punish the defense for being good is contrary to the purpose of the game itself.

  19. Known fact he roots for the Pats
    Sharpe made the phonecall for help for the Pats
    Goodell arrived and its been a free ride ever since

  20. Lets hope Belichick exploits this rule against the Jets the proposed 2 times a quarter and limits them to 3-4 possessions the whole game. Head coaches with top offenses should turn a game into a total circus by playing keep away and putting this stupid rule back to bed after 2020.

  21. imaduffer says:
    May 23, 2020 at 11:42 am
    It’s possible for one team to get only one offense possession per game. Final score 70-0
    —————-
    Did you bother to read the article? It would be only a twice per game option. A team could not do it 10 times (besides the fact that they would not convert all 10 of them).

  22. 4th and 15 isn’t an impossible feat anymore. Especially with penalties called the way they are. I would never kick off again if this stupid rule was implemented. I can see teams converting these multiple times a game. If the nfl wants to do this approach, it should be like 4th and 25, and if you fail, the opposing team gets the ball already in field goal range. Sound dumb? It is. And so is this idea the nfl came up with. Just go back to the old onside kicks.

  23. This is a terrible, stupid, gimmicky idea. Beyond that, it’s unfair to the team in the lead. You’re asking them to play defense again after they just played defense. Why? It’s more advantageous to the trailing team than the traditional onside kick–and why should the team that’s effectively lost the game get another chance?

    Keep the kickoff and the onside kick. Once you start making gimmicky rule changes–and this one is completely gimmicky–where does it stop?

  24. Stop messing with the game. Quit putting in gimmick plays that aren’t necessary, just because. Quit turning the game into a carnival midway, and let the players play. The NFL is the greatest game in the world but it won’t be if the owners don’t stop meddling with the rules and making wholesale changes in the very structure of the game itself. Just stop it, already.

  25. What a great idea! While we’re at it, let’s make touchdowns for the trailing team worth 10 points and field goals 6! It’s not fair that just one team has all the points. In fact, maybe the team with the worst record should get 9 points for a touchdown just for fairness.

  26. This a horrible idea and Goodell gives it away when he says he cheers for the losing team. What he says is that this rule is not meant to improve the competitive nature of the game for fans who care who actually wins and loses, but to keep up the interest of the marginal fan who’ll turn off a game that isn’t close.

  27. Just go ahead and change how you determine the winners of games. Still keep track of touchdowns, field goals, etc. But they become just a stat. Instead, the winner is the team that puts up the most fantasy points. That would revolutionize the game, right? Or as someone else posted, you turn it into make it, take it. Rule tweaks and improvements are good but don’t get too gimmicky.

  28. Just remember, it is a reality show not a sporting event. Defensive holding, automatic …..First Down

  29. The game is starting to get like kids playing poker, with deuces and one-eyed jacks wild. In other words, ridiculous.

  30. No, the time has NOT come for the fourth and 15 play. I’m sure fans will just LOVE seeing these plays converted due to a defensive penalty, especially controversial holding and PI calls. Another dumb idea from the empty-suit commissioner.

  31. The problem is every one is talking about the team behind using it. What if the team ahead just scored and wants to do it to run the score up so the team behind has a harder time coming from behind. an example team A scores decides to do the 4th and fifteen and make it then scores then does it again and scores again then the other teams offense is behind 21 points before they get the ball again.

  32. How about fourth and ten but you can’t pass beyond the line of scrimmage.

  33. ROSMITH51 says:
    May 23, 2020 at 12:50 pm
    “No, you just give the penalty yardage and still make them convert the 4th and 15 from the new line of scrimmage. The only weird thing is if the offense scores a TD. You don’t want touchdowns on the onside kick play.”

    So imagine this: running back is by himself in the flat, the QB throws the ball to him and he makes it 12 yards downfield where he gets tackled by his facemask and the refs call the facemask penalty.

    Are you going to take away the yards the RB gained prior to the illegal tackle? Make it 4th and 15 from the 40?

    4th and 3 from the other teams 48?

    First and 10 from from the other teams 48?

    It’s not cut and dry for either case.

    I would opt for 4th and 15 from the 50. Negate the plat and give the penalty yardage.

  34. What Next ???
    Participation Trophys for teams that don’t make the playoffs ?

  35. Time to do away with the kickoff entirely. The science is undeniable to what it does to player brains. Past due for the NFL to innovate instead of stick with traditions that have clearly been determined to be bad.

  36. Let’s say the Packers are down in the final minutes and need to try the 4th and 15, Rodgers drops back and throws 10 yards over the receiver’s head, but then, right then, a defensive lineman touches Rodgers with his pinkie finger. Now the Packers have a first down at the 40.

  37. Watched football my whole life and i never noticed all these supposed kickoff injuries. One would think teams would have to sign new special teams guys nearly every week if there really were all these injuries.

    Something else is at play here. The NFL wants to get rid of kickoffs not for safety but for money. Get rid of the kickoff and the last 5 guys on the roster are no longer special teamers. Instead they are more developmental backups.

    The NFL knows they need to expand rosters for development. Getting rid of the kickoff would in effect give them 5 extra spots without having to actually expand rosters.

  38. Let’s all just suggest a ridiculous rule changes here in the comments. Who knows, maybe one of them will stick. If nothing else, it’ll make reading the comments a good laugh.
    My first rule change suggestion is to make pick sixes into pick 12’s. It becomes a pick 20 if the QB has scrambled and thrown outside of the tackle box. Wouldn’t you love to see QBs crying after that? It could become a weekly sports show of its own that shows only highlights of QBs around the league pouting like tired toddlers.
    Here’s a funny one: any offensive lineman called for more than 1 holding penalty per game is disqualified from that game. As a Broncos fan, I’d like to dub it the Garrett Holds rule. LOL
    Finally, one that is less ridiculous is to make intentional grounding and OPI automatic turnovers. Also, QBs are no longer given the grace of being outside the tackle box and all throws must land within 5 yards of an eligible receiver.

  39. “This a horrible idea and Goodell gives it away when he says he cheers for the losing team. What he says is that this rule is not meant to improve the competitive nature of the game for fans who care who actually wins and loses, but to keep up the interest of the marginal fan who’ll turn off a game that isn’t close.”

    It also says he wants true parity even for the poorly run franchises so the fans of the worst teams can still have hope of wins when they normally would have little.

    This is a reward for the terrible owners who make no effort to put a winner on the field.

  40. No, you just give the penalty yardage and still make them convert the 4th and 15 from the new line of scrimmage.
    —————
    The theoretical dilemma here is the same as making pass interference a spot foul. If a D-back is clearly beaten, he is basically then rewarded by interfering with the receiver. Instead of giving up a touchdown, he would be basically be rewarded by only allowing what is essentially a “do over”

  41. artic19 says:
    Let’s say the Packers are down in the final minutes and need to try the 4th and 15, Rodgers drops back and throws 10 yards over the receiver’s head, but then, right then, a defensive lineman touches Rodgers with his pinkie finger. Now the Packers have a first down at the 40.
    >>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<
    You are EXACTLY CORRECT. And I'm a Packer fan. I know what you're talkin' about.
    I hate the idea of a game decided by officiating crews. But I also don't like giving a losing team a second chance because the NFL doesn't want an onside kick.
    Somebody tell me how a 4th and 15 replicates the onside kick ? It doesn't. It was about reducing contact injuries,.. right ? How does 4th and 15 eliminate injuries ???

  42. .
    get rid of this and put things back to normal…

    This is all based on a lie…

    kickoffs DO NOT HAVE measurable injury rates.

  43. With the way the rules are set up for covering receivers, this will be converted rather frequently. Seems like a dumb strategy to fix something that is not a problem. If you want to change anything, they should go the route of the XFL with the kickoffs. As a Chiefs fan, I like this rule as Mahomes and Co. will convert it more than they won’t. As a football fan, I don’t like this rule as it essentially makes everything easier. If I were a coach, I would be doing this frequently if I had a average defense or better.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.