4th-and-15 alternative shouldn’t be available to the team that is leading

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The 4th-and-15 alternative to the onside kick, as currently formulated, would allow a team to use it up to twice per game, even if the team is leading. And that would be a mistake.

The scrimmage play is being proposed primarily as a way to give the team that is trailing a chance to close the gap, a better chance than the current onside-kick configuration that, given changes to the formation, has made it much harder for the kicking team to recover. It therefore should be confined to the team that is losing the game and, in turn, trying to tie things up or take the lead.

The fact that the clock will run coupled with the ability to use the 4th-and-15 play while leading would give a team an opportunity to easily cement a win after going ahead late. In lieu of kicking off and giving the losing team a chance for a Stanford band-style play, the team that takes a late lead can opt for the 4th-and-15 play, burning off the last few seconds with the quarterback running around and/or throwing the ball deep, like Patrick Mahomes did to ice Super Bowl LIV.

Speaking of Mahomes, the fact that the Chiefs already are drooling over the 4th-and-15 possibility for retaining possession could present a different problem. Football could essentially become “make it, take it” for the Chiefs, and a 7-0 lead could quickly mushroom to 21-0.

The fix is easy. Either prevent the team that is leading from using the 4th-and-15 play or make it an untimed down. Any other approach defeats the overriding purpose of the play: To give the team that’s losing a chance to win.

52 responses to “4th-and-15 alternative shouldn’t be available to the team that is leading

  1. or dont introduce gimmicks to football. re-instate the old rules for onside kicks and get back to teams who are losing are losing for a reason, and shouldn’t be given an easy way to comeback

  2. The purpose of the rule is to provide a safe alternative to the onside kick, NOT to give the trailing team a chance to win.

    The 4th and 15 should neither benefit the trailing or leading team. Running the clock seems necessary to balance the play. If the clock remained dead, either the LOS needs to be moved back or the yards to gain needs to increase.

  3. Nobody’s “drooling” at the option, not even Mahomes and Reid. And it should not be exclusively for the trailing team, tho most will use it like like that. Tweak the clock issues for sure, but leave the random use of it viable.

  4. AGREE ,only the losing team should be able to use it.
    You closed Billy Cheats way of taking time off the clock , so why open another way for him to cheat ?

  5. This entire help the losing team scheme was first dreamed up by Elway and the Broncos after watching Mahomes beat them twice in the same game in his first game.

    In Denver, he took a 4th quarter seat after taking a two score lead and then came back on the field again after his backup gave the lead away and won the game again.

  6. Of course it shouldn’t be available to the leading team. Also, it should be an untimed down.

  7. “And that would be a mistake.”

    This entire rule would be a mistake, regardless whether you are ahead or trailing. If you’re losing, you probably deserve to be. Why offer a cheap method to steal a game? And I’m glad the onside kick is incredibly difficult to pull off…it should be! You want to get rid of the onside kick? Fine, get rid of it. But don’t replace it with a scammy alternative that gives just about any team a realistic shot at stealing a game they don’t deserve to win in the first place. Quit making up dumb rules that don’t improve the game.
    How about if a team throws an interception, they get one 4th and 15 chance to undo the INT and get the ball back? And if they miss, the other team gets the ball at the 2 yard line? Yep, almost at stupid as this proposed rule…

  8. Absolutely it should be available to the leading team. Think of the drama if they go for it and miss. That’s a turnover that could put the game in doubt.

  9. What a foolish point of view. Even now at anytime a team can do an onside kick? Seriously? You think that a team that is down is the ONLY tram that should have an unfair advantage by being able to try a 4th and 15 and not give the team that is a head a chance to cement the win? Sometimes I don’t understand you Mr. Florio. I almost don’t know why I read your posts anymore. I find I disagree with about 90% of all your points of view. Your view on this is as bad as your view that the NFL holding the NFL draft would be one of their worst decisions and it was a total and monumental success. If this is adopted, every team should be allowed to do it and do it at anytime during a game. It’s not a good teams fault like the Chiefs that another team can’t stop them on a 4th and 15 from the 25. To give an inferior team an unfair advantage by only giving it to them? What a foolish thought process.

  10. “the team that takes a late lead can opt for the 4th-and-15 play, burning off the last few seconds with the quarterback running around and/or throwing the ball deep”

    You understand that this has always been an option for teams, right? They’ve always had the ability to go for it late on 4th down and kill some time meaning this would be no different at all from current rules.

  11. Teams do squib kicks all the time to kill time on the clock. What’s the difference? Less rules. You didn’t cover a tie score. There is an old adage: K.I.S.S. Keep it Simple Stupid! Two times in a game. period. No restrictions. The kickoff is a timed down. So should this play.

  12. Actually, Florio, the team that scores a touchdown and a two point conversion should get the ball back off a kickoff – the defense did not do its job to stop the offense and there is no right to possess the ball by the opposing team. There would be no need for an onside kick gimmick. If a team scores 8, they get the ball back automatically regardless of the score. The only way they should not get the ball back is if they score a field goal or a conventional 7 point play. This strategy would place a premium on defense and would put meaning into the 2 point conversion that simply doesn’t exist now. And I don’t want to hear about offenses keeping the ball – quite simply if a defense can’t stop a two point conversion, their team doesn’t deserve the ball back.

  13. Probably not a big data set, but I’d be curious to know the percentage of made 4-and-15s (or the vicinity). How does that compare to the percentage of successful onside kicks? I suspect the 4th-down plays are more successful, but if they’re in the same range as the old onside kick, I think it would be a good add to the game now that the onside kick is almost meaningless. Except it should be an untimed down so that it isn’t used as a way to ensure the other time has no chance for a comeback.

  14. Can you punt in this scenario? Since the clock starts on the snap, you can easily punt the ball 40+ yards downfield and run off 6+ seconds before the opponent fair catches the ball. It would be a loophole for teams taking the lead in the last seconds of a game.

  15. If the play isn’t available consistently to both sides, then it is gimmicky. If it is gimmicky, it’s a bad idea. Either allow it whenever desired (a limit on the number of times one team can use it per game is perfectly fair) or else don’t do it at all.

  16. The fix is easy. Either prevent the team that is leading from using the 4th-and-15 play or make it an untimed down. Any other approach defeats the overriding purpose of the play: To give the team that’s losing a chance to win.
    No. I think you are wrong. The fix is to return to the way it was a few years ago or demonstrate via unaltered raw data how the new rules have helped in any tangible way before trying to add further modifications that are likely not even necessary.

  17. This fix is easy: reset the kickoff rules to allow the onside kick to work. 4th-and-15 alternative shouldn’t be available – period.

  18. This is ridiculous. In what scenario does it make sense to punish the team that has earned the lead? Why not just make a rule that a team trailing by more than 14 points gets 6 downs instead of four to get 10 yards? Equally brainless.

  19. All of the “what if’s “ make any rule change a challenge. I say that the leading team only get three downs to get to the line to gain. Maybe; no more than 7 point leads can be carried forward into the last quarter? How about the defensive team gets to have 12 men on the field, if behind in the 4 th quarter?

    Okay; enough with the changes……

  20. If you go for 4th and 15 you lose all your time outs and there is no 2 minute warning, plus the clock does not stop when you go out of bounds.

  21. Your analysis – intentionally or not – points out several reasons why this is a boneheaded idea. Funny you don’t seem to reach that conclusion and still seem to approve of its implementation.

  22. I am surprised on how many people hate this 4th & 15 idea. I like it. Onside kicks used to be exciting…now they are worthless. Needs to be an untimed down. It should be available for anyone that the score is with-in 1 score (so 9 points or more the only team that can do it is the trailing team). If you don’t covert, the “defense” team get’s the ball at the 40 yard line of the opponent!

  23. The advantage of the onside kick was enhanced if it was done when least expected. If a team attempted this in the first quarter or early in the game – no one would expect it, increasing the likelihood of success. Didnt matter if you were leading, behind or tied.

    When used at the end of a game, the success rate was much lower – because the other team would put their all hands team out to receive it.

    So it was never an option just for a team who wasn’t winning. So, I get it If they are looking to reduce head on collisions that you see during kickoffs – trying to find alternative ways to circumvent the collisions. But no reason to restrict it to a team that is behind. That’s not what sports are about.

  24. If a team is winning and they score a TD, 3 of those points should go to the team that is losing.

  25. Any other approach defeats the overriding purpose of the play: To give the team that’s losing a chance to win.
    Didn’t they get enough chances to win in the first 59:55 of the game?

  26. Terrible rule. Favors a team like the Chiefs, one of the favored teams at 345 Park Ave. even though the chiefs are full of sketchy characters.

  27. I think they should add running backs and Wide Receivers to the rules that protect QBs. Then every game can have 100 total points scored and nobody would watch, like the NBA.

    Nearly every new rule the NFL puts into place is made to juice the amount of scoring. I think the NFL must have hired McKinsey and Co to do some consulting work and a “consultant” 24 year old came up with the idea that everyone wants to see nothing but more scoring and close games. So they are trying to juice the rules to create that very thing.

    Never mind that the NFL was the most watched sport and was already America’s game. The reason we really watch is because it’s rough, it’s tough, it’s violent, it is amazing athletes doing amazing things, both on offense and on defense. It’s strategy. It’s luck. It’s the funny bounce of an oblong ball.

    The more simple and less subjective the rules the better it will be.

  28. If you’re up by 20 points and want to attempt it, that should be your right. There have been plenty of teams over time that have taken leads in games, and still surprised the defense with an onside kick to catch them off guard.

  29. The team also risks getting an offensive penalty and giving the other team one last untimed down on their 25 yard line. Seriously, is it really worth that risk instead of just kicking off and pinning the team deep?

  30. What happen to the game I loved?

    Watch super bowl where the coach calls a onside kick at second half kick off! Talk about a play that changed how you look at things like onside kicks.

    I am just amazed at how much has changed in this sport. Watch a super bowl from the 90’s talk about pass interference…lol Todays players couldn’t catch a ball if the rules of play were reinstituted.

    With the covid going on it has given me time to look back at the sport over the years and man has it changed.. Now they want to add a penalty shot type of play….please stop with the gimmicks.

  31. “Football could essentially become “make it, take it” for the Chiefs, and a 7-0 lead could quickly mushroom to 21-0.”


    The average conversion rate is ONLY 16%. Even if Mahomes can increase those odds to 20%, that means you’re basically giving the other team an easy score the other 80% of the time.

  32. This plan sounds as dumb as unfairly awarding teams that hire less qualified coaches draft picks!!!

  33. Whoa whoa whoa, this is the first i’ve bothered to read anything. Why is it limited the number of attempts? I can onside kick all game if I want to give up field position.

    They are changing too much!

  34. I think Atlanta proved the onside kicks can work with a halfway smart coach and a good kicker.

    New idea to throw into the pot…If the team that is leading tries the “new on-side kick” and fails the other teams automatically gets 7 free points since the sole idea is trying to give the bad team a cheap win.

  35. You’re right Florio (that was hard to say). Actually, every point is spot on.

  36. WHY?….ONE of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history was the New Orleans Saints doing a o side kick to start t hff e 2and half. It was a great play and a perfect time to call it…

  37. Let’s not stop there. Maybe Mahomes should have to wear an 80 lb flack jacket or Lamar Jackson has to have his ankles tied with a cord that limits his stride. That should keep things “fair”

  38. Why Can’t the better team just win??? Why does the NFL feel like it needs to reward a team for having an inadequate performance on a given Sunday?? This is the worst rule they have ever made up and fall into the same category as Juice Boxes and participation trophies for everyone.

  39. Why doesnt the rules committee just come out and say if your team sucks and they haven’t made the playoffs for the last 10 years then your team gets to play with an extra man for the rest of the season. It would make as much sense as all these idiotic rule changes they seem to think are so neccessary.

  40. Say you’re a good running team and start the game with a long 15-play opening drive and score a touchdown. Then, do the fourth-and-15 onside attempt and convert because the defense is gassed. Another long 13-play drive. Repeat with your second onside opportunity, and convert because the defense is even more gassed. Another long drive. The opposing defense would never recover. A risk? Yes. But talk about dominating a game.

  41. chuckshontaspads says:
    May 26, 2020 at 2:07 pm
    Terrible rule. Favors a team like the Chiefs, one of the favored teams at 345 Park Ave. even though the chiefs are full of sketchy characters.
    Great point!!! The NFL loves the Chiefs so much they made the team and their fans wait 50 freaking years to win a SB. They really spun things in our favor. Those are Super Bowl Champion sketchy characters.

  42. IF they actually implement this in real games, BB will exploit it and everyone will clammer for it to end! And I’m not saying that to besmirch him. I don’t even like the Pats. But the guy is the only Coach I can remember (and I’m old AF) that studies these rules enough to exploit them. As he should.

  43. Just curious, now that the kickoff is no longer the game’s “most dangerous play” what play has taken over that title? I’m just wondering what crazy rule may be coming down the road next year. Maybe no more throws between the hash marks to eliminate some vicious hits or only one juke allowed per play to reduce the number of ACL tears?

  44. I agree this should be reserved for the losing teams only. In a league where there are only a few elite teams and the rest average or less, the NFL needs to drive more parity. I can see the winning teams using this in order to stay two scores ahead to prevent their opponent from having any chance. If the league proceeds with implementing this rule, it’s going to make a lot of teams and fans angry.

  45. As long as every game ends in a tie and there are no winners or losers, I think this rule is perfect.

    At least my Vikes can finally get their Lombardi by tying the entire league. TROPHIES for ALL!

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