Report: Fourth-and-15 onside kick alternative unlikely to pass

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The Eagles have proposed an onside kick alternative for a second consecutive offseason. This one appears headed where the last one ended up.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that the fourth-and-15 alternative to the onside kick isn’t likely to pass.

Instead, the Competition Committee is proposing to limit the receiving team to nine players in the “setup zone,” hoping that could fix onside kick success rates. The “setup zone” is defined as the area between 10 and 25 yards from the spot of the kickoff.

Currently, receiving teams always put 10 or 11 players in the “setup zone” when expecting an onside kick. Receiving teams expecting an onside kick line up with 10 players in the “setup zone” 87 percent of the time, and all 11 players in the “setup zone” the other 13 percent of the time, according to NFL tracking data.

Votes on all proposals will take place Wednesday with 24 of 32 owners needing to approve a rule change for passage.

The Eagles’ proposal would allow teams the chance to maintain possession after a score with a fourth-and-15 play from their own 25-yard line. Two concerns about the proposal surfaced:

First, if the kicking team recovers an onside kick, it cannot advance it beyond the spot of the recovery. The fourth-and-15 alternative, as a scrimmage play, would not be limited to the line to gain or the spot of the catch or anything other than where the play ends — up to and including a touchdown.

Second, the fourth-and-15 play puts extra pressure on officials to throw a flag for defensive holding, illegal contact or pass interference. Whether officials call those fouls like they would on a normal play or take a “push the flag deeper in the pocket” approach, the situation will result in much more scrutiny being applied to the officials on those plays.

Onside kicks have become anticlimactic since the NFL changed kickoff rules to prohibit a running start by the kicking team. Teams attempted 67 onside kicks in 2020 and recovered only three, according to thefootballdatabase.com. That was fewer than in 2019 when eight of 63 were recovered.

7 responses to “Report: Fourth-and-15 onside kick alternative unlikely to pass

  1. “Second, the fourth-and-15 play puts extra pressure on officials to throw a flag for defensive holding, illegal contact or pass interference.”
    ————————–

    EVERY game ever played, a team is behind one way or another that tries desperation plays to come back or go ahead. How many outrageous, incorrect flags in the past 20 years of games (20 x 272/yr = 5,440) that occurred on those desperation plays?

    I can’t think of a SINGLE one in any of those five thousand plus games.

  2. Love when onside kicks are recovered by receiving team. I will never understand the Florio crew wanting the first 50m of the game to be even more meaningless than it’s become already. Every game is a 2 TD luckback already.

  3. I hope this bad idea never passes. It is terrible for multiple reasons:

    1. Any defensive penalty besides too many men and offsides = automatic 1st down. Easy solution: 4th and 16 with NO automatic 1st downs for ANY penalty and pass interference beyond 15 yards = 15 yard penalty. The refs would have to throw flags on at least 2 and as many as 4 plays in order to gift the kicking team a possession.

    2. The desire to “fix onside kick success rates” is pure idiocy. The team that is losing is in that position due to their own failures to perform through 3+ quarters. Why should that team be rewarded with a higher percentage chance of stealing a possession? The old answer was “to keep the games compelling” but now the answer is “to cover the spread”.

    3. Dictating where teams can line up is dumb. Let the receiving team put all their guys as close to their line if they want. There’s nothing keeping the kicker from popping one up in the air high enough and just far enough to turn it into a jump ball type situation for all 22 guys on the field. Sooner or later some special teams coach will figure that out.

  4. chefboyd apparently didn’t watch the Packer-Seahawks MNF game in 2012. Refs screw the pooch in the last 2 minutes, even on one of the NFL’s biggest stages. They’re as human then as they are in the preceding 58 minutes.

  5. “chefboyd apparently didn’t watch the Packer-Seahawks MNF game in 2012. Refs screw the pooch in the last 2 minutes, even on one of the NFL’s biggest stages. They’re as human then as they are in the preceding 58 minutes.”
    ————————-
    Gawd wasn’t that a face-palmer? One ref signaling TD and the other calling incomplete. Every viewer sitting on their couch with the “huh?” expression on their mug.

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