NFL coaches have been complaining about a proposed change to the kickoff rule that would move kickoffs to the 35-yard-line (up from the 30) and place touchbacks at the 25 (instead of the 20.)The concern among coaches was that it would basically eliminate kickoffs as a weapon, since it both makes it easier to boot the ball out of the endzone and gives receiving teams a disincentive to bring kicks back.
So the Competition Committee has altered the proposal to keep touchbacks at the 20, but still move kickoffs to the 35. They also propose to keep the two-man blocking wedge (eliminated by Proposal 1), while still limiting the coverage team to a five-yard running start.
But if coaches are concerned about a lack of kick returns, won’t Proposal 2 make that problem even worse?
It seemed to us that moving the touchback line to the 25 and eliminating wedge blocking was a reasonable trade off for the 35-yard rule, in that it might actually encourage some teams to consider shorter kickoffs. (Those that would be caught inside the 10 or so.) Yes, both proposals make it easier for teams to kick the ball out of the endzone (and eliminate runbacks), but a lot of teams wouldn’t be comfortable giving opponents (particularly those with weak return games) a free 25 yards. It would be a gamble, but a strategic one that gave coaches more options.
Under Proposal 2 however, (two-man wedge intact, no more than 5-yard head start, 20-yard touchback), the incentive for kicking teams will be to eliminate runbacks at all costs. Just get a power kicker and boot everything out of the endzone, which is now five yards closer. The solution is worse the problem (if you care more about the amount of returns than concussions, which coaches do.)
The good news for coaches is that it looks like neither proposal is likely to pass a vote by the owners. Devin Hester’s job is safe.
UPDATE: It looks like Proposal No. 2 has passed. Weird.
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