New NFL Kickoff Rule is Absolutely Awful
The NFL has a “new kickoff rule” this season. They’ve changed where the ball is placed on kickoffs this season from the 30-yard line to the 35 and players on the kicking team will not be allowed to stand further than 5 yards from the ball. As for the rule change itself, to say that it’s conceptually flawed / bizarre is an understatement.
The change in the placement of the ball is designed to have fewer kicks returned which in the eyes of the NFL, will accomplish two things. It will place more emphasis on offensive prowess creating longer scoring distances and it will reduce injuries.
Hey, who isn’t for the reduction of injuries? Do you know anyone who is pro more injuries? Not allowing players to get more than a five-yard running head start however is a waste of inserted text in the rule books. This in theory will shorten the field and not allow these players to have as much momentum, when making initial contact.
The problem here is that a player running some 50-yards down the field to make a tackle won’t be any faster because of shortening his head start distance 50-yards back where he started. After the first 10-yards or so the player is at full speed already and the distance they ran prior to the kick way the heck back is irrelevant.
As for trying to create more touchbacks, as NFL Scout Jayson Braddock had some interesting observations about this in March when the rule was voted upon.
“Field position is what coaches talk about before, during, and after every game, said Braddock. These same coaches / owners that approved moving the kickoff up, also moved to turn down the option to move the touchback spot up to the 25 yard line. This reiterates how strongly they feel about field position.”
If the NFL wants to effectively take this special teams aspect out of the game because of injury and field position concerns, why don’t they just get rid of the kickoff and place the ball at the 20-yard line to start possessions after a score by the opposing team? What’s the point in going through the futile exercise of routinely having the kicker boot the ball out of the back of the end zone or so deep that it won’t be returned if the ball is going to be placed at the 20-yard line anyway? Oh wait, I almost forgot, this way they still get to squeeze TV commercials in after a score and then again after the kickoff…..
Braddock goes on to point out,
“The last time that teams kicked off from the 35- yard line was 1993 and there were only 4 kickoffs returned for touchdowns. Last season, the ball was kicked off from the 30 and there were 23 kickoffs returned for touchdowns.”
Enter the Chicago Bears
Rule change, shmule change, the Bears were going to have none of that. Chicago defied the new rule twice in the first half of Saturday’s 10-3 preseason victory over the Buffalo Bills. The Bears lined up kicker Robbie Gould’s first and second kickoffs at the 30 instead of the 35 despite the new rule. According to Fox Sports, when told of the kickoffs, Carl Johnson, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, called Soldier Field and ordered officials to “put a stop to it.”
Chicago head Coach Lovie Smith’s explanation was simply, “We’re not really getting a good evaluation of what we can do coverage-wise on some of our players. That’s what we were trying to do with it,” suggesting that the Bears were more interested in practicing kickoff coverage than defying the new rule and the teams claims that they told the officiating crew beforehand that they “would kick off from the 30 at some point.” Interestingly, the Bears are believed to be one of six teams that voted against the rule change at the owners meetings in March. Hmm….
Braddock made some additional observations back in March that are worth repeating as opening day approches.
The San Diego Chargers were right at the top of all of the offensive and defensive categories in 2010 but were one of the worst in special teams. They also have a veteran in Philip Rivers at quarterback that knows how to protect the ball when he’s in a tough spot. These new rules will vault the Chargers to the premier team in the AFC and could get them to the Super Bowl.
Perhaps no other team in the NFL has had as many momentum switches lately from a return, than the Chicago Bears. Devin Hester is a household name because of his return ability. He also had one of the most electrifying moments in Super Bowl history when he returned the kickoff for a touchdown. Chicago also has the quarterback that is most known for bad turnovers. Jay Cutler makes bad decisions in the most crucial moments. If Cutler is continually starting inside his own 20, then it won’t be of matter of if but when and how often he’ll make a ‘bad’ game changing decision. This one rule change will take a team that was on the verge of the Super Bowl and put them out of playoff contention.
Just a little reminder of what we would have missed if the rule wasn’t changed for the 1994 season. In 1996, Desmond Howard became the only special team’s player to win the Super Bowl MVP. After the Patriots closed the gap in the game they kicked off to Howard and he crushed the Patriots hopes of winning Super Bowl XXXI by returning the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Not only would we have been cheated out of that moment, but we would never know how good Dante Hall, Josh Cribbs, and Devin Hester were at changing a game.
This is a stupid rule change. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Either kick the ball off, or don’t kick the ball off, pick one. If there’s just one thing I know it’s that anything in this world done half-ass doesn’t work. This new rule is no exception.
So Cam Newton got his feet wet against the New York Giants on Saturday. Is there anything that can be concluded by his performance? No, not really, Newton completed 8 of 19 throws for 134 yards, including a pair of completions of at least 30+ yards, but he was largely inconsistent. Basically, Newton performed as expected, struggling with his accuracy but showing his athletic prowess and zip on the ball. There’s no doubt that Cam Newton will be a “play maker” in this league, but consistency and being mistake prone will prevent him from being “the savior” of the Carolina Panthers’ franchise if you were looking for that to happen in 2011. Whether he can take his talents and turn them into being a consistent winning quarterback in the future remains to be seen. If he doesn’t make it in the NFL, it won’t be because he doesn’t have the physical tools, that’s for sure.
On as separate note, unless you’re a fan of another NFC North team, how can you not be rooting for the Detroit Lions? Their local fans have been hit so hard on the economic front in recent years and Lions have been down and out for so long. On the surface it seems that they are certainly headed in the right direction but now Mikel LeShoure tears his left Achilles tendon ending his first NFL season before it began and first round pick Nick Fairley is hoping around camp is in a walking boot. If the Lions are going to be a playoff team this year, they are certainly going to have to overcome adversity from the get-go.
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The founder and former owner of MC3 Sports Media, Mike Cardano is the Sr. Business Administrator for RotoExperts and the Executive Director here at TheXLog.com. You may email Mike @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MikeCardano. Listen to Mike on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew Tuesday mornings at 10am ET.