If the NFL can’t figure out a way to make kickoffs safer, the next step the league takes could be a drastic one.
During an interview with the Washington Post this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that eliminating the kickoff is something the league is still seriously considering.
“We’ve made some very effective changes on the kickoff that have had a very significant impact reducing injuries,” Goodell said. “It is still a play where we see a higher propensity for head injury. So we want to try to address that. We think there’s still further changes that we can make. We won’t take anything off the table, including the elimination. But we still think there are some changes that we can make that we’ll continue to see progress in that area.”
The problem for the NFL is that the “changes” that have been implemented so far aren’t exactly working.
Back in March, NFL owners voted to move touchbacks to the 25-yard line after a kickoff, instead of the 20-yard line. The thought process was that more returners would be inclined to take a knee in the end zone if they knew they were getting five extra yards.
Unfortunately for the NFL, that’s not what’s happening. Through the first 14 games of the 2016 season, only 61.8 percent of kickoffs resulted in a touchback, according to ESPN.com. That might sound like a lot, but it’s a gigantic fall from 2015, when 68.9 percent of kickoffs resulted in a touchback after one week of the regular season.
As Goodell said, if the NFL can’t figure out a way to make the play safer, the league might just get rid of it.
Although it’s not clear how the NFL might replace the kickoff, Goodell did like a suggestion that former Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano made in 2012.
Schiano’s suggestion was to dump the kickoff and replace it with a play where the kicking team would be given the ball at their own 30-yard line to run play where it would be fourth-and-15. At the point, the kicking team could either punt, or decide to go for it. By giving the the kicking team the ability to “go for it,” that would keep alive the spirit of the onside kick.
The idea might sound drastic, but it’s not crazy. If the NFL does get rid of the kickoff, it’ll need to replace it with something, and Schiano’s idea is as good as any.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Roger Goodell admits that a key NFL play could be eliminated soon