NFL Contemplating Rule Change to Replace Onside Kick

Published: 4:32pm, May 22, 2020 EDT | Updated: 4:35pm, May 22, 2020 EDT

Written by Chris Kubala

Every year, we see teams in almost every league, or the league office itself, come up with new rule proposals to see what might make its way through for the upcoming season. We’ve seen some crazy proposals come down the pike over the years and others that were adopted into the sport. The NFL brought the two-point conversion into the league more than two decades ago and hasn’t looked back. On the flip side, being able to review pass interference calls was a nice concept but something that never really panned out. There are some new rule proposals on the books for this season that are being talked over to be voted at the owners’ meetings next week.

According to the league, one of the biggest rule proposals on the block comes from the Philadelphia Eagles and it looks like they lifted something from the now-shuttered AAF. If a team puts points on the board, they have the option of running one offensive play from their own 25-yard line. If the team picks up at least 15 yards on the play, they would maintain possession. Should they fail to do so, they would turn the ball over at the line of scrimmage to the opposition. On Friday, the league removed the wording about the team trailing in order to utilize the feature, meaning a team could take the gamble at any point of a contest, up to twice per contest.

This is the second time that the rule has been proposed as the Denver Broncos pitched it last season unsuccessfully. The rule would require a three-quarters supermajority in order to pass, meaning 24 of 32 owners would have to vote in favor of it. Last season, the rule was implemented on a trial basis in the Pro Bowl back in January and was attempted once. On that play, Kirk Cousins attempted to hit Kenny Golladay on a deep pass and was intercepted by Baltimore’s Earl Thomas. While that isn’t much of a sample size to go on, one thing that has become clear is that the onside kick hasn’t been all that favorable for the kicking team in recent years either.

According to league records, the onside kick success rate was a relatively healthy 21.7 percent in 2017 (13 of 60), which was when the league still allowed the running start on onside kicks. After the league made the move to outlaw the running start, the numbers trended downward quickly. In 2018, the league’s success rate dropped to 7.5 percent (four of 53) and while the numbers bounced back slightly in 2019 to 12.5 percent (seven of 56), two of those came in the same game off the foot of Falcons’ kicker Younghoe Koo. That means in the other 255 games on the schedule in the regular season, we saw only five successful attempts. By comparison, the league was two of seven on fourth and 15 situations and have converted seven of 29 such attempts in the last five years. On 4th and more than 15, teams were six of 26 last year and 21 of 121 in the last five years. Seeing how that is nearly double the 2019 success rate for onside kicks, one has to think it has potential.

It’s definitely a solid concept to be looked at, especially given the precipitous decline of success on the onside kick with the removal of the running start. There’s not as many jarring hits to pop the ball loose or anything of the sort. The competition committee approved the rule 7-1 in 2019 before it ultimately was rejected by the consensus of the owners. That at least gives some credence to the fact that there is some support for the rule change. As it stands, there is at least one coach who isn’t afraid of it being put into place. Kansas City coach Andy Reid, whose team won the Super Bowl last season, said he wouldn’t be afraid of taking a gamble on the play.

"We've got a guy that can do 4th-and-15s. He'd give us an opportunity to do that."

The Chiefs have got a guy. Will we get a chance to see it in action? We’ll find out when the league owners vote on it next week.