Kickoff to Leave the Game of Football, Seriously?


November 17, 2012; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers kicker Andrew Baggett (99) kickoffs the ball during the first half against the Syracuse Orange at Faurot Field. The Syracuse Orange defeated the Missouri Tigers 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is looking at this as a serious plausibility, removing the kickoff from the sport of football. As we know, major changes like this have a way of filtering their way down to the college game in some form or fashion, so we should comment on this.

To be blunt, the NFL is off its’ collective rocker here by even considering removal of the kickoff. The move to the 35 yard line was probably a necessary change, although it was heavily opposed by fans nation-wide at the time of inception a year ago. To keep that in perspective, the kickoff is almost even more exciting now because guys are taking it out from 8 or 9 deep where they wouldn’t even begin to think about it before. But this is not about that rule.

While at Rutgers and after his player had been paralyzed on a kickoff, now Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano made a suggestion to Roger Goodell. He suggested the “interesting” prospect of removing the kickoff from the game and replacing it with a 4th and 15 situation from the 30 (or 35 now that it’s been moved). This would give a team the option of leaving their offense on the field in a make it/take it situation, similar to a one on one pickup basketball game. In essence, the onside kick would become an offensive 4th and 15 late in games.

The other option would be a punt, a regular punt, from that spot. I really hate this idea. If the NFL is trying to (admittedly) clean up the game to make it safer, a punt presents more problems than answers. Running at a defender that you can see and trying to avoid him, in my estimation, is less dangerous than waiting for the ball to come down from a punt while the gunners bear down on you. But that’s not the most important point I’d like to make.

Schiano mentioned in his press conference (explaining the idea behind the proposal) that the forward pass at one point in time was not a part of the game and look how that turned out. Are you serious coach? Removing the kickoff is not anything like adding the forward pass into the game. It’s like REMOVING the forward pass! It’s taking OUT an electric and very strategic element of the game!

Nov.25, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Leon Washington (33) runs for a touchdown on a kickoff return during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Besides the obvious idea of guys like Leon Washington, Joshua Cribbs and Devin Hester becoming totally obsolete, the removal of the most exciting play in football doesn’t do much for the sport. Actually I think the forward pass becomes the most dangerous play in football should the kickoff be removed. So what then Mr. Rules Committee man? Do we remove the forward pass and add a 5th down in hopes of making the game “safer”? Come on guys!

On the other hand I do kinda like a 4th and 15 option, not to replace the kickoff but more as just an addition as a way to keep the football in late game situations. I don’t propose removing the onside kick option, because that brings an element of surprise and strategy as well, but adding a 15-yards-to-go situation brings some intrigue.

Oct 2, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester (23) during his 69 yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

At any rate, I don’t see the kickoff going anywhere, especially to be replaced by something as similar and dangerous as the punt. And we haven’t even mentioned that putting a punt in play to replace kickoffs means that there will ALWAYS be some sort of play with a lot of contact in the field of play. You take a ton of touch backs OUT of the game, which I thought was a bad thing.

But it’s not unfathomable to think of something changing… again, and soon. The rules committee of both the NFL and NCAA parties have been looking at alternatives to the play in hopes of “making the game safer”. While I’m all for player safety, the game of football is different from other sports because of all of the elements in play, a big part of which is the kickoff.