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Something Tells Me The NFL Rule Change Committee Isn't Considering What Will Happen To Non-Onside Kicks Under The Proposed Plan

Has anyone stopped to think what the new NFL onside kick rules would mean for non onside kicks?

If you're still not up on the proposed changed - I did my homework trying to make sense of them by reading a few articles, Breer and Pelissero's tweets, and OB's blog. To quickly sum up the rumored plan it appears teams will have to declare they are going for an onside kick and can only do so in the 4th quarter when trailing. The kicker still kicks at the 35 but the rest of the kicking team sets up at the opponent's 40-yard line with the return team set up five yards further from the kicker at the the return team's 35. One or two return team players can sorta camp in the "return zone" which is 20 yard-line to goal line (natrually on the return team side). No players can move until the ball enters the return zone. Once it does... I guess... free for all?

While they make a point to say nothing is set in stone and this is all cocktail math at this juncture, Breer's tweet thread seems like a lot of details to fit on a napkin. But what I found interesting is what isn't on the napkin. Namely, how making a team declare an onside kick is coming means that there's no reason to defend against it when not declared. 

Show you what I mean. Here we have a still frame of a non-chalant NFL kickoff.

Patrick McDermott. Getty Images.

See those five players near the 50 running towards the returner after they verify no onside kick is coming? Not anymore you don't. Not if this rule passes. I mean, what's the point? Any decent special teams coach is going make sure his guys are positioned closer to the returner. And you know what that means, right? You guessed it. More head on collisions. Oh the irony. 

Now in fairness it's certainly possible the NFL is thinking two steps ahead and will adjust non-onside kick rules to prevent this. Just because the rules committee has never thought two steps ahead before doesn't mean they won't this time! But you'd think that'd have been a bullet point in the plan if that were the case. 

The other thing I'm not clear on is the part where you can't move until the ball enters the "return zone". Are we really expecting players to be able to tell if a ball in the air crosses the 20-yard line plane? Seriously? Even for instances when the ball is rolling on the ground that's a flag party waiting to happen. 

One other question I have is how they're going to decide objectively what an onside kick is. If you don't declare but onside kick anyway, what's the rule going to be to prove you really were trying one? Ball has to go 20 yards or something? What if your kicker can't kick that far? Silly question but hear me out. I think if I worked in an NFL team's analytics department I'd suggest we sign a shitty kicker to have in the wings whenever we need a surprise onside kick. Make him #8 and your real kicker #0 - who the fuck is going to tell the difference? It's a kicker. If he's shitty enough to fool the refs into believing he actually tried, then we might have a loophole. 

I know a guy. Correct jersey number and all. And he loves finding loopholes in sports rules. 

We'll see what they do. Certainly can't be worse that what they did to us last year as I covered just after the regular season. I estimated we endured 5 and half hours of watching strictly NFL kickoffs that ended in a touchback in 2023. 

Like I said. Certainly can't be worse, right?