Roger Goodell has floated the idea of changing the kickoff rules. Originally concocted by Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, after a touchdown or field goal, instead of kicking off, the team gets the ball at their own 30 with the down and distance of 4th and 15. The idea being in lieu of an onside kick, the team could attempt to get the first down but if they fail, they leave the opposition with great field position. The motivation is safety as fewer injuries should occur on the punt if the team opts not to go for it than there would have been on the kickoff ensuing the score.
Most media outlets have focused on poo-pooing the punt option. To this writer, of greater interest is the ‘4th and 15’ option, which would in effect replace the onside kick. Under the new, current onside rules, the odds recovering an onside kick are not much different than owning a winning Powerball ticket. I don’t know about you but that’s not entertaining. Does anyone truly await lotto numbers with bated breath anticipating becoming a millionaire? OK, so I am exaggerating a little bit. They’re not that rare, they just seem like it. They’re not as rare as a blocked extra point, but successful attempts when the defense is expecting it are uncommon enough that it eliminates some of the suspense. I think Goodell’s idea is interesting, but if implemented it needs to be ‘4th and 10’ in order to give a team that’s down a more realistic chance of coming back. As it is, when one team gets the lead they usually tend to sit on it once the 4th quarter rolls around. No longer primarily focused on moving the ball across the plane and into the end zone, the challenge now becomes taking time off of the clock. Riveting. In essence, it’s less about competing against the other team and more about shortening the game to avoid further competition. As a Knowshon Moreno owner in the FFWC Postseason playoffs, I loved the 20+ touches number 27 received in the second half. It was enjoyable for me personally because he was racking up fantasy points in my quest for $200,000, but from a pure football spectator standpoint it wasn’t overly impressive or entertaining.
I think the proposed kicking changes don’t go far enough. Imagine an NFL world in which punts, at least as we know them, were eliminated. Why? Because they reward failure and give teams with leads an incentive to become conservative, take the air out of the football and shorten the game. They allow the primary focus of the offense to shift away from moving the football down the field and into the end zone. Isn’t the spirit of the game centered on the offense using their strength, their force, their will, intelligence, and strategy, to move the pigskin down the field into the end zone? The job of the defense is to thwart such efforts. Succeed and you are awarded six points, fail and you must relinquish the ball. The defense is awarded the ball and now becomes the offense. Why should that reward for stopping the offense be cheapened by allowing a punt to improve the field position of those that failed? The importance of getting a first down is actually diluted by the punt option. Think of the intensity if you faced a 4th and 5 from your own 12-yard line but you’re not allowed to punt. If you failed to pick up the first down there would be real consequences for the offense and significant rewards for the defense. However with the punt option in play it’s not that big of a deal. I bet you’d see fewer teams sitting on leads if they’re facing a turnover on downs in their own territory if they fail to convert. Eliminating the punt would force teams to truly compete regardless of the size of their lead.***************************************
Over the last four weeks Danario Alexander is the 5th most productive Wide Receiver. Justin Blackmon is ranked 8th. Josh Gordon is quietly ranked 17th over that stretch. Bilal Powel is averaging over 13 points per game over the last four and Trent Richardson 20.5.
Now is the time to get your cheat sheets ready for next year when the data is fresh. I do this every year and you’d be surprised how accurate the lists are in their pristine state, before they are ‘corrupted’ by the preseason hype of the forthcoming year.