Let’s get onside!

Watching the Bears @ Giants during week 13 and there I was sitting pretty with just under 2 minutes to go, 10 points ahead and the Bears with only 1 timeout remaining. I knew they would need to score, complete a successful onside kick and then score again in order to get to overtime. Out of those events the least likely was the onside kick as, since the rule change, only 3 of 38 previous attempts had been successful.

It was after they completed the miraculous 10-point comeback, only to then lose in overtime, that I considered two inescapable facts. First, mainly for the neutral, this turned what had been an error strewn game into a frenetic finish. Second, this matchup demonstrated how in the NFL a team can still be in a game when down by 2 scores right up until the end of the 4th quarter. For me that is a good thing and unfortunately the recent rule change has made that possibility less likely.

To recap, the basics of the change were to only allow players on kicking team to be 1-yard back from the kick as opposed to 5 yards (to eliminate running starts) and for 5 players to be each side of the kicker. The receiving team also needs to have a minimum of 8 players in the receiving zone The lack of the running start is the biggie and getting the combination right of the kick making it 10 yards and recovery is almost impossible (10% as of 13 weeks of this season) and much lower than previous seasons (2017 23% https://www.apnews.com/a8e1a1c67f1e49088c77e9caf1afb311).

So what to do? Well first the NFL has to decide what they want from kick offs generally and in particular onside kicks. What do they determine should be the percentage chance of a kicking team recovering the ball – a 50/50 chance (doubtful) 25%, 10%…..

For me this should be a test of skill where a kicking team has a fighting chance (probably around 1 in 4 or 1 in 5) of recovering the ball if they execute their plan with the required accuracy (and remember that’s both kicking and recovery).

What would I do? Well the overriding concern is around high speed collisions and one way to decrease the probability is to decrease the number of players likely to collide. For the kicking team lets take away 2 runners and start them at the 20 yard line making them well behind the play, leaving only 8 effectively able to recover the kick and for the receiving team let them decide on numbers in the receiving zone up to a maximum of 8 players – I’d also look at possibly reducing that receiving zone back to midfield from the 45 yard line (step too far?). Finally let either side recover a kick before it touches the ground (currently only receiving team can do this).

Either way @NFLFootballOps take another look and the onside kick and embrace the beauty of being anything up to 16 points behind but not being beaten right up until those final few plays.

What do we think? Fans of the onside kick?

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