With the current sensitivity to injury and the ability of sabermetrics to pinpoint actions that cause them, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the kickoff is on the endangered species list. Sooner of later, they’re going to take this away. The stats are pretty conclusive.
I’ve got to admit, as a traditionalist and with college football being my favorite of all sports to follow, I hate to see it go away totally. The 100 yard dash for a TD is one of the most exciting plays in College Football. I don’t want to see it totally eliminated from the game.
So, why not do this; limit the kickoff to the the opening of each half - kind of like college basketball did with the jump ball (albeit for totally different reasons)? In the typical game these days, I’d think there were 8 to 10 kickoffs (one to start each half, and then after each TD or FG). So doing this would be about an 80% reduction in the frequency of the kickoffs, which should greatly reduce the injuries related to the play.
I would say you could retain on-side kicks, but only for teams (a) behind, and only (b) in the last 3 minutes of the second half.
There are all kinds of ideas out there. I think I like this one:
The team who would have been kicking off is given the ball at its 35 with what amounts to fourth down and 15. They can punt (in essence replacing the kickoff with a punt, which seems to be much safer than a kickoff), go for it (expected onside kick) or run a fake punt (surprise onside kick). You would still have returns with this scenario. One detail that would have to be worked out is if a punt out of bounds in this situation would be treated in the same way as a kickoff out of bounds is now (my guess is yes).
Actually I think the answer is to merely give the team that wins the toss the ball at their own 30 or 35 yard line. and after a touchdown, the other team gets the ball at the same spot. But I do agree the kickoff has a very high ratio of injuries to the other plays.
Two things. First, you’re addressing what to do if you DON’T kick off, something I did not (nothing wrong with that . . . just pointing out that my post assumed kickoffs would be replaced by something/whatever; I’m just seeing if there is support to retain at least a couple of traditional kickoffs so we can still say "they’re teeing it up at . . . ", or "kickoff is at . . . "). I can live with not doing kickoffs after all scores, but I’d like to have at least a couple to get each half started. And, yes, an onside kick would still be allowed (element of surprise) if the kicking team wanted to do that.
Second - the approach you mention could mean that teams with hot passers (especially against teams that have weak pass defenses and/or are worn out) might never relinquish the ball. It’s like “make it/take it” in basketball. I’m not sure I like that. But I do see where you’re coming from, and I’ve heard that option thrown out before.
I have seen too many games where the outcome was decided because of
a kickoff return. You know the type game I’m talking about. One team just
went up on the scoreboard with very little time left, and the other teams gets
a great kickoff return to say maybe midfield or just a touch beyond. They
are pumped, feeling “ol MO” maybe smiling on them. And have a very short
distance to go for an attempt at a winning FG. How can you take that out
of the game. No chance if the team just gets the ball on the 25-35 yard line.
Or how about the early Kickoff Return for a quick 7-0 lead to set the tone
for a game. Or the old “take back momentum” after the other team just
scored on you with a monster return or return for a TD.
Injuries are going to happen. Always will, whether on a kick-off, punt, or just
your average play.
Just think, if they take away kick-offs, whats next… remove punts. Hell just
yell out “punt” and move the ball 40 yds down the field. Have someone on the
sideline foll a dice to decide if its pinned inside the 20, or a shank, or a block.
They might have said the same thing a century ago about the flying wedge and other “integral parts of the game”. But the old FW was just crazy dangerous. Now? We don’t miss it, wouldn’t know it if we saw it. There wasn’t forward passing in the game a century ago. Point is, the game evolves. Fifty years from now, it won’t look like it does now. But if we keep the most dangerous plays in for the sake of tradition, it may not even exist in 50 years.
Not the best analogy, Swine; the flying wedge was around how long - 2 years? But kickoffs have been a part of the game since the very beginning, well over 100 years. It is a unique and important start to the game that I would really like to see retained. As I mentioned, having the opening kickoff to each half would at least retain that start, even if the other scores in the game were followed by some other alternative.
I do get the larger point . . . the game evolves over time, and I’m conceding that. However, I think some things are fundamental, and if we can keep just two (or even, just the opening kickoff if not both halves), that would dramatically reduce the number of kickoffs in a game, and have a significant impact on reducing injuries.
I agree that football without kickoffs will be different, Wiz. But if the kickoff is too dangerous to retain, it’s too dangerous to retain period; two kickoffs a game is two too many. The routine jump ball was removed from basketball not because of safety or to improve flow of the game but because zebras were having too much difficulty tossing the ball properly. Now they only have to toss it once.
And I like the fourth-and-15 option more than just giving the receiving team the ball at the 25, which would take onside kicks out of the game as well. This way there are still returns and still the option to try to retain possession. You’d have to have one heckuva passing attack (or be Kevin Kelley) to routinely go for fourth and 15 from your side of midfield, so I’m not worried about the make-it-take-it worry.
There is one other option I have not seen discussed. Move the kickoff spot way up to maybe midfield. From there kicking it out the back of the end zone would be easy (thus improving safety), kicking it short would mean less distance to build up speed for the full-on collisions that cause the safety issues, and it would also encourage more onside kicks. Onside kicks have their own safety issues, I guess, but not like a collision when both sides have 30 yards to hit top speed.