By: Jordan Kendall, Senior Staff Writer
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Last week, the NFL released the rule proposals for the owners to consider adopting, which include eliminating the onside kick for a fourth and 15 play, expanding the role of authority of replay officials, and changing overtime rules. Many of these changes I would support, but there was one unofficial proposal that caught my eye. Detroit Lions punter Jack Fox tweeted his idea that if a kickoff goes through the uprights it should be worth a point. This made me think about how else the NFL can make special teams more valuable, and that’s what I want to talk about this week.
I am a big fan of the Pat McAfee Show and on a recent episode, McAfee discussed Fox’s proposal and showed support for it. I also support this proposal because of the level of difficulty it would take.
As McAfee pointed out, the kick would need to go about 80 yards while still being accurate enough to go over the crossbar and through the uprights. That’s not easy to do, and with the leg strength and accuracy of modern kickers I think a few of them could do it.
The biggest problem is that the defense can’t block or defend the kick. They can return if the ball lands in the end zone but otherwise they have no control over if the kick goes through or not.
My solution is if a kicker wanted to try this, they would have to let the official know before kicking. Once the official announces the attempt, the defense would be allowed to have one player try and block the kick. If they block it, the defense gets the ball where the kick is blocked, similar to punts. Also, roughing the kicker would still be enforced to protect them. This ensures there’s at least some risk in trying the play and it likely means it won’t happen on every kickoff.
According to McAfee, in a tied game this could be a game-winning kick, with the pressure the kicker would face, I think it would add a lot to the last few seconds of a close game. It would be a really dramatic way to end a game, almost the equivalent of a walk-off home run in baseball.
My second idea applies to defensive penalties that are 15 or more yards. The offense would be given a choice, either take the normal yards and continue the drive or try a free point attempt. A free point attempt is similar to a free throw in basketball. The ball would be spotted at the 20-yard line and the kicker would get an uncontested field goal attempt from 37-yards.
If they make it, it’s worth one point. Regardless of if the kick is made, the offense’s drive ends and they have to kickoff on the next play. This adds another level of strategy since trying the free point won’t always be the better option.
If a team’s offense is dominant, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Kansas City Chiefs, depending on field position, they may want to just take the yards. Their offenses are good enough that if the penalty would put the ball at their opponent’s 40-yard line, they can probably still score a touchdown.
Even if they don’t, both teams have solid kickers who will likely make a field goal and give them three points instead of the one free point they could’ve tried. For teams with great offenses, they may want to just take the free yards and keep going. On the other hand, for teams whose offenses aren’t as good, a free point may not be a bad idea. In theory, every NFL kicker should be able to make an uncontested 37-yarder.
I appreciate special teams because most fans tend to overlook it, but I enjoy watching kickers, punters, and long snappers performing at a high level. I appreciate the fact that the NFL is willing to update the game to keep it exciting and entertaining. However, as a league they also tend to overlook the value of special teams.
I think kickers and punters can be exciting to watch. When a kicker splits the uprights on a 50-yard kick or when a punter does a coffin corner to perfection, I appreciate how difficult they are to accomplish. I doubt either of these proposals are ever adopted, but I do think the NFL would benefit from increasing the spotlight on special teams and their importance to the game.