The NFL instituted a new rule that was designed to encourage teams to accept touchbacks instead of attempt returns, but it already appears to not be working as designed. They thought that moving the touchback out to the 25 instead of the 20 would create less returns, but teams are strategically kicking shorter because of the new rule.
That means that the ball isn't getting into the end-zone in order for teams to accept touchbacks more, which will actually create more returns instead of less of them. Teams figured out that they could pooch kick their kickoffs short and high, thus creating a better chance of stopping return men short of the 25 yard line.
Several coaches have stated their belief that the strategy will be utilized by most coaches and if that happens then the rule will have done nothing to make the game safer. Coaches Mike Zimmer of the Vikings and John Harbaugh of the Ravens have both spoken publicly against the rule to ESPN.
"I'm not a rule maker but I don't see this staying in real long," said coach Zimmer."I think it's going to start causing a lot of strategy things, as far as pop-up kicks, and I don't think they're going to get achieved what they thought they were going to get achieved with it."
"The goal is misappropriated," coach Harbaugh said. "If you're trying to get the kickoff out of the game, just take it out. I don't like the whole premise at all, as far fewer returns, which will make the game less exciting. Maybe that's their goal, to make it be less exciting. If you want to make it safer, I think there are better ways to look at that. We just have to be smart about it."
They are not wrong either, after just the first week of preseason we have already seen their theories come to fruition. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for the rest of the year, but it really does seem like it is backfiring already. When this rule ends up failing the NFL will have to come up with something else, which could end up being the removal of kickoff's altogether much to the chagrin of most NFL fans.
That would be a very sad day and be very difficult on lesser players who rely on special teams duties to make the NFL at all. However, returns are definitely the most dangerous plays in football due to the full speed sprinting the length of the field before making the hits on players. It would make most fans cringe to have the returns removed, but it would definitely symbolize the NFL doing more to protect their players than they ever have before if they were to remove them altogether.
Look for teams to kick the ball higher, shorter to avoid touchbacks with new rule - CBSSports.com
Touchbacks on kickoffs will now result in the ball coming out to the 25-yard line, and that spells points
Coaches push back on NFL's new kickoff rules - NFL Nation- ESPN
The decision to move touchbacks to the 25-yard line has fueled league-wide discussion on whether the kickoff return can be saved, writes Kevin Seifert.
NFL coaches say new kick-off rule could make league more dangerous | FOX Sports
Ravens head coach headlines unified front of NFL coaches against new touchback rule.
John Harbaugh joins the chorus questioning the new kickoff rule | ProFootballTalk
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was a special teams coordinator before he was a head coach, so he has spent more time thinking about strategy and tactics in the kicking game than most head coaches. And Harbaugh has joined the growing chorus speaking out against the NFL's new kickoff touchback rule.
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