Might we soon have an NFL rule change that would result in teams having an alternative to an onside kick? It sounds like that’s certainly possible.
According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network on Thursday, NFL team have now received updated playing rules change proposals and the most interesting of them all is an alternative to the onside kick that would allow a team a chance to maintain possession of the football by going for it on 4th-and-15 from their 25-yard line. Sounds like support for the idea is growing as well, according to Pelissero.
If you remember, the defunct AAF league used a rule similar to the one now being proposed to NFL teams prior to it coming to a quick end in 2019. That AAF rule, however, stipulated that if a team was trailing with under five minutes to play, they could have elected to attempt a 4th-and-12 play from their own 28-yard line to keep possession of the ball after a scoring play. You can see an example of that from the AAF below.
The NFL gave clearance for the testing out of a similar rule during the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl but did remove the AAF’s restriction on when scoring teams can attempt the new do-or-die play to keep possession. In the 2020 Pro Bowl, which now has no regular kickoffs, a scoring team could either give the ball to their opponent like normal or elect to run a 4th-and-15 play from their own 25-yard line. A 4th-and-15 conversion allowed that team to retain possession of the football. A failed 4th-and-15 conversion, however, would have resulted in the defending team taking over possession of the football outside of the red zone. No team wound up testing that rule during the Pro Bowl, however.
In case you’re curious, here is a very detailed post from the NFL on why they decided to allow an experiment with that rule during the 2020 Pro Bowl along with some researched stats. It makes for a great offseason read with this rule now being proposed.
Personally, I like this rule proposal. While it isn’t likely to be used much if passed at least it would give teams an alternative to an onside kick.
This onside kick alternative rule proposal, along with other proposals such as one for a sky judge to help officiating are expected to be voted on by the NFL owners during a May 28 virtual meeting.