Rutgers coach Greg Schiano started questioning the kickoff status quo following a collision that left one of his players, Eric LeGrand, paralyzed. As a result, he has come up with an alternative idea that seems feasible at the college and pro level. I became aware of his plan through twitter (h/t TomLeyden and TomVH), I figured it was worth a read since I respect them both. I’ll admit that I was skeptical about what I might find as I clicked on the link but I was pleasantly surprised.
Steve Politi laid out the basics of Schiano’s plan on nj.com:
This is Schiano’s plan: Replace all kickoffs with a punting situation, including after the opening coin toss and to start the second half. So, as an example, when Team A scores a touchdown, it immediately gets the ball back on a fourth and 15 from its own 30-yard line.
It can punt it back to Team B — the most likely outcome and a safer play since the bigger collisions usually happen on kickoffs.
Or it can line up and go for the first down, essentially replacing an onside kick with an offensive play that would require more skill than luck.
Player safety has become a hot issue over the last couple years as more is becoming known about the long-term effects of repeated head trauma. The aforementioned article quotes one coach that likens kickoffs to a 70-yard blitz. While a long kickoff return can have an important impact on the game, kickoffs are generally quite low on the list of important plays throughout the course of a game. Given the fact that kickoffs are among the most dangerous plays in game, one has to wonder if they are worth the cost.
With NFL net punting averages in the neighborhood of 38-yards, Schiano’s proposal as stated would shift average starting field position in the receiving team’s favor. Slight adjustments to make “kickoff punts” distinct from fourth down punts like a no-rush and block rule could make the difference negligible. This issue aside, the proposal seems to accomplish everything a kickoff does without the risk of devastating collisions. The option to attempt to gain 15 yards to retain possession is a nice low-percentage alternative to the onside kick and the option to punt retains a portion of the return game rather than removing it entirely.
What do you think?