What if the NFL Eliminated Kickoffs? A Fan's Thoughts

Supposedly, Roger Goodell and other NFL officials have discussed eliminating kickoffs and replacing them with punts. In this scenario, teams would get a 4th and 15 from their own 30 yard lines.  They could then decide whether to punt or try to convert the 4th down play.  Greg Schiano, the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, originally suggested the change.  Schiano believes that a punt (or a 4th down play) would be safer than kickoffs. 

Photo by ChaChaFut, taken on Sept. 23, 2012 (1)
I haven't researched the data and so don't know if Schiano is correct; however, let's assume that NFL teams would suffer fewer injuries if the league eliminated kickoffs and replaced them with punts.  How would I react as a fan?

Safety First

Part of me would have to favor the change if it made the game safer.  I love the bone crushing tackles and blocks that are part and parcel of a NFL; however, I also care about the safety of the players.  I think player safety should come first in this instance.

Punts May Be More Exciting

According to ESPN, 43.5 percent of the kickoffs went for touchbacks in 2011.  Ergo, the kickoffs weren't all that exciting 43.5 percent of the time.  After all, who wants to watch a player kneel in the endzone for a touchback? By contrast, few if any punters are going to be able to boot the ball from their own 30 to deep in the opponent's end zone, which will result in more live plays.  Granted, some of the punts (maybe a lot of the punts) will be fair caught; however, there's often more drama in a fair catch than in a ball that bounces past the backline (of the endzone) for a touchback.  How many times have we seen a player signal for a fair catch only to fumble the ball?  And, keep in mind, players can return punts for touchdowns just as well as they can return kickoffs for touchdowns.

Fantasy Value

 Schiano's idea might also add value to some fantasy football players, especially quarterbacks whose teams tend to be down going into the last few minutes of a game.  How often do teams recover onside kicks?  Per Advanced NFL Stats, onside kicks have less than a 10 percent chance of working if the opposing team is expecting it.  I'm not sure what the odds are on afantasy quarterback getting a first down on a 4th and 15 (would depend a lot on the quarterback), but they can't be much worse.

Given that information, why not give Schiano's idea a try?  the NFL could test the scheme out during the first week of the 2013 preseason.  If the idea seems to work better than the current scheme, then replace kickoffs with punts in 2014.  Otherwise, the NFL can adhere to the current, kickoff system.  I think the NFL should give it a try.  What is there to lose?

(1) The photo owner/creator: ChaChaFut.  Caption: Overall view of the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, during a National Football League regular season game between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins , celebrated 23 September 2012. As seen from the upper deck. Permission: The photo is on Wikimedia Commons and is part of the public domain via a Creative Commons CCO.1 Universal license.


  1. the rules should be kept the same

  2. That sounds like something they would come up for the Arena Football League or maybe that XFL thing Vinca MacMahon tried. I don't think the NFL would adopt it.

  3. Interesting idea. I think I'm happy with the way things are. Good right up though!