To Save the Kickoff or Not to Save the Kickoff

by Sean S 3 months ago in football

Gridiron Football's Big Question

To Save the Kickoff or Not to Save the Kickoff

I'll admit you may find it overly dramatic, predictable, and cliche to play on Shakespeare's iconic line, but it's more apt than you may care to admit or realize. Hamlet was contemplating suicide, life, and death. And if concussions are the deciding factor in Football-As-We-Know-Its life or death, then the kickoff is the leading suspect and major culprit. Up until last year I was a stubborn defender of Gridiron Football's most dangerous play, mostly out of pure tradition. The O-U kickoff tradition is one of my personal favorites. As an Oklahoman, it's one of the most easily recognized symbols of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Football, brilliant in its simplicity. If it's not obvious enough from the name it's simply a held steady chant of Ooooooo while the Sooners prepare for a Kickoff then the pure elation, relief, and excitement of a thunderous U when the kicker strikes the ball launching a likely touchback with the full support of 80,000 behind him. And on a personal level my family has taken this tradition to another unique place, as since I was raised in the panhandle we traveled out-of-state a LOT, so whenever we were approaching the Oklahoma border we start to hold our steady Ooooooo and release a delightful U when we breach the border back into Oklahoma. Cruelly as life would have it I've moved out of Oklahoma for both love and work, so it has come with added emotion when I get to go home. But sadly for the good of the sport, at the actual games it should be no more. Now what could shake such a long held opinion you ask, well that would be Jon Bois's Chart Party YouTube Series' Entry: Kickoffs are stupid and bad. Jon has already explained much better than I ever could, but if you really want to settle for the Cliffnotes his five bullet points are that Kickoffs are boring, dangerous, offer little to no strategy, usually result in no real winner, and success isn't rewarded enough. Extremely amplified in recent years by the half measures of the NCAA and NFL to encourage more touchbacks with shorter distances. Which as Jon points out though on a lot of touchbacks the dangerous part of the play does still occur because neither team has the luxury of assuming the returner will take a knee.And on the personal side as a former youth player I was not keen on being put on Kickoff Team and was really glad I never was. You don't usually ever see Offensive Linemen on the Kickoff Team, so I didn't have much to worry about, but still. Jon is right, Kickoffs offer little chance for the Return Team to get a big win in field position, little to no chance for the Kicking Team to have a big win, and pin the opposition deep. And even when the Returners get that big Return the gained field position doesn't translate to that many extra points. There's an oddity in his data that the 1st best field position actually gets less points than the 2nd, and the 3rd less than the 4th. Personally I think this is because the closer you get to the end zone the less likely you're going to be willing to settle for the FG, so made FGs are nudging over miss 4th down attempts. Which speaking of 4th downs...Now the elephant in the room if NCAA, NFL, CFL, etc. actually did get rid of the Kickoff is that we need a replacement for the Onside Kick. Jon's Video introduces us to the Greg Schiano Plan. Team A starting a Half or After a Successful Score technically retains the ball, but is immediately placed into 4th and 15. Which sets up a likely punt. My Father when I first told him about this and I suspect many of you are wondering, so what makes a punt safer than a kickoff. It's the same play essentially, except worse in that the punting can attack the field instead of actually kicking. At least with the Kickoff a Team can only do two things. Kick for positioning or onside kick for the ball. Well speed built up from 22 men running full speed into each other from great distances apart as if it were an actual military battle is the danger factor that likely and largely leads to the higher number of injuries and injuries of greater severity. And sadly that barbarity does lead to a large part of the play's popularity with blood thirsty players, coaches, and fans alike. Whereas while everyone is trying to accomplish the same thing from a punt, and the punting team has more options at its disposal for the equivalent of the surprise onside kick, starting from scrimmage as Jon says "like actual Football," really would decrease the impact and severity of the collisions involved in changing possession. Now I think what has got a lot of us hesitating about this idea is that we know the NCAA and NFL will likely start with half-measures, and so far the NFL has really only entertain the entertaining side of this with the Broncos proposing to Add the 4th and 15 Onside Conversion in a really limited way. In that, if it had passed teams would've only been allowed to do it once per game and only in the 4th Quarter. Effectively only removing a tiny sliver of kickoffs. Now in the brief life of the Alliance of American Football the AAF both infuriated us with their half measure to this, and gave us our only yardstick to date on this type of conversion. In normal circumstances they were giving the receiving team the ball for free, drop the ball on the 25 Yard Line: 1st and 10. A disgusting eye sore and disturbing precedent to set for football. You don't get the ball for free, and we shouldn't ever give the ball for free. I could possibly concede that maybe for PeeWee Kids maybe, but definitely not for any competitive level of the Game. But the AAF did give us a glimpse at the Onside Conversion, as they had a rule that if you were down by 17 at any point or if you were losing with less than 5:00 remaining you could try an Onside 4th and 12 from your own 28. Now I tried my hardest to find some hard data on the results of this experiment, and I hope Jon sees this and does find the answer. But the best I could find was that as of March 23rd AAF Teams were one for three. I think it's safe to say though that whatever the actual stat is it's a small sample size and hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from. Sadly the NCAA and NFL's first attempts may very well look like the AAF's half measured crack at it. Now on the High School Level I'll admit that the high quality teams would take advantage of this, break the game, and never let their opponents ever see the ball. And as much as I wish we could have universal rules for Football (I mean really three different goal posts, three different hashmarks, etc.) this probably would be one that would rightfully need some tweaking at the High School level. But I implore the NCAA and the NFL if we're going to do this for the good of the game, rip the bandaid all the way off right from the start and embrace the full Schiano Plan!

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Sean S

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