May 29, 2020 - Sports

NFL tables onside kick proposal

A football player kicking a football in the middle of a game
Photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

NFL owners tabled a proposal Thursday that would have given teams an alternative to the onside kick, which has become nearly impossible to convert under the current kickoff rules.

The proposal: If passed, teams would have had two opportunities per game to replace a kickoff with one offensive down from their 25-yard line following a score. If the offensive team gained at least 15 yards, it would retain possession. If not, it would return the ball to the defense.

What they're saying: "That one got the most discussion, and there's interest in possibly looking at what we can do here ... But this one was just a little bit too much of a gimmick," said Steelers president Art Rooney II.

By the numbers: From 1992 to 2017, 21.2% of onside kicks were recovered, per NFL Research. Then, in 2018, the owners passed a rule restricting players from lining up more than one yard from the point of the kickoff.

  • In the two seasons since, the league-wide success rate has been cut in half (10.6%), with teams recovering just 12 of 113 onside kicks.
  • Remove Younghoe Koo, whose golden boot helped the Falcons recover two in the same game last season, and the success rate hits single digits (8.8%).

Wild stat ... The new kickoff rule has clearly affected the ability to overcome late deficits. Over the past two seasons, teams have attempted an expected onside kick (meaning not a surprise one) in 104 games. Those teams lost all 104 games.

What's next: Owners didn't take an official vote after a straw poll produced a 16-16 tie, so the proposal was tabled and discussions will likely pick back up next year.

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