Just a few short years ago the NFL made the rule change to move the kickoff spot from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line. This was a move made for "safety reasons" and to eliminate the collisions which occur on kickoff returns from the game. The result? A ridiculous amount of touchbacks since the initial rule change.
Now, I am all about player safety, but from a product standpoint this rule change was extremely disappointing. New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano led the NFL in touchbacks in 2015, with 69 a piece.
69 times these kickers booted the ball to the opposition and the end result was the ball landing out of bounds, or being kneeled by the receiving team. Nothing screams exciting like when a team scores a big touchdown, and the ensuing kickoff sails out of bounds for the return team to start at their own 20-yard line.
Cue the sad trombone "Whomp, whomp, whomp".
In 2016, the NFL is experimenting with the ball being placed at the 25-yard line, compared to the customary 20-yard line in years past. Kudos to the competition committee for giving this change a chance, but I ask, "Why not just eliminate the play from the game?"
The days of Devin Hester and Dante Hall are long gone. Players who thrived on kick returns, and making a living off them, have become nearly as extinct as the dinosaurs who used to roam the Earth. Since moving the kickoffs to the 35-yard line, the increased touchbacks to help decrease injuries has made an extremely exciting play seem more like a mundane task.
Sure, there are still occasions where players bring the football out from their own endzone and make something out of nothing. In fact, there were a whopping 7 kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2015. There was a time when players had 4 kickoff return touchdowns in a season, and now there were 7 by the entire league in one complete 16-game regular season.
Now, I'm a solutions based person. I rarely come with a complaint, without a solution in mind as well. To fix the kickoff problem in the NFL, I would eliminate the kickoff all together, except for one exception -- the onside kick. If a team needs to get the ball back, and the kickoff has been abolished by the league, they should have the right to announce instead of the opposition starting with the ball at the 25-yard line, they would have the option of kicking team an onsides kick to get the ball back.
The same rules would apply for the onsides kick that currently exist. The ball must travel 10-yards before the receiving team can touch the ball, and if a member of the kicking team touches the ball before a receiving player it becomes a live ball.
Some might disagree with my sentiment, and you are entitled to your opinion, but to me it seems the NFL is moving in this direction anyways with the altered kickoff rules...might as well rip the band-aid off quickly rather than slowly tearing it off, and, to be honest, I don't think today's game would miss much by eliminating the play.