Since the NFL decided to disallow members of the kicking team to utilize a running start, onside kicks have earned a success rate of less than 11%. Now, the league is considering a new change — one that would vastly alter late-game desperation.
In a change proposed by the Philadelphia Eagles, teams would be allowed to follow up a scoring play with a 4th-and-15 attempt from their own 25-yard line. A team would only be allowed to use the play twice in a game.
The proposed rule change, which is set to be voted on by owners during a virtual meeting on Thursday, would make for a drastic change to the end of football games.
While the NFL’s decision to take running starts away from the kicking team serves to protect players better, it’s hampered the excitement of the onside kick. Now, the league is trying to find a balance between gimmick and excitement with the new 4th-and-15 play.
Although such a change was voted down last year, reports point to growing momentum in favor of the play. It’s likely that a second-straight season of little late-game onside kick drama is pushing players, front offices, league executives, and owners toward the new rule.
The change already has the support of the NFL’s competition committee, which recommended the 4th-and-15 approach prior to the 2019 season.
League Aiming to Replace PI Reviews With Sky Judge
The onside kick change won’t be the only thing owners will vote on Thursday. After a year of embarrassment regarding pass interference plays, the NFL is scrapping the rule and considering a “sky judge” instead.
After a missed pass interference call in the 2018 NFC Championship Game cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl, the NFL reacted by implementing the ability for coaches to challenge plays involving PI.
Amid controversy and uncertainty regarding exactly how much contact was needed to overturn a call, only 13 of 81 challenges on pass interference-related plays were overturned. According to NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent, the implementation of pass interference review was a failure.
“We didn’t do (our due diligence) last year, and we failed, and we failed miserably,” Vincent said.
Vincent was speaking on the topic of the sky judge when he touched on the PI review failure. Rather than allowing coaches to challenge pass interference calls or non-calls, owners are set to vote on the addition of an eighth official for every crew, who would be placed in the booth and provide input from off the field.
The sky judge would likely be the lasting legacy of the Saints-Rams no-call controversy after the competition committee declined to endorse the renewal of the PI review rule.
“We’ve got to do our due diligence,” Vincent said. “You can’t rush and just shove something in there without knowing all the consequences. And we found that out last year, live and in action, publicly.”
New 4th-and-15 Rule Could Help Favorites
While there’s no way of knowing how each team will fare under the specific circumstances in which the 4th-and-15 rule would be utilized, we can point to last year’s stats to get an idea of which teams would be most likely to benefit.
To do so, we’ll be looking at which teams had the most passing plays of 25 yards or more in 2019. Although it’s not a direct comparison, such a stat can shed light on which teams are most proficient at picking up big yardage through the air.
With 54 passing plays of at least 25 yards, the Buccaneers led all teams. Boosted by the arrival of Tom Brady, Tampa Bay owns the fifth-best Super Bowl odds of +1500.
Three of the next four teams on the list of big-play passing games are also Super Bowl contenders. The Chiefs (42 big plays) are the odds-on favorites at +650, the 49ers (39 big plays) own the third-best odds of +900, and the Cowboys (37 big plays) own the sixth-best odds of +1700.