The Open Field: Do you have an onside kick alternative?

Seattle Seahawks vs Green Bay Packers, 2015 NFC Championship
Set Number: X159175 TK1

The onside kick is pretty much dead. Would you like to see an alternative?

The NFL is changing the kickoff as we know it, and surprise onside kicks are now banned. Normal onside kicks are almost impossible to recover due to numerous rule changes, such that there have been attempts to invent an alternative to the onside kick in an effort to gain consecutive possessions.

One such (repeatedly shot down) idea is the 4th-and-long conversion. Here’s the Philadelphia Eagles’ failed proposal:

The Eagles’ proposal to allow teams to line up their offense on the field on fourth-and-20, instead of kicking off, was rejected today in a vote at the league meeting.

Under the Eagles’ proposal, teams that scored a touchdown or field goal could have followed it by taking the ball at their own 20-yard line, facing a fourth-and-20. If the scoring team converted the fourth-and-20, it would keep the ball and go from there.

NFL rules have made onside kicks almost impossible to recover, and the kickoff itself has undergone major changes, and so an onside kick alternative has become a common topic for rule proposals every offseason. But every time this particular proposal for an onside kick alternative comes up, it goes nowhere.

I’m not sure what would happen in case of a defensive penalty in this scenario when all post-snap defensive penalties are automatic first downs, but the concept seems intriguing enough. A 4th-and-20 conversion rate is already low, but also it’s higher than an onside kick.

I randomly had a half-baked idea earlier in the week spurred on by the changes to the kickoff. If a team is trailing in the 4th quarter by at least 9 points and scores a touchdown, they can choose to go for two points from the 15-yard line. A conversion means the trailing team gets the ball back at their own 25 (or I guess the 30 under the new touchback rules). Failure means they have to kickoff normally or try an onside kick. The problem is this is only an option if you score a touchdown and not if you, say, kick a field goal down by 9 to make it a 6-point game late. It would, in theory, be a greater incentive to try and score a touchdown instead of kick a field goal for that reason. I don’t think my concept is totally outrageous, although I did say it was a half-baked idea.

There’s probably no perfect solution but the game is always evolving, and it seems like the onside kick has outlived its usefulness far more than the actual kickoff.

What sort of alternative (if any) would you like to see replace the onside kick? Let us know in the comments!

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Title: The Open Field: Do you have an onside kick alternative?
Author: Mookie Alexander

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