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NFL Rule Changes 2020: 4th and 15 onside kick alternative once again fails to pass

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NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

For the second year in a row, an onside kick alternative has failed to win that 75% support from NFL owners. It was an improvement from last year, but 50% ain’t gonna cut it.

The Philadelphia Eagles modified what the Denver Broncos had proposed last year, which is the option to skip the onside kick and instead go for it on 4th and 15 from your own 25. Conversion means the drive continues, while failure means the opposition gets the ball at the spot where the play concluded. A good ol’ fashioned onside kick would not have been eliminated, hence “alternative.”

This rule proposal is in clear response to the drastic decline in onside kick recoveries now that changes to the kickoff have thus far made it harder for the kicking team to get the ball back.

“There definitely is that theory that you don’t want to make a comeback too easy,” NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said (via USA Today). “You’ve worked hard all game to be ahead, and you don’t want a rule change to come in and all of a sudden say, ‘We’re going to completely change the odds of you being able to preserve that lead.’ People wanted to hear those statistics. ... In those people’s minds, ‘Let’s not make this too easy.’”

If you think this is all gimmicky nonsense, then you’re probably celebrating this news. I suppose special teams coaches will have to get crackin’ on how to make the most of these new onside kick rules and figure out the best possible way to get a recovery given no more running starts, overloading one side of the formation, etc.

Now for rules that did pass:

  • Automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a penalty.
  • Expanded defenseless player protection for kickoff and punt returners.
  • Teams can now bring three players back from injured reserve in a given season, up from two.
  • No more gaming the system by running the clock with deliberate dead-ball fouls, something the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans both did last season when in punt formation.