NFL onside kick alternative ‘rewarding’ teams for being behind

Andy Hart
May 28, 2020 - 8:19 am

NFL owners will vote on Thursday on a rule proposal that would eliminate the onside kick situation late in football games, instead giving the offensive team attempting to come back from deficit a fourth-and-15 try from its own 25-yard line.

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Onside kick attempts have been an extreme longshot in recent years, especially with recent rules prohibiting the kicking team from overloading one side of the field.

The new proposal would certainly add excitement late in games and afford offensive teams a more direct route to retain possession and pursue comeback opportunities.

On the surface it seems like a rule that very much benefits to the offensive team, a team that put itself in a deficit in the first place.

At least that’s how Patriots veteran cornerback Jason McCourty sees it.

“I think from the competitive side, especially as a defensive back, you don’t mind that pressure, going out there on fourth-and-15 or whatever the down and distance. It’s, ‘Alright, we’ve got to show up to win the game,’” McCourty said Wednesday in a WebEx call with the local New England media. “But it’s just like conversely, if I’m a team and I’ve earned the right to be up, we’ve made the plays necessary to be winning in the fourth quarter or whatever it might be, I have a chance to go seal the game by just catching an onside kick, versus being out there for a fourth-and-15. From that standpoint, I don’t really understand it. We’re now basically rewarding you for being behind and that’s the only thing that for me is a negative of it. But at the same time, we’re in the entertainment business and an onside kick versus a fourth-and-15 is a lot more intriguing. So, we have no control over it. If they vote ‘yes,’ we’ll be out there preparing situationally how to stop fourth-and-15’s with the game on the line.”

As McCourty is well aware, the NFL has been trending toward the offensive side of the game for years. Late game excitement and comeback opportunities are just another layer to that.

NFL owners will vote on the onside alternative on Thursday in a virtual meeting, needing three-quarter approval (24 votes) to be approved.

Related: Jason McCourty: ‘I think we all have fears’ of returning to work