In a move that has implications for the betting markets, the NFL sidestepped a proposal in late May to replace onside kicks with a fourth-and-15 pass attempt from a team’s own 25-yard line.
Under the proposed adjustment, the same principle would have applied – if the attempt is successful, possession is retained and the drive continues.
Food for thought
With onside kicks so rarely successful under the current rules (less than 10% for the last two seasons), momentum has been building for an alternative solution that offers a more palatable risk-reward proposition for teams trying to rally back in the closing moments of games.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who submitted the 2020 proposal, a year after another NFL team brought forward a similar concept, clearly felt that the fourth-and-15 option could fill that void. But a green light from the league was not forthcoming.
There is certainly merit to the idea, though, and we may not have heard the last of that concept. Putting the ball in the hands of Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and company for those big moments adds an extra layer of drama, and brings more skill to those desperation plays.
It is somewhat surprising that the NFL has been quick to brush the idea away. Perhaps there are concerns that the rule change would favour teams with elite quarterbacks too heavily – but that advantage for the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and so on applies throughout the game itself anyway. Why not in a “last roll of the dice” late-game moment?
From a gambling perspective, replacing onside kicks with a passing play would have the potential to make life more stressful – whether betting money lines or against the spread. How would the possibility of a team scoring 14 points in less than two minutes be factored into the betting lines? Would a bettor ever feel safe entering the final moments of the fourth quarter?
As the future of onside kicks continues to hang in the balance, keep an eye on the success rate for 2020. With the NFL revolving around top tier quarterbacks as much now as it ever has, it may be just a matter of time before late-game formalities are swapped out for high drama.