When the NFL changed the line of scrimmage for kickoffs to increase touchbacks, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick derisively said it was only a matter of time before the league eliminated kickoffs entirely. He believed that's what the NFL wanted to do.
Belichick might wind up being proven right.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he has taken it under consideration to remove the kickoff entirely.
"It's an off-the-wall idea," Goodell told TIME in a cover story for the Dec. 17 issue. "It's different and makes you think differently. It did me."
"After a touchdown or field goal, instead of kicking off, a team would get the ball on its own 30-yard line, where it's fourth-and-15," TIME's Sean Gregory writes. "The options are either to go for it and try to retain possession or punt. If you go for it and fall short, of course, the opposing team would take over with good field position. In essence, a punt replaces the kickoffs."
It's an interesting idea. We haven't seen the numbers that punts are that much safer than kickoffs, but the NFL must have the data to support the notion if it's considering it.
The implications for strategy are even more intriguing. If a team is trailing by more than one score very late in the fourth quarter, they likely would to try to go for it on fourth-and-15 instead of punting. That's not an easy situation to convert, but the concept still would make it easier to stage a comeback without ever giving the ball back to an opponent.
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