A coach confronted with one last-ditch, unlikely avenue to remain in a close game might soon see a second route reveal itself.
At least one NFL quarterback is licking his chops at the potential new avenue.
The effectiveness of the onside kick has gone by the wayside in recent years thanks to measures implemented to increase player safety, but NFL owners are considering offering teams a second option in the event they so desperately want to retain possession following a score. A rule change proposal of a fourth-and-15 play from a kicking team's 25-yard line in lieu of an onside kick is gaining support as we approach an expected May 28 vote, NFL Network's Judy Battista and Tom Pelissero reported Thursday.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes indicated he thinks that might be rather attainable for his offense.
Mahomes, the author of two memorable, game-changing plays in the last two seasons, has proven his arm and at least one key target are capable of erasing unlikely down-and-distance scenarios. The first came in a regular-season thriller against Baltimore in 2018, in which Mahomes rolled right on fourth-and-9, threw across his body to Tyreek Hill and completed an unlikely pass to set the Chiefs up for the game-tying score. The other, more notable swing of yardage and momentum: Jet Chip Wasp, the play called on third-and-15 in Super Bowl LIV that led to a huge gain for the Chiefs and helped jumpstart their comeback to a victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Considering these achievements, a fourth-and-15 doesn't seem too great of a task for Mahomes' Chiefs. Then again, the other 31 teams would also like a word (and a chance to keep the ball with a conversion, too).
This and other potential rule changes will be voted on by owners during their virtual meeting May 28.
The rule change, which would allow a team to do so only twice in a game, would give competing squads a chance to attempt to retain possession without going through the motions of the onside kick, which has become incredibly unlikely in recent years after the elimination of a running start on kickoffs. Since those changes, teams have recovered an onside kick at a rate of just 10.4 percent in the last two seasons, including a rate of 7.7 percent in 2018, the lowest since such data became available in 1992, per NFL Research.
The rule change first became available for use in the 2020 Pro Bowl, but it saw in-season implementation in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football. In that short-lived league, the ball was placed at a team's own 28-yard line for a fourth-and-12 attempt.
This concept has been floating around for at least a year, when the Denver Broncos presented a variation of this proposal that saw the ball placed at the possessing team's 35-yard line. Backed up to the 25, the risk increases, which might make it more likely to be approved.
With onside kicks becoming all but a guaranteed failure, a second option appears increasingly necessary. Teams could soon see that option become a reality.