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Monday, June 6, 2011

An interesting idea worth exploring: Eliminating kickoffs

Rugers head coach Greg Schiano is thinking a bit out of the box. Okay, maybe not a bit. It's way outside the box. But I like it.

Schiano is proposing a novel concept, in reaction to the serious injuries that have resulted from kickoffs. One of Schiano's players, Eric LeGrand, was paralyzed just last year.

The proposal is to eliminate kickoffs altogether, as detailed in this story in the Newark Star-Ledger. While kickoffs are an exciting play, they have also proved dangerous, thanks to players rushing at each other and colliding at high speeds.

So what replaces the kickoffs? Punts, or at least a punting situation: In every situation where there would have been a kickoff (opening play of each half, after touchdowns and field goals) the team that would have kicked off will instead have it fourth-and-15 at its own 30. Most teams would punt it away, but maybe a team would go for it, just as they do when they try an onsides kick.

“It would lead to much less impact and fewer collisions, but it would still be a way to get the game started in similar field position.” Schiano told the Star-Ledger.

There are downsides: Kickoffs are an exciting play, and years of tradition will make it hard for the sport to make such a drastic change. And punts are boring. (Sorry, Drew Butler.) Some will also argue that injuries will happen regardless.

Still, my first instinct is to say I like the idea. Beyond the health benefits, it would create excitement: A fourth-and-15 vs. an onsides kick? Give me the shotgun formation and the dynamic quarterback.

Once upon a time, the 3-point shot in basketball would have seemed too ridiculous, too radical of a change. But it's been in effect for decades now and has probably helped increase the popularity of the sport.

Then again, with this proposed football change you're talking about taking away an exciting play, which is more difficult for people to embrace.

At a minimum, it would be great to see a smaller conference - someone at the non-FCS level, or the Sun Belt or WAC - try it on an experimental basis for a year, and see how it goes. That's a reasonable request.

So, what do y'all think?

UPDATE: Andy Staples of likes the idea too. And he writes a better column than me about it. The passage I like:

When I forwarded Politi's column for discussion on Twitter on Monday, plenty of Internet tough guys countered with the "Quit crying, it's a violent game" argument.
Those people probably wouldn't know a thigh pad from a Thighmaster. More than 100 years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt thought college football had grown too dangerous. While some wanted to ban the game, Roosevelt saw the value in a slightly-less-violent contact sport. So he called a summit of representatives from the football-playing schools and forced them to create rules to make the game safer. They banned the "flying wedge" and forced offenses to spread players across the line of scrimmage. They also legalized the forward pass, which probably brought howls from the purists.

With apologies to Teddy, Schiano's idea doesn't mollycoddle anyone. Quite the contrary. Of the recent rash of attempts to make football safer, Schiano's idea may be the first conceived with safety in mind that could make the game more interesting and make it more of a test of actual football skill.

And Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman actually wrote about eliminating kickoffs all the way back in October.

While the catastrophic injuries attract attention, nearly every kickoff leaves someone on the ground, grabbing a knee, an ankle or holding their arm.

“Basically, it’s a 70-yard blitz,” Boise State special teams coordinator Jeff Choate said. “The guys that do that (cover kicks) for us, a lot of them miss games, whether it’s a stinger or some other shoulder injury. Some things need to be examined in that reguard.”

I don't know if this constitutes a movement, but it will be interesting to see if the idea takes hold in more quarters.


trumely said...

So, what happens to the "Gooooooooooooooooooooooo... DAWGS! Sic 'em! Woof woof woof"?

tmast89 said...

I like it

ιωναθαν said...

The kickoff return for a touchdown is one of the most exciting plays in football (ask Brandon Boykin) I say "no"

gsfloyd_0405 said...

Sticking with the basketball comparison, Schiano's idea of the "kicking" team be given the ball on their 30 with a 4th & 15 is like "make it take it" in playground ball.

Bo said...

Please put me down in the "Quit crying, it's a violent game" column.

Seth Emerson said...

I hope you're not going to tell Greg Schiano to "quit crying" since his motivation stems from his own player being paralyzed.