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NFL onside kick alternative could reportedly be implemented in 2021

NFL onside kick
Nov 15, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods (17) recovers an onside kick against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half at SoFi Stadium. The Los Angeles Rams won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles proposed a new NFL onside kick alternative in 2020, exciting fans and making many players hopeful that an offensive play could replace the infamous kick. The rule was rejected, but it might have a shot this time around.

Philadelphia is once again proposing a new rule that would allow the trailing team in a game to attempt a fourth-and-15 instead of an onside kick. In that scenario, the attempting team would have one shot from their own 25-yard-line to gain 15 yards. If they were successful, they would retain the football after scoring. But if the try failed, the opposing club would receive the football at the dead-ball spot.

Related: Sports world has mixed reactions to rejection of NFL onside kick rule

Despite growing support, the proposed rule change never even made it to a vote. At the time, per NFL Network, there wasn’t enough preliminary interest from owners when asked for a show of hands in support of the measure. For the rule to be approved, at least 24 owners would need to sign off on it.

The Eagles are submitting the proposal once again this offseason. This time around, according to NBC Sports’ Peter King, it might have a shot at passing. The NFL insider estimates the league is currently split 50-50 on the idea, but there is likely a slight majority in favor of it. Furthermore, there is growing interest in what the new alternative would mean for the game.

Related: Patrick Mahomes has perfect response to proposed NFL onside kick alternative

League officials continue to look for ways to limit the number of on-field collisions and kickoffs are responsible for more concussions than normal plays. Creating an alternative to the onside kick would lessen the number of direct collisions players make, reducing the risk of head injuries slightly.

There’s also the factor of entertainment. The NFL recognizes that fans would rather watch Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers attempt a fourth-and-15 with the game on the line, instead of a kicker trying to hit the ball just right. Given these considerations, it’s not surprising that support for the rule is growing.

What teams would benefit from NFL onside kick alternative?

Even if the rule is implemented, there won’t suddenly be a rush of teams opting to attempt fourth-and-15 instead of kicking the football back to the opponent. It will require specific circumstances to, per ESPN, only done in regular and a team can only attempt it twice per game.

With that said, it would certainly be appealing to clubs with great quarterbacks. While deep passes are classified as 20-plus yards, Pro Football Focus’ data highlights some of the quarterbacks who thrived on deeper throws.

  • Kyler Murray: 128.9 passer rating, 42.2% completion rate on 64 attempts
  • Aaron Rodgers: 123.0 passer rating, 41.6% completion rate on 77 attempts
  • Matthew Stafford: 123.8 passer rating, 41.8% completion rate on 67 attempts
  • Baker Mayfield: 109.2 passer rating, 50% completion rate on 56 attempts

Related: ‘Growing support’ for NFL onside kick alternative

Additionally, per The Football Database, Matt Ryan had a 117.9 passer rating on fourth-down attempts, while Rodgers (105.3) and Joe Burrow (152.5) were also among some of the league’s top quarterbacks on that down.

The odds of converting a fourth-and-15, even with a great quarterback wouldn’t be high. But in a late-game situation with a great quarterback, teams will take their chances on that play instead of the onside kick.