Owners Will Vote This Week on Alternative to Onside Kick

The Fourth-and-15 conversion option may be coming to the NFL this year.

One of the potential changes coming to the NFL this season: an alternative to the onside kick.

NFL owners will vote on Thursday on a rule change tha twould allow teams to attempt to convert a fourth-and-15 from their own 25-yard line instead of performing na onside kick. Teams would be allowed to choose this option any time after scoring, but use of this alternative would be limited to twice per game. If the play is unsuccessful, the oppositng team takes over at the spot of the ball.

There have been calls to drop or change the onside kick for years, especially since the kickoff rules were changed in 2017. Because kickoff team members are no longer able to get a running start, and because teams cannot stack one side of the ball on kickoffs, the conversion rate for onside kicks has seen a massive nose dive. 

The rate of conversion for onside kicks is down to just 10 percent over the 2018 and 2019 seasons, versus nearly 22 percent in 2017. Three of the 10 successful onside kick attempts over hte last two years came in a single game in 2019.

This same measure was voted on during last year's NFL owners meetings but ultimately did not get the votes to pass. A second year of declining onside kick conversions has led to the measure gaining support. 

Critics of the new rule say defensive penalties such as a pass interference or defensive holding could potentially make the new rule unfair, especially if officials continue to call those penalties at a higher rate. 

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Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (21)

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Daren726's picture

May 25, 2020 at 12:09 pm

I could live with it, but it takes away the element of surprise that comes with an onside kick. The chance of completing an onside kick are getting tougher with recent rule changes, but I still think it’s the best way to go. I don’t like 4th and 15 as much.

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fordguy's picture

May 25, 2020 at 01:16 pm

Imagine a team right now like the Chiefs could play with the rule. They could be down by 25 with 5 minutes to go and come back or just play keep away and not let the other offence on the field.

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4zone's picture

May 25, 2020 at 01:31 pm

Half bad idea. First, start the play at the same point as a kick, the 35, not the 25. Second, make the play 10 yards minimum, not 15 and just like on side kicks, require the ball to travel 10 yards down field, this time in the air, before an offensive player touches the ball. EASY. It almost completely follows the current rules, except the team throws instead of kicks.

Also, the offensive formation and eligibility rules mirror any other offensive play. No 10 wideouts with a QB snapping the ball to himself.

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Spock's picture

May 25, 2020 at 02:31 pm

I disagree with your changes. You should not give the "kicking" team too much incentive to try this. Your changes make it a "4th and 10" from the 35. A lot of teams would try that, a lot fewer would be willing to try a "4th and 15" from the 25. If anything, make the distance or the line of scrimmage Harder - not Easier. Would create the same type of excitement as the onside kick used to do IMHO.

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4zone's picture

May 25, 2020 at 04:03 pm

Na, remember, you have no run option and can blanket 5 receivers with 11 defenders and the ball has to go 10 yards in the air before being touched. No run option makes a huge difference.

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crayzpackfan's picture

May 25, 2020 at 01:52 pm

I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. Definitely not gonna post a knee jerk answer. How would you awesome fellow Packer fans view this if perhaps this was implemented only within the last two minutes of each half while keeping the surprise onside kick throughout? I could be convinced of either side of this argument. As long as they fix pass interferences, I’m good. Enjoy your Memorial Days everyone. Thank you service men and women. I love you guys.

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Tarynfor12's picture

May 25, 2020 at 04:18 pm

I'd rather have the attempt be a 4th and 7 run play. I don't like the more likely aspect of a PI being called on a pass play. Keep it on the ground and make both teams earn it. Get 7 yards, don't give up 7 yards. The attempt is made from the 35 yard line.

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TheVOR's picture

May 26, 2020 at 09:15 am

I want the onside kick, watched football my whole life on the edge of my seat, and in the recent history of GB, Mason Crosby is a KING of onside kicks. This is what you get with a Kicker who is a football player (former DB) as opposed to a "specialist", who works his @$$ off at the craft of the onside Kick! I pray the NFL doesn't do this..

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jyros's picture

May 25, 2020 at 05:22 pm

Make it a “best of two out of three coin flip”.

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BAMABADGER's picture

May 25, 2020 at 05:28 pm

I hope the owners have to comply with the same drug test protocol as the players. Time to take the crack pipe away from Jerry and the other owners. This is a ridiculous rule change. Leave the game alone.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 25, 2020 at 05:49 pm

Why don’t we just go back to the way it was? Were too many guys getting hurt on onside kicks.?

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canadapacker's picture

May 25, 2020 at 08:24 pm

Why they just do like what Nascar has done - have a guy in the booth do a Madden on side kick on an Xbox. Stupid - this isnt football. Just go back to the way that is was - with any alignment and no running start - shouldnt be much of an impact on injuries .

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Since91's picture

May 25, 2020 at 09:09 pm

Just Dumb!

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Flow49's picture

May 26, 2020 at 12:30 am

When I heard this potential rule change all I could think of is 4th and 26.... not a fan. Onside kicks should be rare in the NFL.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 26, 2020 at 04:09 am

I don't like the rule change and I don't feel the need to articulate or even have a reason. "Get off my lawn!"

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Savage57's picture

May 26, 2020 at 08:00 am

Whenever there's a suggested change, I think back to all the old timers in days past. Starting with the unified chorus of "they're ruining the game", when the Packers and Hutson started airing it out.

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blacke00's picture

May 26, 2020 at 07:05 am

My suggestion is to use the "free kick"! Not exactly the rule as it applies now.

Bur, try this. A free kick at an arbitrarily determined yard line. If made the kicking gets the ball at the 25 yard line like a conventional kick off. The receiving team, if the kick fails, gets the ball 10 yards from the free kick yard line.

Takes the place of a kickoff, both teams "get" something for success or failure.

Make the kick tough but marginally doable. You'll need a kicker with a strong leg.

Makes it a harder choice as the weather dictates.

I thinks this is a better alternative than the current proposal.

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blacke00's picture

May 26, 2020 at 07:05 am

My suggestion is to use the "free kick"! Not exactly the rule as it applies now.

Bur, try this. A free kick at an arbitrarily determined yard line. If made the kicking gets the ball at the 25 yard line like a conventional kick off. The receiving team, if the kick fails, gets the ball 10 yards from the free kick yard line.

Takes the place of a kickoff, both teams "get" something for success or failure.

Make the kick tough but marginally doable. You'll need a kicker with a strong leg.

Makes it a harder choice as the weather dictates.

I thinks this is a better alternative than the current proposal.

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gkarl's picture

May 26, 2020 at 07:42 am

Ok, if we're making up rule changes to eliminate on sides kicks how about this. Scoring team retains ball after touchdown if it refuses extra point chance. They get ball at there own 10 yard line. Only with 10 minutes or less in half. Can't refuse extra point on second score, must kickoff normal rules, no onside allowed.

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dobber's picture

May 26, 2020 at 09:07 am

When it changed KO rules to avoid injuries, the NFL significantly shifted late-game strategies. The onside kick became, essentially, a no-go. So either teams need to play more aggressively earlier to avoid falling into this end-of-game issue, or the league needs to adjust to find a way to return opportunities to the trailing team. It's probably to the league's advantage to have some kind of come-back wrinkle in its arsenal to keep fans watching, otherwise just about every two-score game is over at the 2-minute warning.

If there's a chance that something like the XFL kickoff could find its way into the NFL, then you need an alternative to onside kicks, anyway. Penalties are a problem in this format, so they'd have to figure a way to work around it (a DPI or def. holding is half the distance and re-play?). Nobody wants an iffy penalty call deciding that kind of outcome.

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TheVOR's picture

May 26, 2020 at 09:18 am

I want the onside kick, watched football my whole life on the edge of my seat watching this play. In the recent history of GB, Mason Crosby is a KING of onside kicks. This is what you get with a Kicker who is a football player (former DB) as opposed to a "specialist". Mason works his @$$ off at the craft of the onside Kick! I pray the NFL doesn't do this.. It's like watching the end of an era. Tired of that, some things need to be left alone. The onside kick is one of them! Whats next? Flag football?

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