NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

So, the NFL has decided to move a touchback after a kickoff to the 25 instead of the 20. This is another move designed to reduce kickoff returns in an attempt to reduce injuries... and it is going to totally backfire. That five-yard move creates a huge incentive for squibs and pop-up kicks and other plays designed to force the return team to take the ball back from inside the 20. It also changes the math to make surprise onside kicks a better value; a failed onside now gives the other team five fewer yards. You know, if the NFL wants to remove kickoff returns from the game, perhaps they should just remove kickoffs from the game.

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35 comments, Last at 07 Apr 2016, 10:44pm

1 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

The NFL increasing entertainment while also appearing to care about safety. I believe that's known as the 'Goodell-Double'.

2 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

I really think special teams coaches should be teaching so called "mortar kicks". But, nfl coaches are notoriously risk averse so I don't know how much this rule change will elicit that response. After all, we speculated how aggressive the extra point changes made a team. Controlling for game circumstance, I think the numbers show they were only marginally more aggressive.

8 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

The Giants used to do the mortar-kick thing situationally when they had Lawrence Tynes, with some success. He was a PK who didn't quite have the range to reach the back of the end zone on a consistent basis, unless it was a very returnable line-drive down the middle. So they figured that, if they were going to have a return, it might as well be one on their terms. He was pretty good at it, landing the ball at about the 5, on the side of the field where they were directing their coverage.

Attempts to do the same thing with Josh Brown, though, haven't gone as well. It's apparently a tricky technique to get down. It might be that we don't see it more often simply because there aren't many PKs who've figured out how to do it well.

13 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

Kicking for height rather than distance.

If it comes down on the 5-yd line the return team HAVE to return it, and because it went higher the coverage team are more likely to get there.

Essentially the same as punting and hang times really.

3 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

That five-yard move creates a huge incentive for squibs and pop-up kicks and other plays designed to force the return team to take the ball back from inside the 20. It also changes the math to make surprise onside kicks a better value; a failed onside now gives the other team five fewer yards.

I think you're giving way too much credit to the NFL head coaches.

4 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

I agree with Independent George, but I call shenanigans on the math for surprise onsides going up much. Isn't the "math" for an onside kick the expected points value of starting field position upon recovery of the kick minus the expected point value of the starting field position of opponent if the kick fails. I don't see how that math involves a touchback? Even if it does, my lose reading of Brian Burke shows that EP goes up from about .25 EP at the 20 versus .5 EP at the 25. (I guess maybe there is something about EP that is dynamic and overall EP will rise if starting field position changes?) Seems like the real factor in the math is improving your teams onside recovery rate, but what do I know?

7 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

Ah, got it, but the surely negative EP of the onside proposition is still surely dwarfed by slight loss in EP from touchback starting field position for one's opponent. I still suspect most surprise kicks will come down to what a coach sees in how the opposing team lines up on film analysis. How many surprise kicks are there per year? I'll bet there are maybe three a year that aren't in the 4th quarter. Per Independent George I just don't see how a change in 0.25 EP moves the needle when there is such low hanging fruit out there (like 4th down tries and two-point conversions) that are still left hanging.

9 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

I dislike the idea of removing the kickoff and just handing the opposition the ball on say the 20

How about starting the game from punt formation? I believe punts are generally safer because the players aren't charging towards each other like on a kickoff. "Onside punt" if the punting team can make a 10-yd 1st down. Possibility of a bad snap or punter whiff.

20 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

Teams convert a go-for-broke 10 yard play too often for this to be a reasonable replacement. A quick PFR search shows that over the last 5 seasons, teams successfully converted a 4th and 10 in the middle of the field (between their 20 and the opposing 30) over 35% of the time (41/116). That's way higher than the onside rates.

To roughly match the ~15% success rate for non-surprise onsides, you'd need to push it out to about 20 yards to go. 4th-and-20 plays in the middle of the field, with more than 15 seconds on the clock, ignoring broken punt plays, are 4/29 (about 14%) over the last 22 seasons. (7/56 between the 19 and 21 over the last 18 seasons.)

But yeah, I'd be OK with 4th-and-20 from your own 35 to start the half and after scoring.

27 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

I mostly agree, but I think the stats on 4th and 10 plays might slightly overstate the success of the play. Teams usually only go for it on 4th and 10 at the very end of games or facing huge deficits, so the defense is probably set up more to prevent big plays than to absolutely stop them from converting. If there are 30 seconds to go and the other team is out of timeouts and needs a TD, sure I'd like to stop them on 4th and 10 but I would much rather give them an 11-yard conversion in the middle of the field than risk a big play down the sideline or a TD. A 4th and 10 conversion in place of a kickoff wouldn't be quite the same.

28 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

My original thinking was that it would have to be out of traditional punt formation with the punter 15-yds deep and any attempt to convert for a 1st down would essentially be a fake punt.

However now you guys have started throwing it around as a normal 4th & 10, the interesting thing is that it essentially almost goes back to eliminating the kickoff. Instead of one team starting at 1st & 10 from their 20-yd line, you get the other team starting at 4th & 10 from their own 35-yd line (or whatever).

Even so. For me the more you toss it around, the more interesting it becomes as a way to start (or restart) a game if you're getting rid of kickoffs.

24 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

Present NFL Rule 6 Article 1 certainly allows a drop kick as a kickoff. I don't know if I have ever seen a drop kick. Is that just because they are so uncertain?

35 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

I'll agree NE should have won that PHI game, but the kick in question had little to do with it. It only gave PHI about 20 extra yards relative to what a normal kick would have, and NE got PHI to 3rd and pretty long on the ensuing series and choked, giving up a long first down play.

The blocked punt for a TD and the punt return TD were far, far bigger reasons for that loss.

12 Re: NFL Moves Touchbacks to the 25

Anybody know if this is ALL touchbacks or just kickoff touchbacks? I haven't seen a clear source either way. It changes the math a little bit on punt and interception/fumble returns too if it's all touchbacks.

30 I have an idea

Guys, what about a few other rule changes? First, we prohibit touching of the ball by one's hands or arms. We also prohibit grabbing or hitting opposing players. Scoring is accomplished by getting the ball under the opponent's goal posts (with or without having possession of it), and there is no limit on forward passes. To keep scoring from getting out of control, we allow one player on each team to touch the ball with his hands, but only near his own goal. Finally, to make it easier for players to control the ball without hands, we use a round ball instead of the pointy one.

1. Less injury
2. No keeping track of down and distance, or line of scrimmage
3. Way fewer play stoppages.

33 Re: I have an idea

In reply to by rich006

No way... that would only lead to using your head even more for actual ball contact! Think of what that would do to youth leagues and the concussions that would occur. I can't believe you'd propose something in such a reckless and careless manner that could harm this countries youth. WHO WILL THINK OF THE CHILDREN!