It has been a couple of weeks since the NFL owner's meetings ended, but something is still on our minds. A decision was made not to vote on the Philadelphia Eagles’ proposal for a rule change that would allow teams to attempt a 4th and 20 play from their own 20-yard line rather than attempt an onside kick.
This is the 4th year in a row that a rule of its kind has been proposed with nothing coming of it.
In 2018, the rules of kickoffs changed. Players on the kickoff team now line up at the 34-yard line and are no longer allowed to move until the kicker makes contact with the ball. That rule change also affected onside kick attempts, dropping the success rate from 15% to 9% meaning those attempts occur successfully 40% less often.
That stinks baby.
Now, in a football world that includes the USFL and XFL, those leagues can roll the dice and play guinea pigs and give the NFL ideas for new rules. One of the new rules that both of these leagues have experimented with is a variation of the 4th and 20 onside kick alternative.
In the first week of the 2023 iteration of the XFL, the St. Louis Battlehawks successfully pulled off their own 4th and 15 play, and it was awesome.
You can dislike the XFL’s 4th and 15 ideas or the NFL’s proposed 4th and 20 ideas for a few reasons.
People have had issues with how that single play would be officiated, which is understandable. In a league that’s addicted to calling defensive pass interferences, it makes sense to worry about the integrity of the offense’s play call, and how a flag thrown on that play would be one of the more impactful penalties in the game.
That’s rational criticism.
People have also had gripes with how the offense could potentially score on a play that is purely used to determine possession of the ball. If the kicking team recovers an onside kick then bang, the play is blown dead. If it’s the 4th and 20 thing, and A.J. Brown has an entire zip code to himself 25 yards past the line of scrimmage, the play is not blown dead and he can score.
That’s also rational criticism.
But here’s an argument in favor of the 4th and 20 rule change to both of those criticisms.
It’d be SICK.