The NFL is set for coaches to vote on the implementation of a new 4th-and-15 rule that would replace the onside kick, this according to a report from MMQB's Albert Breer.
The rule change would eliminate the onside kick. In exchange, teams would be allowed to take the football on a kickoff for one untimed down as a 4th-and-15 from the opponents 25-yard line, the goal being to gain a first down to retain possession.
The potential alteration does come with a set of caveats. The 4th-and-15 option can only be used in regulation, and it will count as an untimed down, per Breer. Standard rules would apply on the play, with all normal penalties–such as holding and pass interference– enforced.
Teams would only be allowed to use this option twice per game regardless of the score.
While the NCAA has been a proponent of safety measures to eliminate some of the big hits mitigate potential dangers in some instances, they have not moved as rapidly on other rule changes enacted by the NFL.
While the rule change would potentially eliminate large collisions that happen on almost every onside kick, the change would eliminate one of the most exciting and game-changing plays in the sport.
Alabama and Nick Saban used an onside kick early in the 4th quarter of the 2016 National Championship to help change momentum in a 24-24 tie game that led the Crimson Tide to the eventual win. That play never happens under the new rule proposal, as the element of surprise used by the Tide in this instance would be removed by a 4th-and-15 setting with the opponents aware of, and ready to defend the play.
While any rule that helps add to the safety of the players is a good thing, this rule change will significantly alter the game in a way that doesn't seem worth the change considering onside kicks don't occur in every game.
It's one man's opinion, but to remove the onside kick from the game would equal removing trick plays from offenses. The element of surprise and the fact that they don't occur in every single game makes a rule change here seem unnecessary for me.
There has been no discussion by the NCAA on this front, but should the NFL adopt the new rule, there would likely be a push from safety advocates for colleges to follow.
Hopefully, for the sake of the game, this is one rule change the NCAA won't adopt.