Four NFL Teams Propose Rule Changes, Including Onside Kick Alternative

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The Eagles, Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers proposed amendments to the current NFL rulebook on Tuesday. 

Philadelphia suggested four changes, including one rule that would allow teams the option for a 4th-and-15 play from their own 25-yard line in lieu of an onside kick. 

To pass, a rule change needs 24 of the 32 owners to vote for ratification. The Broncos floated the onside kick proposal before last season to the same rules committee, but the change was not adopted. 

The rule was implemented for this year's Pro Bowl and used once by the NFC while down five points with 4:28 left to go in the game. Kirk Cousins's 50-yard toss intended for Kenny Golladay fell far short and was intercepted by the AFC's Earl Thomas III, but the play added some intrigue to an otherwise forgettable game. 

Since the NFL barred running starts on onside kicks, its success rate has declined dramatically. In 2017, 21% of onside kicks were recovered. After the rule changed in 2018, that number declined to 8%. In 2019, just 13% of kicks were successful. 

The Eagles also proposed adjusting overtime by minimizing the impact of the coin toss, though they didn't specify how exactly they'd like to see the current format change.

Since the current overtime rule was adopted before the 2011 postseason, nine playoff games have gone into overtime. Six of those games saw the team that won the coin toss win the game with a touchdown on the opening drive. Notably, the Patriots were able to take it the full length of the field in the 2019 AFC Championship Game, denying Patrick Mahomes the ability to touch the ball. Most recently, the Vikings took out the Saints in the Superdome during the 2020 NFC Wild Card game after marching 75 yards to the end zone on the opening possession. 

The Eagles are petitioning to restore the 15-minute overtime clock as part of their proposal. 

Philadelphia is also proposing to make mandatory automatic replay reviews after any play that negated a score from happening and every two-point conversion. 

The Dolphins proposed to give the defense the option for the game clock to start on the referee's signal if the defense declines an offensive penalty that occurs "late in either half." 

This is a direct rebuke of a Bill Belichick clock management loophole that entails taking false start or illegal motion penalties with more than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter in order to keep a running clock. Ordinarily, inside five minutes, the clock would stop.  

Ironically, that move was used against Belichick by former Patriots linebacker and current Titans coach Mike Vrabel, when he wound down the clock using this method near the end of a 20-13 win in the AFC Wild Card Game. 

Meanwhile, the Chargers and Ravens proposed minor referee tune-ups, including adding a Senior Technology Advisor to assist the head ref and add an eighth "booth umpire" onto the officiating crew.