Conspiracy: Is the NFL Trying to Take the 'Middle Class' out of the League?

Devon Clements

On Thursday, the NFL decided to table the idea of adding an alternative to the onside kick, which would have been a 4th-and-15 situation for a team that wants to retain possession after scoring. 

The idea was believed to be tabled because a 4th-and-15 play seemingly gives a team trailing in the game a better chance of coming back, which is a bit unfair for the team with the lead. But what's not being looked at is how the onside kick has evolved to a point where alternatives are being discussed. 

That notion was brought up with The MMQB's Albert Breer Friday morning while on The Dan Patrick Show, and Breer had a conspiratorial answer as to why the NFL has been trying to reduce special teams plays. 

"I actually talked to one coach, and this may be a little conspiracy theory-ish, but there are some coaches that feel like the NFL has actively looked to try and take out the middle class of the league. And who's the middle class? Well, the middle class is guys like Matt Slater on the Patriots, who are make 3-4 million dollars a year and are playing what, like six or eight plays a game. There is a feeling that there are some ulterior motives here on the part of the owners. I don't know how much truth there is that."

In 2011, the league moved kickoffs from the 30 yard line to the 35 yard line, while also extending the touchback ball spot from the 20 yard line to the 25 yard line, which resulted in more touchbacks happening, and in-hand less contact happening for kickoff and kick return units. That also made special-teams only players less necessary. Last season, 24 teams forced a touchback on kickoffs over 50% of the time, 14 over 60%, eight over 70%, and two over 80%, per Team Rankings. 

Creating an alternative to the onside kick would virtually eliminate it, as most teams would opt to put their offense on the field as opposed to recovering an onside kick. The NFL would say that they are trying to create alternatives because the onside kick is considered more dangerous to players than most other plays in football. But as Breer mentioned, that reason could be a cover up for other intentions the league has, which involves eliminating some of the league's less-used players that are still collecting sizable paychecks. 

Comments (1)
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Chris Mitchell
Chris Mitchell

Breer is embarrassing himself here. Looks like a "Hot Take" chase for clicks kind of thing. Special teams, for the most part, are boring except for that one or two plays a game that aren't and they are some of the most dangerous plays in the game. A lot of teams don't pay a Mathew Slater because they can't or they don't think it's an efficient use of assets. There aren't enough players earning that inefficiently large pay check to justify changing rules to do it. Teams could just collude and agree not to pay them and all of a sudden the Slater's are making $2 million instead of $4. Problem solved, if it ever was one.


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