Reduce kickoff returns by incentivizing the kicking team with a bonus point

The the passage of the NFLs new kickoff rule allowing a fair catch anywhere on the field to be placed at the 25, we have to ask if we are looking at the right incentives to reduce the number of kick returns. The current incentive is the NFL wants to reduce the number of concussions on the field of play – a worthy goal, but one that doesn’t seem to be supported in the data.

In 2022 there were 19 concussions in the NFL resulting from kickoff returns, up from 14 in 2021 and 10 in 2020. The NFL has stated that the rule change will result in a 15% reduction in concussions, which means we should see 16 concussions this year if their statistical model holds, still above the 14 we saw in 2021. With numbers this small across an entire NFL season, there is always going to be some statistical noise and these changes are likely not statistically significant.

What the NFL really wants to do is provide an incentive for unreturnable kicks, as they directly attribute the rise in concussions with kickers dropping the ball inside the 5-yard line, which then have to be returned. We can accomplish this by providing an incentive to the kicking team to not allow a return – currently that can only be achieved by kicking the ball through the end zone.

How do we do this? By giving the kicking team 1 point for a kickoff that goes through the uprights.

Crazy? Hear me out.

I would caveat this proposal up front by ensuring that we maintain the integrity of the current NFL scoring system that does not allow more than 8 points to be scored in any one possession. However, it should also come with a disincentive if the kicking team misses as well. How would this work?

1. Teams going for the bonus point would need to declare that before the kick.

2. This rule would not apply to the initial kickoff or the kickoff to begin the third quarter.

3. Teams scoring a touchdown and kicking an extra point would then be eligible to go for this bonus point on the ensuing kickoff.

4. Teams that miss the extra point after a touchdown or go for two would be ineligible to go for the bonus point – this would eliminate the sense of a "do over" after a miss and eliminate the possibility of the 9-point play (TD+2 pt conversion+kickoff point)

5. The kickoff bonus point would be in play after a field goal as long as there is time remaining on the clock. The NFL would need to determine a standard clock runoff for field goals (e.g. 5 seconds).

What would be disincentive for going for the bonus point? Field position.

1. The current default field position for a touchback/fair catch would remain the 25-yard line.

2. Teams going for the bonus point and making it would be considered a touch-back.

3. If the bonus point is missed, the ball is placed at the 40-yard line, as if the ball was kicked out of bounds.

So that’s the proposal. Reduce the number of concussions by reducing the number of kickoff returns by incentivizing the kickoff team with a bonus point.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.