A better onside kick? Expanded reviews? A look at NFL's proposed rule changes for 2020

·3 min read

Spurred by the New Orleans Saints — and their extremely passionate fanbase — the NFL accepted a rule change prior to the 2019 that would allow teams to review pass interference. No rule proposal for the 2020 NFL season carries that same level of support around the league, but a few could — if accepted — drastically affect how the game is played.

The NFL Football Operations department unveiled rule-change proposals for the 2020 season Tuesday, the most drastic of which focuses on a much different alternative to the onside kick.

In total, seven rule changes have been proposed for the 2020 season. Four of the proposals came from the Philadelphia Eagles. The Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins contributed the other three proposals, with the Ravens and Chargers suggesting joint proposals.

Eagles propose alternative to the onside kick

Buffalo Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka runs an onside kick drill.
Will the onside kick go the way of the dinosaur? (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Of those proposals, the most extreme is the Eagles’ suggestion of an alternative to the onside kick. The Eagles would like a second option for teams looking to retain the ball while trailing late in the game. That alternative could include a team having to convert on “4th-and-15 from the kicking team’s 25-yard line.”

While the scenario isn’t fully fleshed out, it sounds like the Eagles want one shot to convert a first down from the kicking team’s 25-year line. If the team converts, they would get the ball on the 40-yard line. The team would still have to drive 60 yards downfield to score a touchdown in that scenario, which is similar to where a team would recover an onside kick.

If the team fails to convert, it would presumably result in a loss of downs. That could be an inaccurate interpretation of the Eagles’ proposal given how little information is currently available, but that’s our best guess at what the Eagles would like to be changed.

Other NFL rule proposals include expanded replay and an additional official

On top of that, the Eagles would also like to expand the replay process. The team wants “automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul.” Doing so would prevent situations where teams lose out on touchdowns or turnovers due to phantom penalties. The refs would be able to review the situation to make sure the penalty actually occurred as called.

In a related proposal, the Ravens and Chargers would like to add a “booth umpire” and a senior technology advisor to help the referee crews.

What are the chances the NFL adopts any of these rules?

In the case of the more drastic rules, it’s tough to see the NFL adopting them without massive support around the league. It’s possible the other 31 teams will get behind the onside kick alternative, but it doesn’t appear to be as pressing as pass interference review, which decided a playoff game in 2018.

Proposals that every team can support, like expanded replay on big plays negated by penalty, or the option for the game clock to start after a defensive team declines an offensive penalty, will have a better shot at being pushed through.

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