How the New Onside Kick rule will change the Game

Today we are here to discuss how the new proposed rule change could affect the NFL and whether it will have the desired outcome.


In 2019 there were 79 onside kicks attempted, out of those 79 attempts only 6 of them resulted in a successful recovery by the kicking team. This is a 6% recovery rate which compared to the 21% from 2018 is absolutely abysmal. This is a result of the rule changes the league put into effect stating that one side of the field could not be over loaded when the ball is kicked and no player can have a moving start before the ball is kicked. This gives a clear advantage to the recovery team and the numbers show it.

The new rule that is being considered would line a team up on their own 25 yard line. The team trying to convert to retain possession would be faced with a Fourth and Fifteen. If the team on offense converts this Down and Distance they retain the ball and continue the drive as any other. If they do not convert though the opposing team gets the ball where the play ends.

When you look at this, you may think that this is going to result in more conversions and a more fast paced game, with more conversions, and more teams being able to get back in games late. Lets look at the numbers on Fourth Down conversions from this last year. When teams were faced with a Fourth and Fifteen and no goal to go (this is important because when you have more than 25 yards of field to work with you have a far larger probability of converting) these were converted roughly 28% of the time. That’s right an even higher percentage than with the old onside kick rules. Just to be clear with the same amount of attempts (79) at this rate you would have seen 22 conversions, that is 22 more games where a team would have a chance to fight back, a possible 22 more games that could have been decided on the last drive or been forced to OT.

What this could mean for the NFL is more viewers staying tuned into games longer, more revenue on games that seem out of hand. This could seriously help the NFL in a big way.

What this could mean for the fans may be even more worthy of note. Imagine, it is a Monday night, your hated rival has a strong hold on the game, your division is on the line. Your team gets the ball down by 13 with just over two minutes to play. They put together a stellar drive, your offense has clearly figured out something about their rival teams defense and they exploit it quickly. Now just down 6 points with about a minute to play. Without this rule change as a fan you are sitting there and you get that pit in your stomach knowing what is coming. A few years ago you would have been excited, praying that your team recovers the onside kick and you may still have a chance. In today’s NFL you have a 6% chance of recovery and you know that most likely this Monday Night is going to end in heart break. With this new rule change you are looking at a better than 1 in 4 chance of getting the ball back. That pit in your stomach is replaced with excitement and exhilaration! Screaming at the TV, your team converts and drives down the field and scores creating one of the most fantastic comebacks you have ever seen in your life.

This will have an effect on teams differently though. You have to think about what certain teams are good at and what they pride themselves on. When a team like Seattle or Baltimore are faced with needing fifteen yards this seems like it could be a very manageable down a distance. Explosive teams like this pick up fifteen yards in one play very often . Baltimore had 149 explosive plays this year and Seattle had 133 explosive plays. Where as a team like Indianapolis or Carolina would struggle in this area as Carolina only had 85 explosive plays and Indy only had 91. Just food for thought on how this rule could be better for some teams than others.

I personally like the idea of this rule change, it will bring a fresh new feel to a part of the game that has overall lost its place in today’s NFL.

-Marshall Thorne-

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