The NFL’s New Kickoff Rules: Are They Really Necessary? (Click Image to Enlarge)
August 12, 2011 1 Comment
You can be sure that NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue noticed this trend when the league decided to push the kickoff back 5 yards to the 30-yard line. The league wanted to encourage more kickoff returns, and their wish was granted. In 1993 the touchback percentage was at a post-merger high of 26.5%; within one season it dropped precipitously to 7%. However, decrease was short lived. The percentage increased steadily through 1998 before beginning a decline in 1999, which lasted until 2004. The decline between ‘99 and ‘04 is something that surprised me. Kickers get stronger as time goes by; so maybe returners had just become bolder and more willing to run from deep in the end zone. From 2004 to the present, another era of increasing touchbacks began. Since touchbacks have been becoming more common without the new rule, the rule seems unnecessary for ensuring safety and an overreaction to the injuries that happened in 2010. The pattern is clear; kickers will continue to get stronger, which will lead to touchbacks continuing to increase and/or new kickoff strategies.