Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I think we have proof that the NFL owners do not actually understand the game that their teams play

Among other things that happened at the NFL owners' meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. -- yeah, it's good to be rich, so you don't have to meet in Newark or someplace -- the owners voted to move the touchback line from the 20-yard line to the 25.  What this means is that, when a kickoff goes out of the endzone or a kick returner opts not to return a kickoff that he catches in the endzone, the ball will go to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. In theory, this will discourage kickoff returns, a goal of the league as returns lead to injuries.

They also lead to really, really, really exciting plays, which I guess the NFL wants to do away with:
The second rule that passed will essentially eliminate the need for teams to return kickoffs. The league has moved the touchback from the 20-yard line to the 25-yard line. Making kickoff returns safer is something the league has been focused on for a while, and this is perhaps the biggest change.
Think again, bitches. A few years ago, the NFL moved the kickoff spot from the 30-yard line to the 35, reasoning that more kicks into the endzone would result in more touchbacks. As it turned out, that was true, but it didn't stop returners from taking a kickoff out of the endzone, gambling that the returner could get past the 20 and improve his team's field position. So, the NFL moves the touchback line to the 25. That affects the calculus, right? Surely most returners would be instructed to just take a knee so the team could get the ball at the 25, which is not bad. Right?

Wrong. Guess what happens next. Kickers will be instructed to drop the ball inside the 10, and teams with good kickoff coverage units will gamble that their unit can bring that returner down before he gets to the 25. Actual result: more kickoff returns, not fewer. Teams were willing to kick the ball out of the endzone if the receiving team was going to get the ball at the 20, as that allowed the kicking team to avoid the risk of a long return. A return to the 25, though, is the equivalent of a decent return and totally acceptable to the receiving team -- and equally unacceptable to the kicking team, which is why kickers will be told to force a return rather than a touchback.

How could owners not see this? Either quit stupid rules changes that won't actually affect whether teams return kicks, or do away with kickoffs. The NFL doesn't want to do away with kickoffs because they can result in good returns, which are among the most exciting plays in the game. Because of the high-velocity collisions involved in most kickoffs, though, the NFL wants to appear to be attempting to avoid injuries. If they choose to do so by eliminating the things that make the game interesting, though -- and kickoffs and returns are simply one example -- what do they gain?

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