The NFL is going to get rid of kickoffs some day. This has been an impending reality for about a year since the NFL released data stating the reduction of concussions
on kickoffs in 2011. Even the casual fan may be familiar with the proposal stated by Roger Goodell
last week. The proposal originally was presented to Goodell by Greg Schiano. Basically, the team that just scored would have the chance to try a 4th and 15 on their own 30. It would be a bad idea for the NFL to implement this rule.
Any new rule is going to provide strategy and unintended consequences. This one seems to be completely off the mark in that it could possibly change the game while replacing a play that the NFL doesn't seem to want to be a big part of the game anymore. How could it change the game we know?
The biggest clue comes from what type of team would actually try for the 4th and 15 play. It's pretty simple. The teams that would try for the first down would only be the elite offensive teams with a top tier quarterbacks because they could convert the play every now and then and turn the NFL into a professional version of "make it, take it" from backyard basketball. So, let's say that the Packers, Pats, Giants, Broncos and Steelers all would at least attempt the play.
Not only would the elite offenses covert the 4th down play every now and then, they could actually have an advantage by not making the first down. How? Well, elite offenses can stomach points allowed by their defenses because they have the confidence that they can score again. Also, the opposing teams would take less plays to score points and sometimes would have to settle for less points than their counterparts. Eventually, situations would arise where the elite offenses would not only still be in the game, they would be running many more plays than their opponents, further tiring already taxed defenses.
Imagine what Chip Kelly and other top offensive minds could do with that kind of leverage. Over time, the best teams would continue to be the best teams while any team without an elite quarterback could find themselves at a worse disadvantage than they already are now. Long-term effects of such an environment could mess with one of the words the NFL does not want to be messed with; parity.
Look, Mr. Goodell, we get it. The kickoff is going away. Fans need to appreciate Patrick Peterson, Devin Hester, Josh Cribbs, David Wilson and all the other good returners in the league because the position won't be the same anymore. Still, Marty McFly's purchase of a sports almanac allowed a situation where Biff Tannen ran the town. Greg Schiano and Roger Goodell need to stay away from the DeLorean. Stay away from the unintended consequences. If the commissioner wants to get rid of kickoffs, just get rid of them, don't completely change the strategy of game.