WASHINGTON — Thanks to return specialists like Brian Mitchell, Devin Hester, Brandon Banks and Dante Hall, the NFL kickoff was once one of the most exciting plays in all of sports.
After rule changes moved the kickoff line up five yards, touchbacks, particularly with kicks out of the end zone, have become commonplace. True kick return specialists don’t even exist on many teams now.
Now, the Washington Redskins want to bring back the excitement and importance of the kickoff, even if it isn’t for the return team.
Rules proposal No. 6 at the upcoming owners’ meeting proposes the NFL “moves the line of scrimmage to the 20-yard line for any touchback where the free kick travels through the uprights.” So instead of handing over the ball at the 25-yard line, kickoff teams with accurate kickers would gain five yards for their defense.
Given the nature of the uprights (used for field goals and extra points), many fans have suggested that the occurrence should be a scoring play. But this is a different solution, offering a defensive incentive rather than offensive.
As CBS Sports Senior Writer Will Brinson notes, the NFL is unlikely to adopt the rule this year, as it would require a new degree of monitoring by officials, and there is no publicly available information on how many kicks have gone through the uprights on kickoffs in recent seasons.
But this is exactly the type of rule that the NFL should consider–an outcome that doesn’t change scoring but does make a mundane play exciting again.
It doesn’t hurt that Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins could benefit tremendously from such a rule change: