Goodell mentioned the idea during an interview with Time magazine.
Under the plan, which Goodell said will be considered by the NFL Competition Committee, kickoffs would be eliminated. Instead, the team that would normally be kicking off would get the ball at its own 30-yard line. But instead of starting at first and 10, the down and distance would be fourth and 15. At that point, the team could elect to either go for the first down or punt the ball away. If the team chose to go for it and failed, the other team would get the ball at that spot.
The idea was first proposed by Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, who was the coach at Rutgers in 2010 when defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was paralyzed during a kickoff return.
Goodell talked about the proposal before Thursday night’s Raiders-Broncos game in Oakland. “I thought it was an interesting idea,” he said. “The committee will look at it.”
The NFL has already taken steps to minimize kickoff returns. Last year the league moved kickoffs from the 30 to 35 to encourage more touchbacks and required all players on the kicking team to be within five yards of the ball.
The rule change has led to far more touchbacks. ESPN, citing the Elias Sports Bureau, said 16.4 percent of kickoffs led to touchbacks in 2010; last year it was 43.5 percent.
A similar rule change was implemented in college, but under the new rule the ball is brought out to the 25-yard line on touchbacks — previously it came out to the 20 — causing many teams to intentionally kick the ball shorter to force a return.
Some have suggested a less radical option than the Schiano plan: spotting the ball at the 15 after a touchback (and possibly kicking off from the 40), which would induce more teams to kick the ball through the end zone and virtually eliminate kickoff returns while preserving the onside kick option.
What do you think — is Goodell right to look at alternatives or are kickoffs a necessary risk of the game? What other plans can you come up with?