JIM MOORE

Moore: NFL should get rid of onside kick for 4th-and-15 attempt

May 23, 2020, 10:08 AM
Onside kick...
A proposal could get rid of onside kicks and instead have teams attempt a 4th-and-15 play. (Getty)
(Getty)

I’m hoping the onside kick will be a thing of the past when NFL owners vote Thursday on a proposal to give a team a shot at keeping the ball if it can convert a 4th-and-15 play from its own 25-yard line.

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Since teams have not been allowed a running start on onside kicks, recovery rates have plummeted. During the 2019 season, only seven out of 56 on-side kicks were recovered by the kicking team, a rate of 12.5 percent.

Meanwhile, when teams faced a 4th-and-15 situation and went for it in 2019, they converted twice out of seven chances, a rate of 28.6 percent. From 2015-19, they converted seven of 29 chances, a rate of 24.1 percent.

Maybe you like it the way it is, just like you liked the old extra point, a “gimme” from 20 yards. Now, the extra point is more interesting since it’s the equivalent of a 32-yard field goal, certainly missable from that distance.

So why not spice things up by moving on from the onside kick? This proposal is gaining momentum. Last year, the competition committee voted 7-1 to endorse the 4th-and-15, but owners voted it down.

This year, that could change, but keep in mind that it will need a 75 percent “yes” vote – 24 of 32 owners.

In the ill-fated Alliance of American Football, the new league and now dead league used a 4th-and-12 from the 28-yard line in place of the onside kick. The first team to try it was successful.

In the NFL’s proposal, a team can use it twice a game, after any score, including a safety. It certainly gives the trailing team a chance to recover from a double-digit deficit. It also comes with a risk – if you don’t pick up a first down on 4th-and-15, the opposing team gets the ball pretty deep in your own territory, within field-goal range, to add to its lead.

I think it could be fun and heartbreaking at the same time. Imagine if the Seahawks are trailing 35-14 to the 49ers with three minutes to go. Russell Wilson throws a touchdown pass to Greg Olsen to make it 35-21. Then he finds DK Metcalf for 20 yards to pick up a 4th-and-15 and leads the Seahawks on another touchdown drive.

With less than two minutes to go, the Seahawks go for another first down on 4th-and-15 and pick it up, this time on a draw to Chris Carson, completely fooling the 49ers’ defense. Naturally the best quarterback at leading fourth-quarter comebacks guides the Seahawks to a game-tying touchdown, and Pete Carroll’s team goes on to win in overtime in an instant classic.

Then again, if the Seahawks lose a game in this fashion, you’ll go from thinking the new rule was the greatest thing ever to a Mickey Mouse abomination.

I’ll keep clamoring for a rule change that should be made but seems to lack the necessary traction, the one where the defense gets the ball at the 20-yard line when the ball is fumbled by the offense out of the end zone. That’s ridiculous.

But this one involving a change to the onside kick has an actual chance of happening, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the vote turns out on Thursday.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore on Twitter.

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Moore: NFL should get rid of onside kick for 4th-and-15 attempt