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Monday, June 6, 2011

An interesting idea worth exploring: Eliminating kickoffs

Rugers head coach Greg Schiano is thinking a bit out of the box. Okay, maybe not a bit. It's way outside the box. But I like it.

Schiano is proposing a novel concept, in reaction to the serious injuries that have resulted from kickoffs. One of Schiano's players, Eric LeGrand, was paralyzed just last year.

The proposal is to eliminate kickoffs altogether, as detailed in this story in the Newark Star-Ledger. While kickoffs are an exciting play, they have also proved dangerous, thanks to players rushing at each other and colliding at high speeds.

So what replaces the kickoffs? Punts, or at least a punting situation: In every situation where there would have been a kickoff (opening play of each half, after touchdowns and field goals) the team that would have kicked off will instead have it fourth-and-15 at its own 30. Most teams would punt it away, but maybe a team would go for it, just as they do when they try an onsides kick.

“It would lead to much less impact and fewer collisions, but it would still be a way to get the game started in similar field position.” Schiano told the Star-Ledger.

There are downsides: Kickoffs are an exciting play, and years of tradition will make it hard for the sport to make such a drastic change. And punts are boring. (Sorry, Drew Butler.) Some will also argue that injuries will happen regardless.

Still, my first instinct is to say I like the idea. Beyond the health benefits, it would create excitement: A fourth-and-15 vs. an onsides kick? Give me the shotgun formation and the dynamic quarterback.

Once upon a time, the 3-point shot in basketball would have seemed too ridiculous, too radical of a change. But it's been in effect for decades now and has probably helped increase the popularity of the sport.

Then again, with this proposed football change you're talking about taking away an exciting play, which is more difficult for people to embrace.

At a minimum, it would be great to see a smaller conference - someone at the non-FCS level, or the Sun Belt or WAC - try it on an experimental basis for a year, and see how it goes. That's a reasonable request.

So, what do y'all think?

UPDATE: Andy Staples of SI.com likes the idea too. And he writes a better column than me about it. The passage I like:

When I forwarded Politi's column for discussion on Twitter on Monday, plenty of Internet tough guys countered with the "Quit crying, it's a violent game" argument.
Those people probably wouldn't know a thigh pad from a Thighmaster. More than 100 years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt thought college football had grown too dangerous. While some wanted to ban the game, Roosevelt saw the value in a slightly-less-violent contact sport. So he called a summit of representatives from the football-playing schools and forced them to create rules to make the game safer. They banned the "flying wedge" and forced offenses to spread players across the line of scrimmage. They also legalized the forward pass, which probably brought howls from the purists.

With apologies to Teddy, Schiano's idea doesn't mollycoddle anyone. Quite the contrary. Of the recent rash of attempts to make football safer, Schiano's idea may be the first conceived with safety in mind that could make the game more interesting and make it more of a test of actual football skill.

And Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman actually wrote about eliminating kickoffs all the way back in October.

While the catastrophic injuries attract attention, nearly every kickoff leaves someone on the ground, grabbing a knee, an ankle or holding their arm.

“Basically, it’s a 70-yard blitz,” Boise State special teams coordinator Jeff Choate said. “The guys that do that (cover kicks) for us, a lot of them miss games, whether it’s a stinger or some other shoulder injury. Some things need to be examined in that reguard.”

I don't know if this constitutes a movement, but it will be interesting to see if the idea takes hold in more quarters.

16 comments:

Andy said...

I just want the no-shoe barefoot kick to come back. Now that was cool.

SDawg said...

I think Logan Gray will be sad he transferred, cause he could have fair caught kickoffs too.

Ed said...

*rutgers

Aladawg said...

Maybe we should next eliminate the forward pass because receivers are exposed to injuries and get hit at an alarming rate. Then we could eliminate blocking to alleviate contact. Next we may as well stop tackling.

Then we could call football soccer
Aladawg

scott said...

I have read this blog for quite a while now, and have always enjoyed it. However, I have never been motivated to post until this moment. So that I can say what a terrible idea this is, and how you lost a few points of respect with me for acually liking it.

dawgjammin said...

what happens when a team blocks the punt... would you equate that to a long kick return?

Reverend Whitewall said...

I don't disagree that at least it's some creative thinking. What I don't like though is the potential "automatic first down" penalties that the receiving team could potentially incur, assuming it really is treated like a normal down. Defensive holding, roughing the kicker, etc.........it's already huge when that happens on a normal 4th down to keep the drive alive for the offense, but it seems like it would be an even bigger punishment right after a score or to start the game/half. The offense would be receiving the equivalent of a successful onsides kick, but without really having done anything. Seems too punitive to the defense and too rewarding to the offense in those situations.

Jimmy said...

Don't like it.

And I've seen many broke legs on the soccer field.

Wonderful Ohio on the Gulf 'Dog said...

First,let's outlaw standing near Patti LaBelle's luggage at airports. Now, that's dangerous!

Scott said...

First the name of the newspaper is "The Star Ledger." Although published in Newark, New Jersey, the name of the city was never part of its name.

One of the downsides to all of this padding is that the players think they can hit harder. If we revert back to leather helmets, no face masks, and plastic and leather padding like they had in the 40s so they have to watch how they hit each other.

Then we can find the modern day Charlie Trippi who played both sides of the ball while outplaying someone like Charlie "Choo-Choo" Justice in the sUGAr Bowl!

Now were those the days?

Sam said...

I saw this story today and immediately thought it was an intriguing idea. I understand that kick-offs CAN be exciting, but if you look at them as a whole, most of them are pretty boring. The UGA record holder for career kick-off returns for a touchdown? Boykin, with 3; next is Gene Washington, with 2. Super exciting.

Also, I remember seeing some statistic that showed a disproportionate number of serious injuries occurred on kick-offs. Injuries happen in football, but just calling it a tough sport can't justify irrational risks, otherwise we should just make pads and helmets illegal.

Schiano's idea is far from perfect, but I am glad he is talking about it to bring attention to the issue. Kick-offs need to be changed before more athletes paralyze themselves on the field because we at home find it "exciting."

Lucas said...

I really like the idea. Definitely a change of pace, but just as exciting without the risk of injury for the players. Those are the guys we should really be looking out for.

BulldogBen said...

Sam, that is completely false. From 1977-2009, of 126 players below the pro level who had catastrophic injuries only 17 happened on kickoffs (5.5%).

It has nothing to do with kickoffs and everything to do with technique. If you tackle with your head down you raise the risk of injury greatly.

This idea is asinine and something for the media to talk about during a DEAD time of the year for college sports.

Larry said...

bulldogben, 17 out of 126 is actually 13.49% and i am assuming that the average # of kickoffs compared to the average # of all other types of plays would probably be considerably lower. (maybe someone knows how to verify that.) so if your injury totals, and my assumption, are correct, kick-off injuries to other types would indeed be disproportionate.

King Jericho said...

I agree with Larry. The amount of special teams (especially kick offs) plays compared to "normal" offense/defense is very low.

This is 100% accurate, but it's better than what we're given:

UGA had a total of 1870 plays last season.
814 offensive plays
828 defensive plays
116 punt plays
112 kickoff plays (may not include fair catches, that's not clear to me.)

Out of 1870 plays, 112 were kickoffs, 112/1870 = 5.98% of the plays. If 17 players out of 126 that were catastrophically injured, 17/126 = 13.49%. 13.49% of the catastrophically injuries occurred on only 5.98% of the plays, you've clearly got a higher risk in those smaller percentage of plays.

Now it's been awhile since my last statistics class, so correct me if I'm wrong, but if 13.49% of the injuries are happening in 5.98% of the plays, you're 225% more likely to get injured during a kickoff, right?

King Jericho said...

This *isn't* 100% accurate.