Thursday, February 7, 2013

Solving the NFL's Safety Problem: The 8-2-1 Kickoff Return

I believe that Duece's 8-2-1 Kickoff Return can be the solution to the NFL's concussion problem. Not that he needs me to validate him, but this idea should not be so easily dismissed without evaluating it on its merit.  Let me start by saying that when I first heard about the 8-2-1 KR that I thought it was the Special Team version of the A-11 Offense (read: gimmick), but I let Duece clinic me on the subject recently and I became convinced. 

Roger Goodell had a conversion with Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano about some "outside of the box" ideas to make the game safer (Time Magazine article).  Schiano proposed that if a team scored, they would get the ball on their own 30-yard line and it would be 4th and 15.  They could "go for it" or Punt in this situation.  I would guess the percentage of converting a 3rd or 4th and 15 is higher than that of the onside kick, but this still is not a bad idea to get the ball rolling on possible solutions to the problem at hand.  The idea that I have heard a few times is that the Kickoff needs to be more like a Punt Return, which is exactly where the 8-2-1 Kickoff Return fits in.

There are two things I really like about the 8-2-1:

1.  Better Production - as evidenced by statistical data (albeit limited)
        a. Increased Block Efficiency - less whiffs and easier blocks than with the standard KR
        b. Better Field Position
        c. More TDs and more KRs returned past midfield

2.  Increased Player Safety - the 8-2-1 is more like a Punt Return with less high-speed       
     collisions.  The blockers are running with their man and they "cover" him like a CB would 
     cover a WR.  

The talk of eliminating the Kickoff is evidence of how drastic the NFL's safety problem is and will continue to be.  Moving kickoffs from the 30- to the 35-yard line was an okay idea, but a better solution would be to make a rule that teams have at least 8 men within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage.  It is important that we preserve our great game by maintaining a play that is an essential part of the sport itself, and this idea is just crazy enough to work.


  1. If the end goal is a smaller number of high-speed collisions, my suggestion would be to aim for an increase in touchbacks. I know that that was the intention of moving the kick from the 30 to the 35, but now the kickers just sky it a bit higher and try to land it a couple yards deep. There needs to be better motivation for that guy to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone. My two ideas are 1) a kickoff that goes through the uprights is worth a point and 2) a kick that goes out of the back of the end zone starts the offense on the 10 or 15. That said, I do agree that the 8-2-1 is a great idea within the current framework without any rule changes.

  2. I got the same idea with the kick that go back of the end zone. Let's make that king of kick a fault. Force the kicking team to kick in bounds. If the kick go out of bounds, it's already a fault. now if the kick go to the end zone, it'll be also a fault. With a start at the 40 for the return team not the 20. and if you combine that with a kick from the 40 no more the 35 or 30. It'll force the kicking team to make a sure slow sweep kick. And, I do agree, the 8-2-1 is a very great safe idea.

  3. I love the idea. Kick returns are possibly the most exciting part of football, keeping the players safe is paramount. This allows both to happen.