Packers coach Mike McCarthy is not happy about one of the NFL's latest rule changes, and he's not afraid to speak out against it.
NFL owners agreed to move touchbacks on kickoffs from the 20-yard line to the 25 this week. An innocuous and unimportant rule change, right? After all, the college game hasn't been ruined by the move.
Well, that's not how McCarthy sees it.
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"Do you want the kicking game in the game or not in the game?" McCarthy said Wednesday at NFL owners meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. "If it's in the game, let's kick it and return it and let's play the play. I just don't like [it], let's not reward a decision not to compete with five extra yards. If we're going to compete, let's compete. If we're not going to compete, let's not compete."
McCarthy is right. Let's not compete.
It's time for the NFL to cut to the chase and eliminate kickoffs entirely.
The argument against banning the kickoff is that the NFL is eliminating an integral and exciting part of the game. That notion is unfounded.
Unless if by integral, they mean devoid of impact, and by exciting, they mean a consistent waste of time.
Think about this: Last year, there were 1,080 kick returns in the NFL. Seven were returned for touchdowns. That's 0.6 percent of returns, not overall kicks, going to the house. Not six percent: point-six. A little more than half of one percent. Exciting, right?
Beyond that, the average return was 23 yards, and that number includes yards gained in the end zone.
And when you factor in that 56 percent of all kickoffs were touchbacks last year, there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to bother lining everybody up to run the play.
The new touchback rule will make kickoffs an even bigger waste of time.
Last year, when a touchback went to the 20-yard line; if a kickoff went to the middle of the end zone, it was analytically astute to return it, according to Pro Football Focus.
Now, if the ball goes even one yard into the end zone, it's smarter to take a knee.
And the suggestion that kickers will start attempting to put their kickoffs closer to the goal line instead of blasting them through the end zone to try to gain field position -- well, Pat McAfee is smart enough to know that's wishful thinking.
Only a 1% better chance of scoring from 25 than from 20.. From a strategy point.. Imma bat a 1000 on touchbacks this year #ColtsNation— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 23, 2016
A five-yard difference in starting field position is never worth the risk of allowing a touchdown (zero percent chance of that on a touchback) and/or risking injury for the kicking team.
Despite how some are spinning it, touchbacks are likely going to account for more than 56 percent of kicks next season. It's easy to imagine a scenario where close to 75 percent of all kicks are not returned.
As touchback numbers go up, the stats tell us that touchdown numbers and average returns will go down. The "importance" and "excitement" of the kickoff, which is microscopic now (especially compared to the injury risk), will become nil.
And for those concerned about saving the onside kick, why not just treat it like a 2-point conversion and force a team to declare they're going for it? Surprise onside kicks are rarer than kickoff returns for touchdowns. Should we have to watch hundreds of redundant, meaningless plays to enjoy a rare glimpse of intrigue?
The NFL moved the kickoff to the 35-yard line and touchbacks to the 25-yard line because of player safety concerns. They want fewer returns, and they're going to get their wish.
So why not stop beating around the bush and ban the play all together? Extend halftime by a few minutes, or rig a few extra instant replay reviews to make up for the lost ad revenue. We'll sit through them -- we're hopelessly addicted to the NFL's product. But that doesn't mean the league should waste our time.