NFL’s 4th-and-15 Rule Shelved for Now, But Support Is Growing

A straw poll amongst NFL owners produced a 16-16 tie on adopting the proposal

Roger Goodell Closes All NFL Team Facilities
A view of the NFL logo before the 2020 AFC Championship game.
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty
By Evan Bleier / May 29, 2020 10:58 am

As an alternative to the onside kick — which the NFL has deemed to be a dangerous play due to the number of high-speed collisions it routinely causes — Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie suggested giving teams another option.

Instead of allowing teams to attempt an onside kick to recover the ball at the end of a game, Lurie floated the idea of letting teams opt for a fourth-and-15 play from their own 25-yard line (barring penalties on the previous scoring play). Convert the down, and the team would be able to retain possession of the ball.

It sounds a little gimmicky, but support has been growing for the proposal to be implemented and, though owners did not officially vote on it yesterday, a straw poll about support of the change produced a 16-16 tie. The onside kick alternative got tabled until next season, but expect to see fourth-and-15 being kicked around again as a possibility when NFL owners vote on implementing new rules again next spring.

“That one (fourth-and-15) got the most discussion, and there’s interest in possibly looking at what we can do here, but there wasn’t enough support for this particular proposal, and the Commissioner left it open that we’re still open to ideas about what to do about this,” said Steelers president Art Rooney II. “I think everybody agrees that it would be good to have some form of onside kick available to teams trying to make a comeback. Under the current rules for the kickoff, it has become almost an impossible play to make.”

He’s correct about that, as less than 10 percent of onside kicks have been recovered in the last two NFL seasons. That success rate dips even lower if you take out a Thanksgiving night performance by Younghoe Koo, who improbably helped the Falcons recover two onside kicks in the same game last season.

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