USFL Set To Introduce Intriguing New Rule That Could One Day Replace Onside Kicks In The NFL

USFL Set To Introduce Intriguing New Rule That Could One Day Replace Onside Kicks In The NFL

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  • The USFL is set to debut in less than a month, on April 16th, and it will feature a new rule that could change the game of football
  • The USFL’s new ‘fourth-and-tweleve’ rule could replace the onside kick both in the USFL and one day in the NFL if it is successful
  • Read more NFL stories here

The USFL is just weeks away from debuting. Football fans will be treated to the first slate of games on April 16t which is less than a month away. And when the USFL begins it will be rolling out an intriguing new rule that could eventually replace the onside kick in the NFL if the rule is successful.

As I’m sure everyone reading this knows, the Onside Kick is a deliberately short kick that’s used so the kicking team can try and recover the ball. The NFL tweaked their onside kick rules recently to prevent the kicking team from stacking players on one side of the field to overload the receiving team. Players on the kicking team also cannot start running as the kicker’s about to kick.

The NFL made these rule changes to protect the players from injuries but according to PFT’s Mike Florio, “it’s believed in some circles that” the NFL will eventually do away with the onside kick entirely. And it could start with the USFL rolling out their new fourth-and-twelve rule next month.

USFL Introducing New Rule That Could Replace Onside Kicks In The NFL

The USFL announced a ton of rule changes on Wednesday including the ability to go for 1, 2, or 3 points after a touchdown. They also announced how Onside Kicks will work in the USFL. Here’s what that announcement had to say:

Teams will have two options to retain possession after scoring. The first option will be a traditional onside kick attempt from the 25-yard line.

The second will be running a 4th-and-12 play from their own 33-yard line. If the team makes a first down, fantastic — it retains possession from that spot. If the team attempting the “onside” fails, however, the defense gets the ball wherever the offense is downed.

With the new 4th-and-12 rule, teams will be able to protect their players and the opposing players from injury by forgoing onside kicks. They can opt to start from their own 33-yard line and go for a 1st down on a 4th-and-12 play that would bring them out to about mid-field if they successfully convert for a first down.

There is always a chance of an injury occurring on every NFL play. It’s part of the game. But this would theoretically lead to less contact on both sides of the ball.

Additional Rule Changes and Announcements from the USFL

The ability to go for 3-points after scoring a touchdown is going to be a game-changer. To score three points, the ball will be placed at the 10-yard line and teams will have to go for it from there. This makes a ‘two-score game’ an 18 point difference now as teams could theoretically score 9 points on every touchdown.

Would Onside Kicks Really Get Replaced In The NFL?

Roger Goodell first mentioned a fourth-and-15 play all the way back in 2012 in the context of it being an alternative to a kickoff or onside kick.

According to Florio, the Denver Broncos then proposed it as a rule change seven years later in 2019. And just last year in 2021, Roger Goodell mentioned it again during a podcast appearance where he said “I do see something happening in that area, because we don’t want something to be a dead play. When there’s no excitement to it and the outcome is pretty much — I think we’re literally down to . . . four percent success rate [for recovering onside kicks].”

So it certainly seems like the NFL will be watching very, very closely how well the fourth-and-twelve rule works in the USFL. It’s also interesting that the choice of an onside kick vs. fourth-and-twelve is up to the playcallers. I wouldn’t be shocked to see coaches stick with what they know but only time will tell.