‘A Great Day for the NFL’ — Authors of NFL’s New Kickoff Rule Take Victory Lap

The special teams coaches behind the NFL's new kickoff format explain why the game changed for the better Tuesday.

ORLANDO — A quick warning from the architects of the NFL‘s kickoff overhaul: Things are going to look funky at first.

The format change, which league owners approved Tuesday by a 29-3 margin, will be jarring to football purists. For starters, 10 of the 11 kicking team members will be lined up 25 yards offsides on every kick.

But Darren Rizzi and John Fassel, the two highly respected special teams coaches who wrote the new rule, believe that once the shock factor wears off, the play will be an electric improvement to the game.

Details on NFL’s New Kickoff Formal

“We feel this is a great day for the NFL,” said Rizzi, who has run the New Orleans Saints’ special teams since 2022. “We’ve taken a play that’s essentially been dying over the course of the last two years, and, in our opinion, we’ve revived it.”

The new rule has both incentivized returns by more steeply penalizing touchbacks and made the play a safer one by eliminating the 35-yard, full-speed head start the kicking team gets.

“I think the kickoff returner value is gonna skyrocket because of the amount of times that guy is gonna have his hand on the ball,” said Fassel, the Cowboys’ special teams coordinator and son of the late Jim Fassel, a former NFL head coach.

Added Rizzi, “This is gonna be must-see TV, because it’s gonna be brand new to everybody. Whether you like it or you don’t like it, you’re gonna watch it. In this [last] Super Bowl, there were 13 touchbacks, and 12 of them were kicked out of the end zone. Now this is gonna be must-see TV.

“Your favorite returner, whether it’s [KaVontae] Turpin for him or [Rashid] Shaheed for me or some of the other great returners around the league, you’re gonna wanna watch those guys touch the ball. And so we made this play extremely relevant, and more importantly, we made it a lot safer.”

The competition committee had one other motivation in changing formats:

The three to five yards in expected improved field position on each possession that begins with a kickoff could add an additional point or two to an average game total that dipped to 43.5 last year.

“Last year in the NFL, there were 1,970 touchbacks, and there were 92 fair catches,” Rizzi said. “So we looked at over 2,000 non-plays, and even if we get to a 50% return rate in Year 1 with this hybrid kickoff, we’re bringing back about 1000 plays back into the fold.”

KEEP READING: What Is the NFL’s New Hybrid Kickoff Rule?

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