NFL coaches are concerned about five yards—the length of the shift in the NFL’s kick-off rule amendments.
The new rule, which moves the touchback line up to the 25-yard marker, has been met with almost universal grumbling from game planners around the league, and in a recent interview with ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, John Harbaugh and other coaches voiced their displeasure over the decision.
"The goal is misappropriated," Harbaugh said. "If you’re trying to get the kickoff out of the game, just take it out."
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Other coaches chimed in on the prospect of dangerous pop-up kicks becoming the norm in the NFL in response to the new rules.
"I’m not a rule maker but I don’t see this staying in real long," said Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. "I think it’s going to start causing a lot of strategy things, as far as pop-up kicks, and I don’t think they’re going to get achieved what they thought they were going to get achieved with it."
"What’s the goal?" asked Washington Redskins special teams coach Ben Kotwica. "I don’t know that will end up being what happens."
"It’s an interesting strategy," said Redskins place-kicker Dustin Hopkins. "I don’t know how many special teams guys they had in their meeting to change this."
It is, indeed, an interesting strategy. There’s a chance the new rule could work, but there seems to be a greater chance coaches will pooch kick or direct kickers to loft the ball high and short of the end zone, causing more returns than usual and greater odds of someone getting ear-holed.
And judging by these responses from around the league, the gaming of the new norm is already in the works.