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STS*: Let’s Think Before Eliminating All KOs

Posted by Randy Lange on December 8, 2012 – 12:24 pm

So what about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saying this week that the league’s competition committee would consider in the offseason replacing the kickoff.

Really? No kickoffs?

I don’t like it. But it doesn’t much matter what I think. However, two Jets whose opinions on the subject do matter also don’t like what they’re hearing.

“I hope not. I hope not,” ST coordinator Mike Westhoff said pensively this week. “That’s player safety, so I think I’m in tune with that. But I just like the kickoffs. I just believe in it. I know the collision part and I think that’s something you have to be careful of. If you teach it the right way, it can be done properly.”

“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Joe McKnight, who had a phenomenal year of returning kickoffs last season and is doing very well again this year. “What about the guys that aren’t starting. Where are they going to start? You start on kickoffs and special teams.”

Two different points of view, both agreeing that a flat-out removal of kickoffs from the game is not what we’re looking for. Safety has been the primary mover for last year’s rules revisions, which have resulted in about 50 percent of kickoffs now resulting in touchbacks and a reduction in the number of concussions and other injuries incurred on the balls that are returned.

“You already moved the kick from the 30 to the 35, which gives us 5 yards less to run instead of a whole lot of room,” McKnight said of himself and his fellow returners and coverers. “Now you’re trying to take it out of the game? People like me and Ellis [Lankster] need these special teams for us to build for later on, the next couple of years when we’re trying to win our positions on offense and defense.”

Westhoff is serious about his concern for players’ health and safety. While Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay’s first-year coach, has gotten some publicity attached to this subject with his proposal to turn all kickoff situations into fourth-and-15 punt situations (the fourth-and-15 conversion rate is about the same as the successful onsides-kick rate), Westhoff said he and assistant ST coach Ben Kotwica have canvassed the league’s teams coaches and put together their own kickoff proposal, which he said the league was interested in.

“I hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, there are also alternative methods that I think would be very productive and very competitive, so I would hope they’d go with that,” said Westhoff, who didn’t want to go into details of that plan for reporters until after the season. But he said one thing that can be done immediately in lieu of cutting kickoffs out of the game entirely is to cutting back even more on violent hits on unsuspecting players during returns.

“Blocks in the back, those types of things, used to be legal. We eliminated them from punts, but they’re still legal on kickoffs. The kickoff team can smack the blockers in the back and it’s legal,” Westhoff said. “My thing is, when is it ever good to hit somebody in the back?”

McKnight has a warrior-type mentality about returns. He didn’t talk about concussions but more the general “nicks and nacks” that returners get and playing through them, as he’s had to do this year with several injuries, such as an ankle sprain and last week’s rib injury.

“I can’t worry about injuries,” he said. “I’m still trying to make a name for myself.”

It would be a sin if an important slice of the game is made to disappear. As Westhoff reminded, “Can you imagine the Super Bowl? You’ve seen those pictures of the opening kickoff and all the bulbs are flashing? ‘Well, here we are, put the ball down, let’s go.’ C’mon, guys.”

But external and internal pressures on the game will dictate what the NFL does about kickoffs in future years. For now, the play is still alive despite the tinkering, McKnight is probable for Sunday’s game, the Jets are seventh in the league in average returns while the Jaguars are 29th in the league in average returns allowed. You know Joe and the Jets’ specialists want to do a little more reputation-building before this season is done.

*Special Teams Saturday

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Posted in Randy Lange | 21 Comments »

21 Responses to “STS*: Let’s Think Before Eliminating All KOs”

  1. By By Jet Fan Since 1964 Frank on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    Godell how much more can you change the game. Kick-offs and kick -off retuens have been apart of football since its beginning. What are you going to do put the ball on the 20 yard line and start from there in place of a kick-off. It’s great when you pin some one back at the one yard line on a kick-off makes the offense work all the harder and the defense works hard at trying to get a saftey. When a player returns a kick-off it makes the game exciting watching him run through an entire specials team and score. I can understand safety. But to eliminate kick-off retiurns in the name of safety does not make sense. Next you will be eliminating tackling all together, which by the way tackling cause more injuries then kick-off returns.

  2. By By Jet Fan Since 1964 Frank on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    Apply safety rules, but do not eliminate kick-offs and kick-off returns…

  3. By scjoe on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    Great idea! Lets also stop the punt returns, crossing routes, safety blitz’s, gang tackling, while we are at it lets stop all passing plays, and all running plays. Just hand out some flags at the beginning of the game and play a little flag football. But lets not change the price of admission, or the concession or parking prices because we have to continue paying these guys exactly what they are being payed now, and the owners have to remain reaping the profit’s the same as they do now. C’mon man!

  4. By scjoe on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    Very interesting article on ESPN by Peter Keating. He has a formula whereby he considers total points generated by a QB and how it correlates to his salary cap number. It can be related to QB ratings. He explains the process, but that’s not important right now. What is important is where our very own Mark Sanchez ranks, and whether or not our “owner” and front office took note, because it is scientific. Anyway, at # 1- Russell Wilson with a rating of 158.09 Mark Sanchez? As usual, somewhere down at the very bottom with a rating of… are you ready for this? -0.37 There are only a couple behind him including the Ariz. QB we were just forced to watch last week.But hey, what the heck, lets give him another chance, right? NOT!!!!!!!!

  5. By Byrdman on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    If Roger Goodell were commissioner of NASCAR there would be a 70 mph speed limit on the track! Watch him try to eliminate the extra point kicks next, after the NFL’s “Glamour” team lost Gronkowski. As long as helmets have that hard-shell exterior, football players will tend to use it as a weapon. PeeWee and Pop Warner kids should wear soft inflatable helmets and be taught proper tackling techniques. By the time they hit College those habits become second nature. The NFL need to make the penalty for all vicious (intentional) Helmet shots more severe, what about ejecting the perpetrator from the game after a deliberate knockout collision? 3 in a year, gets a player suspended. Stuff like this will REDUCE the concussion% greatly. IMHO

  6. By GaryC on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    Here,this is something for Goodell to think about,instead of eliminating the kickoffs,just put running backs,corners,and receivers on the kickoffs so the hits will not be as violent,at least you won’t have guys getting hit by 250 pound linebackers or heavier linemen,and if you don’t have enough suit up a couple extra just for kickoff duties.

  7. By Jet Fan Since We Had an Elite QB Tom on Dec 8, 2012 | Reply

    Great column, Randy, and thanks for having the guts to print it. And this must be a really bad idea because just yesterday I was thinking — and I don’t know a thing about ST compared to Westhoff — that it’s weird that the league hasn’t considered just changing the rules on tackling. If you watch tape of games from as late as the 1980s (I say that for those who weren’t around then), most open-field tackling was still at or below the waist, not these supersonic thrusts to the upper body that we see today. I don’t get why the NFL wouldn’t change the rules on tackling rather than change the rules on plays. But then, I don’t get much about Goodell except for his desire for more football of less quality and higher revenues…

  8. By Jet Fan Since We Had an Elite QB Tom on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    From NY Jets Cap, a site Arte has just told me about: “Lets be honest about Sanchez. He’s not a good QB. He has terrible accuracy. His decision-making and pocket presence are not great. He’s mentally fragile, which in the NFL is bad enough but compounded 100 times more by being in NY. I don’t know how the team didn’t see any of that in those first 2 years. Now the team is stuck. They have a QB nobody [is] playing hard for. They have a QB nobody really believes in. They have a QB who doesn’t believe in himself. But there remains a strong option that he will go back in there because the Jets are chasing a cost they never should’ve incurred this past March. It’s that move that really defines the mistake that is Mark Sanchez.” YOU SAID IT!

  9. By Jet Fan Since We Had an Elite QB Tom on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    On Namath’s ESPN podcast with Cowherd, he says McElroy “will be in the NFL as long as he wants” because, among other reasons, he has an improving arm, the calm, and “the mind” to play the position. Like I’ve said before about Joe, he’s had some personal problems and done and said some weird things, but he’s usually right about football, especially anything to do with QBs and O. I’ll bet you that 2 or 3 yrs from now, McElroy, on the Jets or not, has the biggest and probably only viable NFL career out of him, Sanchez, and Tebow. And I say that as someone who was only lukewarm on Chad, didn’t like the Clemens pick, and didn’t think Ratliff was anything much, i.e. as someone who doesn’t buy into any Florham Park hype about our recent QBs.

  10. By SCfromNY on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    We have already altered the rules that a QB might as well be wearing a “red” jersey. It is a CONTACT sport and stuff happens. Kickoffs are an important and intergal part of the game. Bring the ball out or play it safe? Chance being stopped at the 10 OR have a great run back perhaps even a TD? Without the KO the Giants would have lost to the 49ers. The unknown result is a HUGE part of the game. As a billion dollar entity I am sure the NFL could improve helmets to make them safer. Football has climbed to the #1 spot in sports in the USA. Let’s not mess that up.

  11. By Jet Fan Since We Had an Elite QB Tom on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    From Cimini: “I honestly don’t know what will happen with embattled GM Mike Tannenbaum after the season, but the buzz in NFL circles is that his job is in jeopardy.” Best news I’ve heard all week! Spicer, here’s what I mean about any deal can be broken: The Jets should fire Mr T in 2013, then tell Sanchez, “You’ve in no way earned your ridiculous contract. We’ve fired the fool who gave it to you. If you insist on us honoring it, you’re not playing a snap all yr. If you rework it with us to something sensible, we’ll let you compete for the starting job again.” This is totally do-able, of course, because about 90% of Jet fans, according to polls, would rather start Mc or Tebow than suffer through any more talk of “Mark’s the starter.”

  12. By By Jet Fan Since 1964 Frank on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    As much as I agree with all of you on Sanchez vs. McElroy, Rex has made up his mind to start him against all the stats presented before him which are awful as a QB rating. I really do not understand how anyone can believe in his ability as a QB, he is weak minded, does not know how to evade a rush, panicsx when he is rushed, once he is sacked his game is out the window through fear. As for his interceptions The other team just lays back and waits for him to throw especially after reviewing the tapes of each of his games, his passing techniques make him predictable. OH WELL!!! Enough said about MS.

    RANDY, I just can’t wait to see the NFL goto Flag football after what “GOODELL” is about to attempt. WOW, how exciting flag foot ball is

  13. By By Jet Fan Since 1964 Frank on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    going to be if “GOODELL” gets his way. You know we are talking about replacing MS, I feel that the owners should start talking about replacing “GOODELL” with his line of thinking. If there is “NO” kick-off returnes,
    PUNT” returns where do you place the ball??? On a kick-off return would you automatically start on the 20 YL. On a punt return with your line of thinking you force a team to play 4th down instead of having a kick-off return. “GOODELL” can you make the game any duller then what it is becoming now????

  14. By Bennett on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    Speaking about that freshman that won the Heisman. There is only one Heisman trophy winner in history that ever made the NFL Hall Of Fame. Give up ? The great Rodger Staubach “Rodger the Dodger ” Out of all of them if the game was on the line he is the one you would want for that last drive. His career was cut short by a series of concussions. Interesting side note. His backup for some reason “cold cocked ” him in the locker room and knocked him out. Guy was gone that day and the say Rodger was storming around that locker room looking for him. I never did find out why the backup nailed him.

  15. By SCfromNY on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    I think what everyone needs to do is put poor QBs in perspective. The Rams have Bradford whose record is worse than the Jets. Cam Newtown has unbeleivable skills and a decent group of players but like Bradford can not seem to win games. Kevin Kolb was the”answer” for the Cards. How did that go? Till this year the Redskins couldn’t buy a QB. Matt Leinhart has become a journeyman. Jamarcus Russel and Vince Young are out of footbal. A QB has to be calm, a leader, arm skill, decisive, and so much more. The Qb needs to read and recognixe defenses in seconds, anticipate where his receiver will be, and make accurate throws. NO OTHER positions requires so may attributes. Sanchez is not alone but still a back up QB at best.

  16. By Bennett on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    Excuse me my post should have read QUARTERBACK Heisman winners to make the Hall. There were of coarse a number of other positions that did, most notable OJ. I think RG3 will be the next QB to do it

  17. By GaryC on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    Bennett,that guy was Clint Longley.

  18. By Mike Jet Vet on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    Again,keep Politics out of our game Roger, Has moving the ball from the 30 to the 35 on KO’s stopped injuries to players … Yes, Football has evolved tremendously since leather helmets, Thanks in part to new rules, regulations and safer equipment, No way can you totally protect players just like OSHA cannot totally protect or avoid accidents in the work place, As players become bigger Stronger faster, Hitting each other at full speed.. no matter what play,what part of any game at any time or situation. players are at risk of injury only way to completely stop players from injury is to abolish football, Hey Roger, maybe taking the contact out of a contact sport would work of just let them play flag football,

  19. By GaryC on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    I guess McElroy had to much success for Rex to stomach,This definitely has the makings of another woodhead situation,not knowing what you have until you lose it.I would argue that McElroy knows more about the offense then Rex and Sparano combined,maybe that is why he isn’t dressing.

  20. By By Jet Fan Since 1964 Frank on Dec 9, 2012 | Reply

    Good point GaryC…

  21. By Jet Fan Since We Had an Elite QB Tom on Dec 10, 2012 | Reply

    Good point indeed, GaryC, but here is where I throw up my hands and say it’s about Woody getting serious. I can’t imagine what pleasure he can possibly get out of watching this team draft, play, and then give up on the wrong players, ruin or neglect young players, and most importantly never win anything of consequence. I think a lot of Jet fans should be required to watch every game that’s on every weekend (like some of us football fanatics do in this age of non-stop media access) so they can see how other teams actually develop new players into contributors, which rarely happens here to any significant degree. SCfromNY, Newton won a pretty big one today, but don’t tell GaryC…

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