The NFL kickoff is one of the most exciting parts of the game, in fact there are players such as Cleveland Browns ‘ Josh Cribbs, the Chicago Bears ‘ Devin Hester and former Washington Redskins ‘ receiver Brian Mitchell who made a career out of returning the football.
Fast forward to 2011, by instituting a new kick off rule the NFL in only Week 8, has set a single season record for touchbacks.
Due to the highest risk of injury being found during the kickoff the NFL changed the rule this season to kickoff at the 35-yard line instead of the 30-yard line.
Touchbacks are up nearly 30 percent with the new NFL rule but kicks are still being returned and in those kicks are better than they were in previous seasons. In fact there are four players averaging 30 or more yards per kickoff return this season, there were none last.
According to Deadspin, there have been four kickoffs returned for touchdowns in the first four weeks. Interestingly, all four were over 100 yards (108, 102, 103 and 107 yards) for an average of 105 yards per kickoff return TD. A year ago, there were eight kickoffs brought back for touchdowns to this point (97, 89, 95, 99, 101, 102, 98 and 103 yards). Those eight averaged 98 yards, 7 yards less than this year’s to date.
Let’s not forget the dramatic increase of league-wide scoring has caused the number of kickoffs to increase dramatically and could also be responsible for the increased number of touchbacks.
But the NFL is a business and a business first and foremost. The most important thing to a business person is money and the funds that are coming into their pocket.
Each year the number of commercials during an NFL game has increased and this year even more millions will be made due to the increased number of touchbacks and lack of returns.
As we watch the football sail into the end zone and beyond we are watching a change to football that will eventually eliminate jobs for players as there will only be a few left that can do what a Devin Hester can do.