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Grant Cohn: Schiano has plan to dump NFL kickoffs

  • Greg Schiano was coaching at Rutgers when Eric LeGrand was paralyzed trying to tackle a defender on a kickoff. Now coaching with Tampa Bay, Schiano has a plan to avoid kickoffs entirely. (Associated Press)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano has said in the past that he wants to replace kickoffs and onside kicks and he has alternatives worth considering.

First, replace kickoffs with punts. On kickoffs, players line up on opposite sides of the field and sprint and smash into each other. But on punts, players line up near each other, just a few feet apart, and there is no sprint-and-smash.

Second, replace onside kicks with a play from scrimmage, no kicking allowed. The play would start as a fourth-and-15 from the offense's 30-yard line. This would be safer than an onside kick, the equivalent of football roulette where players line up 10 yards away from each other and crash together. There is hardly any strategy. The way the oblong ball bounces usually determines who recovers it.

In addition to being safer, a play from scrimmage might be more exciting than an onside kick because a play from scrimmage involves much more thinking. And a fourth-and-15 could be perfect because fourth-and-15s have been converted 21.8 percent of the time since 2001, and onside kicks have been successful 21.4 percent of the time over the same period, according to ESPN Stats and Info, which is nearly the same success rate.

Both of Schiano's changes would make football safer by removing the biggest collisions.

In 2010, Schiano was the head coach at Rutgers and his player, Eric LeGrand, was paralyzed making a tackle on a kickoff. This was not the first time a player had been paralyzed on a kickoff. This is the risk players take when they participate in kickoffs. Schiano wants to end the risk and make sure what happened to LeGrand doesn't happen to anyone else.

His ideas may be too radical — kickoffs have been a part of football since its inception — but if the NFL decides they're too dangerous, Schiano's ideas may be the best alternative.

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