The following is a reader column submitted by friend of THB Brian Landry. Follow him @LandryLaundry.
In the NFL, kickoffs make for some of the most exciting and unpredictable plays,and I’d imagine most of you are not in favor of moving kickoffs up 5 yards. Well, neither am I. But, there’s a part of this a lot of us have overlooked.
As the 2011 NFL football season is coming on the heels of an extended lockout, undrafted free agents and draft picks have had no organized team activities. Many are quick to point out the difficulties that inexperienced rookies are having on offense and defense, yet special teams units seem to get lost in the discussion. You may say that special teams don’t need OTAs as much as the offenses and defenses do, and you may be right. That said, a good portion of undrafted free agents and draft picks run special teams. Without all of the off-season work, it’s reasonable to believe that the quality of special teams play would suffer.
If you have any doubt as to the importance of special teams, see the 2010 San Diego Chargers. Leading the league in both total offense and total defense, the 2010 Chargers failed to make the playoffs largely on untimely turnovers and atrocious special teams. Known for their molasses-like slow starts, the 2010 Chargers started off with a 2-3 record. Of the 106 points they allowed in these 5 games, 42 of them were non-offensive touchdowns. Almost half!
Now, this is not about the 2010 San Diego Chargers. Rather, delving into the enigma that is the San Diego Chargers helps show the impact that special teams have on the game. This was likely and unintended side effect of the rule change, but moving kickoffs up 5 yards will undoubtedly limit the amount of returns. If you consider yourself a person that favors upholding the quality of NFL football, less kickoff returns (at least for this year) may not be such a bad thing after all. I mean, that’s why we all love college overtime, right? It’s the only sport that, for its overtime, eliminates a part of the game. In this case, special teams. And for good reason.