Bettors Be Thankful for the NFL's Huge Non-Changes

Celebrate the NFL owners deciding not to try the new onside kick at this week’s meeting.

NFL avoids major changes to the rule book

If the NFL ever had a mantra it is, "if things aren't broken, always break it". Despite its popularity and monolithic success, the NFL's rules committee seems forever on a mission to tweak the game each season without polling its most important committee. The fans.

Last season saw a new rule affecting the forever frustrating NFL pass interference penalty. Fatefully brought on by a blown call in the previous season's playoff game between the Rams and the Saints. It seemed negligible in 2019, while putting extra pressure upon the official's judgement during the closing period of play. But somehow, if not for Drew Brees unforgettable pass to Tommy Lee Lewis late in the NFC Championship Game, we would not have seen a change.

The strange thing is did not solve anything. Unlike the NCAA's more sensible pass interference rule that allows a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down, the NFL's game altering omission still haunts the outcome of several games and often the outcome of many wagers as well.

Rooney Tunes

A change this year involves the long-respected "Rooney Rule", regarding the incentive to interview minority candidates for available NFL head coaching positions. Established in 2003, the league added the same stipulations for senior football operations jobs in 2009. Last week, the Rooney Rule was expanded again, requiring teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for head-coaching openings, and at least one external minority candidate for vacancies at offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, general manager, and senior football operation roles.

Rooney Rule changes NFLConsidering another incentive, the league tabled a resolution that would see teams move up 10 places in the third round of the draft ahead of the second year under a newly hired minority GM. For newly hired minority head coaches, teams would get a six-place jump in the third round of the draft before his second season.  Should a team hire a minority head coach and GM in the same year, the rise would be 16 places in the third round — potentially into the second round. 

Tony Dungy, the first African American to win a Super Bowl as a head coach, said last week of the defeated draft-pick proposal, "I don’t think personally it's the right thing to do . . . I just have never been in favor of rewarding people for doing the right thing. And so, I think there's going to be some unintended consequences."

I am no legal expert, but potentially one of the key reasons for dismissal was this type of proposal would be considered illegal if taking place as a labor practice in any other conventional workplace.

Getting Ready for the Onside Kick

Which brings us to the enormously big NFL proposed new rule for 2020. Upon necessary three-quarter majority team owner vote, the league was seriously thinking of changing the structure of the time-honored onside kick rule. As if the occasional onside kick wasn't already a nail-biter for not only fans but NFL bettors, the NFL rules committee were deciding to take it one huge step further. Thankfully, the following insane idea was tabled, not receiving the necessary vote to pass at the owners meeting on Thursday.

The Basics:

It would have given teams an alternative choice to the onside kick. Instead of trying to recover an onside kick, teams would have the option of attempting to convert a fourth-and-15 play from their own 25-yard line. If they get the 15 yards, they get a first down and keep possession of the ball. If they do not get the 15 yards, the other team would take over possession from wherever the play ended. 

NFL onside kickoff rulesTeams would then be allowed to try the fourth-and-15 play up to twice per game no matter what the score is (They could be winning, losing or be in a tie game). Also, all normal rules would apply to the play, so if a defense got called for defensive holding, the five-yard penalty would result in an automatic first down for the offense. Conversely, if the offense got penalized, they would not be allowed to then kickoff after the penalty is enforced. They'd have to run a fourth-down play from their new line of scrimmage, so an offensive holding penalty would lead to a fourth-and-25 from the 15-yard line, and if the offensive team didn't convert, the defensive team would take over on downs from where the play ended. 

Got all that? Wait, there is more. If a team elected to try the fourth-and-15 play, the only way the team could change their mind is if they call a timeout BEFORE the referee signals ready for play. Teams would also have the option to attempt the traditional onside kick. Incredibly, these would be UNTIMED downs.

The Bottom Line

What this would have meant for sports fans and sports bettors alike is . . . Don't Stop Watching (and betting)! Say, the Giants are down to the Cowboys 28-13 with only :20 left in the 4th quarter and have not used their two onside kicks yet, the G-men could end up winning the game with a miracle finish. 

Of course, this could have also blown-up your point spread wager and your over-under wager as well.  I cannot even imagine the bad beat possibilities for 2nd half wagers and 4th quarter betting. 

Keep in mind this new rule proposal would have changed the ENTIRE strategy of the NFL game as well.  Currently, the occasional onside kick was reserved for last few seconds of the fourth quarter.  A creative head coach might try their luck at any surprise moment. 

Imagine the chances of a Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson risking their skills at 4th and 15 anytime. Or a huge gambling coach like the Eagles Doug Pederson shocking all at the most unusual time. 

Fact: the conversion rate on fourth-and-15 plays over the last 10 seasons is 26.7 percent, well above the onside kick recovery rate even before the safety rules changes, which was 16.3 percent from 2013 to 2017. That might simply give teams too good a chance, an acknowledgement that one owner made during their virtual meeting when he suggested teams that have Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks should not be part of the discussion.

I say it is a 50,000 star lock no NFL team owner brought up the wagering aspect before taking the vote.  And you can parlay that all were thinking it.

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.

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