For years the San Diego Chargers have had one of the strongest return games in the league. Darren Sproles was an elite kick return specialist and made some of his largest team contributions on special teams. Guys like Devin Hester, Joshua Cribbs, Dexter McCluster, and Leon Washington came to be known majority in part to their special teams return talent rather than their offensive player roles. But when the new rule proposal was passed as the lockout ended, the ball was moved from the 30 yard line to the 35 on kickoffs. The thought behind this was that it will reduce injuries and make teams produce greater offensive drives. Teams had to reevaluate their needs for these specialist kinds of players. Dexter McCluster was moved from Wide Receiver to Running Back, Joshua Cribbs and Devin Hester are polishing up their skills at Wide Receiver, and Darren Sproles was shipped out of San Diego to New Orleans to find his niche in the Saints high powered offense. But was this rule change really necessary? With a solid kicker on roster, most teams can look forward to a substantial increase of touchbacks this season.
Look at what NFL Scout Jayson Braddock pointed out when questioned.
“The last time that teams kicked off from the 35- yard line was 1993 and there were only 4 kickoffs returned for touchdowns. Last season, the ball was kicked off from the 30 and there were 23 kickoffs returned for touchdowns.”
Just a little reminder of what we would have missed if the rule wasn’t changed for the 1994 season. In 1996, Desmond Howard became the only special team’s player to win the Super Bowl MVP. After the Patriots closed the gap in the game they kicked off to Howard and he crushed the Patriots hopes of winning Super Bowl XXXI by returning the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Not only would we have been cheated out of that moment, but we would never know how good Dante Hall, Josh Cribbs, and Devin Hester were at changing a game.
The San Diego Chargers were right at the top of all of the offensive and defensive categories in 2010 but were one of the worst in special teams. They also have a veteran in Philip Rivers at quarterback that knows how to protect the ball when he’s in a tough spot. These new rules will vault the Chargers to the premier team in the AFC and could get them to the Super Bowl.
Even with the topic of us rising to the Super Bowl caliber level does not intrigue me enough to like this rule change. We don’t need a rule change to get us to the top. If a team is not fully rounded and precise on all 3 phases of the game then they do not deserve to hold the title of Champions of the National Football League!
Just my input. What are your thoughts on this because I would like to hear all points of view.
But in order to reinforce my point of view, here is a great highlight clip of Kick and Punt Returns.