The Pro Bowl is an annual all-star game showcasing the NFL’s best players — or at least the ones healthy enough to show up for the yearly exhibition. But this year, it’ll be a bit more than that.
In addition to existing as the all-star exhibition event of the season, the 2020 Pro Bowl will provide a testing ground for a pair of rule changes that could make their way into the league rule-books as early as next season.
Check them out:
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) January 21, 2020
You can read up on the full scope of the rules to be tested here. But for now, let’s discuss the one rule that will be of most interest to fans, players and coaches — the potential onside kick alternative.
Let’s follow along with the scoring team (Team A) and its opponents (Team B):
- After scoring, Team A can either give Team B the ball at Team B’s own 25-yard-line. In this scenario, the kickoff is eliminated and Team B resumes play on its own 25, just as if it would have taken a touchback on an ensuing kickoff.
- HOWEVER, Team A could take the ball on its own 25-yard-line and attempt a 4th-and-15 play. If successful, Team A would retain possession of the football and open up a new set of downs. But if unsuccessful, Team B would take over wherever the dead-ball spot happens to be.
If this sounds familiar, it is similar to the rule proposal the Denver Broncos proposed last offseason. In March 2019, the Broncos offered up a rule change that allowed teams that score in the fourth quarter to have one opportunity to convert a 4th-and-15 from its own 35-yard-line in order to retain possession. It was similar to what the now-defunct Alliance of American Football had in a rule that allowed teams trailing with five minutes or less in the fourth quarter to attempt a 4th-and-12 conversation from its own 28-yard-line.
Denver’s proposal was ultimately shot down, but appears to have new life now that the NFL is using the Pro Bowl as a testing ground. It’s almost interesting enough to get me to keep my eyes fixated on the game from start to finish.