Steelers' Art Rooney II Says Onside Kick Alternative Was 'Too Much of a Gimmick'

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIMay 28, 2020

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 10:  Owner Art Rooney ll of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Heinz Field on November 10, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Earlier Thursday, NFL owners voted against replacing the onside kick with a 4th-and-15 attempt:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

From NFL Now: The NFL owners tabled the fourth-and-15 proposal that was to supplement onsides kicks, though it has more support than it ever has. https://t.co/czfP5JChV0

"I would say we're open to thinking about whether there's something we can do with the kickoff in a more traditional setting that might allow onside kicks to have a better chance of happening," Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II reasoned. "But this one was just a little bit too much of a gimmick. Coach [Mike] Tomlin and I just didn’t like the idea."

Atlanta Falcons CEO and president Rich McKay also offered insight:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Rich McKay, chair of the competition committee, says the 4th-and-15 alternative to onside kick had longest discussion today: 20-30 minutes. Confirms it was tabled. Roger Goodell asked CC to get all feedback from clubs on ways to address it and bring it back, so the CC will.

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Vincent and McKay said one primary concern raised by clubs is the ability to advance the ball on the 4th-and-15, whereas you can't advance an onside kick. Could be too much of an advantage compared to current rules. https://t.co/pNaJ9Erzow

Below is exactly what was voted on:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Clubs received updated language on the proposed onside kick alternative that (as @AlbertBreer noted) clarifies it can only be used in regulation, not overtime, and is an untimed down. Also note the language on post-score penalties. Virtual meeting tomorrow. https://t.co/NWrbrazEuz

Owners approved three rule-change proposals for 2020:

NFL Football Operations @NFLFootballOps

Three rules change proposals were approved by @NFL clubs today – here’s a look at what will be adopted for the 2020 season. For the full summary, visit: https://t.co/dmS3xMvgDl https://t.co/dJp7eqfZJu

The 4th-and-15 alternative not being among them isn't all that surprising given a similar idea proposed by the Denver Broncos was;rejectedin March 2019.

However, there seems to be a growing understanding within the league that the onside kick needs to at least be improved based upon declining recovery rates:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Even if proposed 4th-and-15 alternative passes today, traditional onside kick would still be allowed. But it’s harder to recover under current rules: 49 of 299 in 2013-17 (16.3%), 12 of 114 in 2018-19 (10.5%). This is a response to that, not a precursor to eliminating kickoffs.

Last season, according to NFL.com's Grant Gordon, eight of 63 onside attempts (12.7 percent) were recovered.