Before we start laughing at Roger Goodell's idea—by way of Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano—of eliminating kickoffs and replacing them with punts, let's first analyze what this would mean for the game. The suggestion would work like this: Instead of kicking off after a score or to start a half of play, teams would be given the ball in a fourth-down-and-15-yards-to-go situation. Teams could choose to punt, which would accomplish the same purpose as a kickoff—serving possession to the other team. However, the offense could also elect to go for it. This wrinkle would replace the onside kick.
Schiano chose 15 yards as the distance to go for a reason. The success rate for converting do-or-die plays with 15 yards to go is the same as for onside kicks, 19 percent. One exception is that "surprise" onside kicks—attempted when the kicking team is not in desperate circumstances—are recovered far more frequently, at over 50 percent. Under the new rule, the equivalent of a surprise onside kick would be a fake punt—a far more challenging conversion.