NFL will assess new touchback rule after four weeks of the regular season
Amid signs that the NFL’s experiment regarding the touchback rule may go roughly as smoothly as Peter Brady’s volcano, the league won’t declare failure or success until after Week Four of the regular season, at the earliest.
In his first officiating video of the year, NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino explains that the league regards four weeks as a sufficient sample size for developing opinions regarding the impact of a rule change. He also said that, as to whether the touchback adjustment will decrease kickoff returns (which is the desired effect), the rate of returns in the preseason is irrelevant, because coaches want to evaluate their coverage and return units.
Blandino acknowledged, however, that more kickoffs are coming down in the field of play in lieu of the end zone, and that more kicks are being returned from the field of play.
PFT previously has reported that the NFL most likely won’t change the rule during the season. Still, with plenty of coaches making clear their intent to attempt to prevent the opposing team from getting a free extra five yards of field position by taking a knee and starting at the 25, it won’t be a stretch if the facts after four weeks scream out to the league, “I told you so.”