KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs will be calling fair catches on kickoff. Sometimes.
That is the position of Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub who is with the share of NFL coaches who dislike the kickoff fair catch rule.
The new rule specifies that if there’s a fair catch off a free kick (safety or kickoff) behind the team’s 25-yard line, the ball will be placed at the 25. Previously, a fair catch on a kickoff would put the ball at the 20-yard line.
The rule has been in place in college football since 2018.
“I don’t like it,” Toub said on Thursday. “It’s not something we’re happy about.”
Toub’s main gripe is that it takes away from the strategy of the game.
Teams that are behind in a game usually use kickoffs to cause a turnover or pin the opposing team deep into their own territory. This rule takes that strategy away from special teams coaches, Toub argued.
The assistant head coach was on the committee that reviewed the rule and they advised the league to not implement it.
“We advised them that it wouldn’t be something that would probably make play safer,” Toub said.
NFL personnel said the kickoff return rate will decrease from 38% to 31%, and the concussion rate will drop 15% due to the approved proposal.
The change was approved for one season only, with the hope of gaining more data on kickoffs, field position, returns and concussions.
“The [concussion] numbers were up and you have to do something. I understand that,” Toub said.
He emphasized that most concussions occur on kickoff and that coaches have to teach players to not use their heads when tackling. But they ultimately do not know if the new rule will help decrease those numbers.
The committee also looked at the XFL’s kickoff rule as a substitute. In the XFL, the kicker lines up at his 30-yard line, with the other 10 members of the kickoff team lining up at the opponent’s 35 — 5 yards away from the returning team. Only the kicker and one returner can move until the ball is fielded. Touchbacks are spotted at the 35-yard line.
“It’s something we could possibly go to someday. That could be the next step, who knows,” he said.
Toub would like that rule because it means more returns.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and punter Tommy Townsend have voiced their opposition to the new rule as well.
“My thing is where does it stop,” Reid said. “We’ll see how this goes but you don’t wanna take too many pieces away, be playing flag football.”
There were no fair catch kickoff returns in the NFL in 2022.
Like all coaches, Toub said the team will adjust to the new rule and use it in certain circumstances, like if it’s better for the Chiefs to preserve a lead by not risking a kickoff return.
“It’s not something we’re gonna do a lot. I can tell you that,” Toub said.