In a twist to make the Pro Bowl more interesting, the league will experiment with an alternative to the onside kick. The scoring team may elect to give the ball to its opposition at their own 25, or it may elect to take the ball at its own 25-yard line (instead of the 35, as originally proposed by the Broncos) for a fourth-and-15 play. If it is successful, it will maintain possession as normal, and if not, the result is a turnover. The opposing team will get the ball where the conversion attempt failed.
Onside kick conversions have gone by the wayside in recent years, which is why Broncos general manager John Elway is hoping this is the start of a massive change.
“Not many onside kicks were recovered this year (eight) so we’ve got to try and do something where you have a chance to catch up,” Elway told the Denver Post. “I look forward to that so I can at least give my opinion on it and then they do what they want.”
NFL teams attempted fourth-and-15 (or more) plays 25 times in 2019, converting six (24 percent). The onside kick conversion rate has dropped in recent years, going from 21 percent in 2017 to under 10 percent over the past two years.
The numbers demonstrate onside kick conversions are largely nonexistent in today’s game, especially since the league has started the process of eliminating kickoffs altogether in recent years. If the conversion attempts work at the Pro Bowl, perhaps the league will look to make the change permanent for 2020 and beyond.