NFL concerned over recent drop in scoring

Better development of quarterbacks, new kickoff rules could lead to increase in scoring
Atlanta Falcons Chief Executive Officer Rich McKay before the introductory press conference of Atlanta Falcons new head football coach Raheem Morris (not pictured) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Monday, February 5, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /



Atlanta Falcons Chief Executive Officer Rich McKay before the introductory press conference of Atlanta Falcons new head football coach Raheem Morris (not pictured) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Monday, February 5, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

ORLANDO – Owners, executives and coaches from across the league, including the Falcons’ contingent, arrived for the NFL’s annual league meeting, which is set to run Sunday through Tuesday.

Several rule proposals will be considered, including a new kickoff rule, replay challenges and the banning of the hip-drop tackle, while the league continues to discuss player safety and a recent drop in scoring as several teams have attempted transitions at the quarterback position.

Last season, there were 66 different starting quarterbacks, with one quarterback (Joshua Dobbs) starting for two teams (Cardinals and Vikings). There were 68 quarterbacks to make a start in 2022.

There is a league-wide transition at the position, which included the retirement of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers being traded to the Jets and Matt Ryan’s career coming to a halt over the past two seasons. Only nine quarterbacks started all of the games for their teams in 2023.

With the change at the position, league-scoring has dropped to 43.5 points per game, which is just above the 43 points a game marker that the league prefers.

“We were at 49 points per game during COVID-19,” Competition committee chairman Rich McKay said. “We went to 45. We went to 43.76 and now we’re down to 43.54. So, we spent a lot of time trying to understand that.”

The competition committee has looked at the number of drives, what defenses are playing and the playing of musical chairs at the quarterback position as teams struggle to develop quarterbacks.

The Falcons tried to develop Desmond Ridder over the past two seasons, but ended up trading him. The Falcons signed veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins to a four-year, worth up to $180 million. The Cousins’ signing is being reviewed by the league for tampering violations.

“There were a lot of quarterbacks this year,” said McKay, the Falcons’ chief executive officer. “Maybe in the top five of all-time of quarterbacks who started a game. Was that because of injury or was that because they got to play? We looked at a lot of things. We are not alarmed.”

The competition committee, relying on the league’s analytics team, is hopeful that a change in the kickoff rule will help to increase scoring.

The NFL has basically banned the kickoff – in the name of player safety and concussions – out of the game. Several league officials noted that there were 13 kickoffs in Super Bowl 58 and none were returned and 12 of them were kicked out of the end zone.

“We’ve taken too much out of the game,” McKay said. “It’s too exciting of a play. We’ve used that phrase, we don’t want to lose the foot from the game. But I also think, we don’t want to lose special teams.

“It’s been a part of our game for a long time. It feels like special teams, especially when it comes to the kickoff, has been away for a little while.”

Back in 2010, there were 416 touchbacks on kickoffs and 45,000 kickoff-return yards. Last season, there were 1,970 touchbacks and only 13,000 kickoff-return yards.

Now, the league, with the help of special teams coaches from around the league, are contemplating putting the kickoff return back in the game in a modified form.

“We do believe if you move the start line of the drives, 1,900 kickoffs now, you are going to see a change in scoring,” McKay said. “You’ll see more offense just (from the) start position. We’ll keep monitoring as to the other factors. We’ll spend a lot of time (on it). Forty-three points is not a bad place to be, but we’d love to see it closer to 45 or above.”

The NFL, with the help of special teams coaches, has modified the XFL kickoff rule. They will need 24 votes for the rule to pass.

“The play will feel radical and different because it doesn’t look like the typical formations that we’ve had before,” McKay said. “But this formation has been used.”

The league met with the special teams coaches – about 60 – at the scouting combine to work through the proposal.

“They took a play and made it our own,” McKay said. “We call it the NFL hybrid kickoff. They truly re-looked at the formation. Re-looked at the start line...change is not easy. They have come forward and brought what we think is a good proposal.”

The league also has a proposal to eliminate the hip-drop tackle, when a player drops his weight to ground to haul down a ball carrier. The league started working on the proposal the day after the Super Bowl.

“Just trying to explain that craft, the unweighing on the back of the legs,” said Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations. “We just have to be responsible. The durability and availability. When you have a play that has a 20 to 25 (times) the injury rate, it doesn’t allow you to fulfill your dreams.”

Also, there will be some off-the-field issues discussed. Growing the game internationally, flag football and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion measures, according to Jeff Miller, the league’s head of public affairs and public policy.

The NFL is set to play its first game in Sao Paulo, Brazil and in Madrid, Spain in 2025. “Our international fan-base continues to grow year over year,” Miller said.

The NFL has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee and those issues will also be discussed. Raheem Morris was hired as the Falcons’ 19th head coach and the franchise’s first African-American full-time (non-interim) head coach.

“We’ll review this hiring cycle,” Miller said. “We’ll talk about what we learned from it. What was good. What wasn’t. …. continue to spend some time to continue to make our game and our clubs as open to as many different people as we can. That diversity, we believe, makes us stronger.”

The Bow Tie Chronicles

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins speaks during his introductory press conference at the Falcons practice facility in Flowery Branch on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.
Miguel Martinez/

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

Rich McKay watches as Falcons owner Arthur Blank addresses the media Jan. 8 after the firing of coach Arthur Smith.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez