Bears coach Matt Eberflus gets honest on new NFL kickoff rule

Recently, the NFL announced a new touchback rule that enables teams to call a fair catch on any kickoff and receive the ball on their own 25 yard line, thereby discouraging dangerous kickoff returns. While this is technically just a temporary, preliminary measure for now, it’s a logical, common sense rule that’s been in place in college football since 2018. But naturally, football coaches have some hot takes and they’re not afraid to share them. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said that changes like this will one day turn the NFL into “flag football;” Lions coach Dan Campbell worried that this represents a siege on football’s very soul. Bears coach Matt Eberflus, though, offered a more measured take, wondering how the new rule will impact special teams strategy.

“I think it will change tactically what teams are going to do because the rule is in now,” Matt Eberflus said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. But it will change. I think we’ll get more squib kicks. I think you’ll get more drop kicks, more drive kicks, those types of things, and make guys return it. I suspect you’ll see more returns than less. That’s just what I’m thinking about right now, but we’ll see what happens.”

Admittedly, Eberflus’ logic is a bit confusing. It doesn’t make sense why the Bears or any other team would turn to different kickoff styles—if a team receives the kickoff beyond the 25 yard line, they would simply return it as normal and receive better field position as a result; if a team receives the kickoff behind the 25 yard line, they can opt to fair catch it for a touchback. At best, a squib kick results in the receiving team starting their possession beyond the 25 yard line; at worst, they break off a long return for a touchdown. Since there’s no consistent way to pin the receiving team behind the 25 yard line, kickers will presumably be told to simply blast the ball through the back of the end zone.