As a former special teams coordinator, John Harbaugh has perhaps one of the strongest insights into the new kickoff rule among current NFL head coaches.
The leader of the Baltimore Ravens was one of five head coaches to vote against the rule when it was passed on Tuesday, joining the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.
Harbaugh told Pro Football Talk that he didn't support the new kickoff rule, where any fair catch will be placed at the 25-yard line, because "we thought there were better ideas."
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"We had a chance to weigh in on that with all the special teams coaches," he said. "We had a long talk and discussion about that. We weren’t for it. We voted against it. We think it’s going to create more high-speed head trauma than not having it in there. That’s our position on it. But we’ll see. They want to give it a shot and take a look at it."
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Prior to taking the helm for the Ravens in 2008, Harbaugh was in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles' special teams. After the 2001 season, he was named the Special Teams Coach of the Year and helped guide the team to be crowned the 2005 NFC champions.
Harbaugh has created several special teams Pro Bowl selections in Baltimore. In 2021, kicker Justin Tucker hit an NFL record 66-yard field goal to win a game against the Lions. In August, Tucker signed a four-year, $24 million contract extension to make him the highest-paid kicker in the league.
Many of the coaches around the NFL commented on the new kickoff rule as the NFL seeks to make player safety a priority.
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid had one of the harsher critiques of the NFL's new kickoff rule. He questioned how far the league will go to modify the game.
"You don't want to take too many pieces away and you'll be playing flag football," he said.
Dan Campbell, who was one of the five coaches who voted against the new rule, called the league's decision "highly frustrating."
"It's very frustrating, but look, I don't make the rules. And so we, that's the new rule, then we'll live by the new rule," the Lions head coach told media Thursday. "We'll find a way to adjust, adapt and still get what we want. That's what you gotta do."
He then elaborated on why exactly he was disappointed, saying there's a slippery slope.
"I hate that we continue to take away from the game. That's what really worries me," he said. "We just, we continue to bleed this league dry. If we're not careful, it's not gonna, it won't replenish at one point. But listen, it's the rules and we'll make do and we'll adjust."
While speaking on the "Pat McAffee Show" on Wednesday, Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott attempted to avoid bait from the hosts to blast the new kickoff rule.
"It definitely affects the game," he said, noting that "I like the money to stay in my pocket right now."
He acknowledges the importance of player safety and wants to keep a positive mindset.
"Every year, I've always subscribed to, and we subsequently have always subscribed to, hey, we adjust wherever we need to adjust and that's what we do," he said. "The rules are the rules for a reason and we adjust, we respect the rules and why they come down and so we make the adjustments we have to make. That's the way the game is every year. All the while the NFL is trying to make the game as safe as possible and we respect that."
"I think we need to see how that all goes," Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski told the media after OTAs on Wednesday. "I'm all for player safety and anything that helps with player safety. I also, we get asked what we think about the rules, but the rules are the rules. We'll adhere to them whatever they are, but it's definitely at this point in the game, where we are in May, we gotta look at it and see what our plan is now that that's a rule."
"The rules are the rules and again, we have one vote out of 32, and sometimes we may see it differently a little bit too, that's just part of each organization in football," Josh McDaniels said ahead of the Las Vegas Raiders' OTA practice Thursday, when he also gave an update on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's recovery. "So for me personally, whatever the rules are, we're going to adopt the best philosophy that we can to try to play within the rules. If there's an advantage we can find to play within them, then we're going to try to do it. So, obviously, that's the rule we're going to adopt this year and we're hard at work trying to figure it out."
"Apparently the injury data suggests that this was a necessity," Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur told the media on Wednesday. "I don't really wanna get into my personal thoughts on the rule, but we'll adjust."
"I think it'll change tactically what teams are going to do because the rule is in now," Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus, who voted against the rule, told the media Tuesday, the day the provision was approved. "There's nothing you can do about it. But it will change. I think you will 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. But that's just what I'm thinking now. But we'll see what happens."
"Our job as a coaching staff is to make sure we understand them first and then teach our players accordingly," New York Giants coach Brian Daboll said of the new rules ahead of OTAs on Wednesday, adding that the kickoff rule specifically won't affect any roster dynamics. "Whatever they are, they are. Whatever the rules are, that's the rules and we just, we play by the rules. … I think we have a good understanding of what each guy has to do based on their responsibility."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How do NFL coaches feel about league's new kickoff rule? John Harbaugh, others sound off2023-05-25T20:23:47Z dg43tfdfdgfd