Why The Schiano Proposal Must Be Instituted Into Professional Football

Aaron Stout, Special to The Big Red

October 16, 2010. East Rutherford, New Jersey. West Point’s return-man Malcolm Brown receives the kick, and proceeds to bring it upfield. Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand charges at Brown, ready to violently collide with the speedy returner. Bang. They hit.

Brown is rolling around on the field in pain. LeGrand isn’t moving. Brown gets up. LeGrand doesn’t. Brown walks to the locker room. LeGrand is still on the field. Brown broke his collarbone in the hit. LeGrand, quite literally, broke his back. This tragic collision left Eric LeGrand paralyzed from the neck down.

Despite achieving a thrilling victory in overtime, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano had tears in his eyes during the post game presser. His mind was consumed by the thought of a young and promising football player who could no longer walk, let alone play football.

Schiano, however, would not sit by and let this happen to another young man. He created a safer alternative to the kickoff; the play that took LeGrand’s ability to walk. It was dubbed the Schiano Proposal, and it needs to be instituted into professional football.

The Schiano Proposal is simple. Instead of a kickoff, have a 4th and 15. Most teams will elect to punt the ball, which is much safer than a traditional kickoff, because rather than running at each other, the teams are running side by side.

If it is late in the game, and a team needs to get the ball back in order to give themselves a chance to win, the Schiano Proposal offers a better alternative to the current method. Unlike performing the onside kick, a boring and predictable play with only a 15% success rate, teams would be able to march their offense onto the field and have one shot to pick up the first down.

Seeing the potential for this to be a vastly more interesting alternative, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) adopted part of the Schiano proposal, and it certainly passes the eye test.

The AAF is a newly created professional football league, made up of former NFL players and recent college graduates. This new league, in order to compensate for the lower quality of play compared to the NFL, has made numerous alterations to the rules of the NFL brand of football.

The AAF gives the kicking team one of two options. Either give the receiving team the ball at their own 25 (the same as an NFL fair catch) or have the offense go out onto the field and attempt a 4th and 12 (the three yard change is to give the offense slightly increased odds of picking up the first down).

Fans have raved about this change, so much so that the NFL is discussing it as an addition to the game for next season. It is far more entertaining, and far more skill-based, whereas the current onside kick is boring, and almost exclusively luck-based.

Part of the greatness of the Schiano Proposal is its ability to not deduct from the game, only improve.

One of the most remembered plays in NFL history was Sean Peyton’s gutsy call to perform a surprise onside kick at the beginning of the 2nd half during Super Bowl XLIV. This risky type of play can still happen under the Schiano proposal, only in the form of a fake punt.

Fans aren’t robbed of the action, and coaches aren’t robbed of the ability to catch the other team sleeping; everybody wins.

To recap, the Schiano Proposal is safer and more entertaining than the risky and bland kickoffs of the NFL’s game. Some traditionalist fans are opposed to seeing such changes in the game, but the game will evolve nonetheless (the forward pass was once not part of the game of football).

There are no losers at all in this proposal, and any league that institutes it in its entirety will see the benefit of safer and more entertaining play immediately.