How to Win in Football

Return Every Kick
By: Paul Bessire,
January 15th, 2009

8. Return every kick (out of the endzone): Touchbacks that are not kicked through the endzone are silly. If a player returns a kick out of the endzone and does not make it his own 20 yard line, he did not make a bad decision. It is always a smart decision to return a kick that was caught in the endzone. The NFL average for kickoff returns in 2008 was 22.8 yards.

In general, this seems to indicate that a kick returner as deep as three yards into the endzone should "expect" to at least match the result of a touchback. But the trick is variance. On a touchback, the offense gets to the 20 and nothing else. There is a zero chance of a scoring on the play. On a return, there is a chance for anything to happen including a greater than zero chance of scoring.

The negative implications of falling short of that average, are minimal. The design of the play makes for a very low probability of a return within the team's ten yard line (where there can be severe negative implications like increasing the likelihood of a safety). A return to the 11-19 yields almost exactly the same probability of scoring on the drive as a touchback. At worst, the team has to pick up another first down on the way to the endzone. So why not at least give the returner a chance to break through and gain yards well past the 20 (and maybe even score)?

Go to #7 Utilize End of Half or go back to the Introduction for more.

Paul Bessire is the Senior Quantitative Analyst and Content Manager for and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul can be reached at Thanks!

SimLeague Football

Compete in a full season with your dream team from NFL past and present. Depth charts, game plans, prizes, and more.

Try It For Free

SimLeague Baseball

Compete in a full season with your dream team from MLB past and present. Lineups, player settings, trades, prizes, and more.

Try It For Free

Hoops Dynasty

Coach, recruit, and run your own college basketball program.

Every DI, DII & DIII College Awaits

What is WhatIfSports? is a sports simulation and online gaming site providing free content and unique games for the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, NCAA sports and more.

Join today to get these members only benefits:

  • Create your own Dream Team
  • Save your favorite SimMatchup results
  • Play a FREE SimLeague trial season
  • Start playing a Dynasty game
  • Manage baseball games LIVE
  • Access to SiteMail
  • Post in our Forums
  • Build a Buddy list to easily invite friends
  • Use our online Customer Service
  • Earn game credits by using our Referral & Affiliate program

New Terms of Use Customer Support New Privacy Statement Advertising Choices

© 1999-2018, Inc. All rights reserved. Use of this website (including any and all parts and components) constitutes your acceptance of these Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. WhatIfSports is a trademark of, Inc. SimLeague, SimMatchup and iSimNow are trademarks or registered trademarks of Electronic Arts, Inc. Used under license. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.