Good morning Rumblers,
I came across something a few weeks ago, that I felt I had to share with you guys. It was something in which I really needed to get off my chest and had to get some opinions on it. It took me a while to post this, because I wanted to to make sure I did the story some justice.
So here's the synapsis:
On Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel; Brant Gumbel profiled a HS Football coach in Arkansas by the name of Coach Kevin Kelley. Kelley coaches the Pulaski Academy Bruins who is a 3 time State Champion and has a 104-19 record sense he's been the coach there. Kelley's coaching philosophy completely disregards traditional football wisdom. How so you might ask. His team doesn't believe in punting, returning punts, or kicking off. They go for it on fourth downs, even in extreme situations. He forbids his players to return punts, saying that the odds that a player fumbles the ball outweigh the incremental yards that can be gained from a return. After his team scores, he always goes for the onside kick. There are 12 varieties in his playbook of the onside kick, including one in which the ball is placed flat on the ground. Kelley's statistics show that the chance of recovery outweighs the risk of allowing the opposition to start a drive near midfield.
At this point, you might be wondering if this guy is some mad scientist type or someone who likes to be opposite. Apparently, he has data that support his theories. According to his statistics, when a team punts from near its end zone, the opponent will take possession inside the 40-yard line and then will score a touchdown 77% of the time. If it recovers on downs inside the 10, it will score a touchdown 92% of the time. So by not punting, you give your offense a chance to stay on the field, and if you miss the other team scoring a touchdown only increases by 15%.
Okay, so if not punting makes a little sense. Why not kick the ball off? According to Kelley's figures, after a kickoff the receiving team, on average, takes over at its own 33-yard line. After a failed onside kick, the team assumes possession at its own 48. Through the years the Bruins has recovered about a quarter of its onside kicks. So his rationalization is this, give up 15 yards for a one-in-four chance to get the ball back. Sounds like a no brainer, right?
Now Kelley's analysis has support among number crunchers. In 2005 David Romer, a Prominent Cal economist published a study that argued that over the course of the three NFL seasons he studied, there had been 1,068 fourth-down situations in which teams, mathematically, would have been better off going for it. In all but 109 cases the teams either kicked or punted. Which proves that coaches choices goes against odds.
If you are a skeptic, and feel like this will NEVER work in the NFL or Collegiate level, I understand. Now, I can't find the Bryant Gumbel piece, but I did find a piece that was done in 2009 by Steve Sabol in the NFL Film Presents series. If you have 5 minutes, please take a look at this link, and fast forward to the 1:09 mark. After this video, your opinion might change a bit. I also included a video of team attempting a series of onside kicks. Video 1
I really hope you enjoyed this as much as I did; I'm curious to hear some of your thoughts.