Dumb Sports Talk
Let's turn to this 2005 paper by David Romer, a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley...His numbers say that anytime the situation is fourth-and-4 or less, teams should not punt. Romer thinks teams should try for the first down on any fourth-and-4 or less even when in their own territory. After all, the average play gains almost five yards. On average you will retain possession, and the pluses of that exceeded the minuses of the inevitable failed fourth-down try.Steve Sailer has already debunked this study, but for the life of me I can't come up with a link. (Steve has kindly responded with the reference.) But let me point out the obvious - his argument is based on an average gain of 'almost' 5 yards. That's average, Greg. This includes plays when the score is 24-0, and plays when it's 1st and 10 from your own 25, when decent sized-gains are not unusual. So some other situations must bring the average down - could these possibly occur disproportionately in short yardage 3rd/4th down situations? And since gains of 20+ yards are fairly common while losses of 20+ yards are exceedingly rare, then the median gain is certainly less than 5. This 'average' is a meaningless statistic.
You get this kind of reasoning from baseball announcers when a pitcher can't find the strike zone. "He's trying to be too fine," an announcer will tell us. "Just put the ball in the strike zone - even the best batter will only get a hit 33% of the time." Yes, that's his average against all pitchers, including the best in the league and 0-and-2 counts. What's his average against a struggling pitcher behind in the count - about .700?
Easterbrook dreams about the day some brave coach will try his no-punt stategy.
Such a coach would need to be completely unconcerned with the media and owner backlash that would follow a loss caused by a no-punt policy. Such a coach would need to be fearless, and financially independent. Will there ever be such a coach?Or maybe the coach doesn't have to be in the NFL - for example, an un-ranked college team with a mediocre record. If it worked, then people would notice, others would try it, and it would spread. But something tells me it's been tried, many times, and the results have always been the same - disastrous. Or how about a thought experiment - imagine your team is playing an opponent facing a 4th-and-3 from their own 30 - and they decide to go for it. Is your reaction going to be 'damn' or 'Yes!'?