To Punt or Not to Punt? The Debate Continues

(Photo: Ben Stanfield)

A reader named David Stokes writes to say:

Last night’s Raiders – Chargers game gave one team a unique opportunity to implement the no-punt strategy.
 
With the Raiders’ long-snapper hurt, the Raiders coach had a much less risk-averse reason to try always going for it on fourth down. Especially after the first punt was blown and the punter tackled with the ball, who could blame the coach for going for it on fourth every time?
 
Alas, he proceeded to attempt more punts, and three in a row were blocked or otherwise blown.

FWIW, I think someone should make a documentary about long snappers. I am not kidding.

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  1. Shal says:

    I wrote a paper on Kevin Kelley for a sport management class. What really struck me about his strategy isn’t that he figured this out. Once you look at the numbers (esp in high school football where punts dont travel as far), its a pretty obvious winner. What really got to me is that the reason this works is that he’s gotten the school and fans on board with what he’s doing. I can just see people flipping out because their team blew a 4th and one ‘gimme’ and gave the other team great field position. Not at this school– everybody knows what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

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  2. Tony says:

    The Redskins’ long snapper reportedly played most of the game with a broken arm. That’s the degree to which teams want to avoid having to use a back-up long snapper. I’m almost dumbfounded that the Raiders kept trying to punt with a back up long snapper.

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  3. Jesse says:

    If there is a documentary to be made, let it be dubbed “Snapdragons”

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  4. Ricardo says:

    Agreed. I saw this debacle. So who is this new dumb coach and why is he not an economist like you can can parse the details and the #s? As in, why are coaches whores to the status quo?

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    • teh_drewski says:

      Pretty simple – it stops them being criticised in the media. If you go for it and fail, the coach made the wrong call generally in the eyes of the media. If you punt and lose anyway, it’s “the players fault for not executing”.

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  5. Gary says:

    The choice is very understandable for the Raiders. They have the best punter in football history. And they have the kicker with the strongest leg in history. They have a huge advantage in the kicking game over other teams and are built to take advantage if that. It isn’t that ready to just switch.

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    • teh_drewski says:

      They also have one of the NFL’s elite running backs and have spent multiple first round draft picks acquiring big name quarterbacks in recent years, not to mention the pick spent on offensive skill position players.

      Not going for it – especially when the bedrock of your kicking game is gone – is cowardice.

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  6. David L says:

    I am more surprised that coaches in the NFL aren’t laying down the law that any kickoff that reaches the goal line should not be returned, but downed for a touch back.

    Between the risk of injury, and the consistent lack of productivity, it just doesn’t make sense to try to run it out. Particularly when you factor in how many holding calls and other penalties are called. From the games I have watched I doubt if the average return is much beyond the 25 and the median is probably inside the 20. Save you team the effort, spare the special teams, and take the ball at the 20. But I am sure there are statistics out there to figure this out.

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    • Nic says:

      A lot of the time the kick returner is not out on the field any other time. A rookie WR who doesn’t know all his routes yet or a new RB. This can be their time to shine and show the coaches how much speed and agility you have in game situations.

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  7. A.J. says:

    Why is there a picture of Penn State on this article?

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