When Economists Talk, Pulaski Academy Listens
A few years back, the economist David Romer wrote an academic paper suggesting that teams in the N.F.L. should punt less frequently. While the league’s coaches mostly dismissed his findings, I suspect that teams are a bit more likely to go for it on fourth down in marginal situations today than they were before he wrote the article.
N.F.L. coaches may have laughed at Romer, but Kevin Kelley took note. Kelley is the football coach at Pulaski Academy, an Arkansas prep school, and his team no longer punts except to avoid running up the score. As Gregg Easterbrook reports on ESPN.com:
Kelley says that when he began to shun the punt, people thought he was crazy: “It’s like brainwashing, people believe you are required to punt.” Players and the home crowd needed to get acclimated to it. “When we first started going on every fourth down,” he says, “our home crowd would boo and the players would be distressed. You need to become accustomed to the philosophy and buy into the idea. Now our crowd and our players expect us to go for it, and get excited when no punting team comes onto the field. When my 10-year-old son sees N.F.L. teams punting on short yardage on television, he gets upset because he’s grown up with the idea that punting is usually bad.”
So far, it seems to be working pretty well. The Pulaski Bruins finished the regular season at 9-2-1 this year.
(Hat tip: Blake Howard)