Never punting

Submitted by Yinka Double Dare on September 17th, 2009 at 4:14 PM

The idea of never punting/always going for it on 4th down as a strategy has been floated around for a few years, first (at least that I'm aware of) in this paper by David Romer:…

And then further discussed in this post on Football Outsiders:

As commenters noted, NFL coaches, being a very conservative bunch relative to a guy like, say, Mike Leach, won't try it but maybe someone in college or high school would. Well, someone has, and even taken it farther -- not only do they not punt, but they almost always attempt onside kicks, don't bother putting a returner back on punts, etc. Here's the article:…



September 17th, 2009 at 4:20 PM ^

Wasn't there a state champion in some level of high school last year that used this? Or am I thinking the A-11? I could have sworn it was school that punted 3 times all year at a school in Arkansas. I want to say all those punts came on 4th and longer than 15.


September 17th, 2009 at 4:27 PM ^

I didn't read the whole paper but does it address the idea of asymmetric risk for the coach? Basically the coach doesn't go for 4th and 1 from his own 25 because if it fails, he will look like a complete doofus, even though data suggests that it might be the right idea. To put it another way, conventional wisdom is just plain wrong, but it takes a lot of balls to go against it.


September 17th, 2009 at 4:52 PM ^

No, I don't think it is. A calling station is a weak player who is afraid to take risks (by raising) and generally just sits there and makes the easy/brainless move. I'd equate a calling station more to a coach/team that punted on every 4th down, regardless of the situation.


September 17th, 2009 at 4:54 PM ^

In high school the numbers are more in your favor to go for it. When you get to the pro level when you have kickers that can routinely kick 45yd FGs and punters that can push back a team 50+ yds then the numbers are pretty off on going for it all the time. I do agree that the offensive scheme changes when your squad takes the field knowing they have 4 downs to get a 1st down rather than 3.

One thing that doesn't play into his numbers is possibilities of the other team fumbling it on a punt return or his D getting a turnover deep in their zone. If this works for him fine, but I would say that if you have decent talent on special teams then the classical approach still makes sense. As teams move up in talent level then a hybrid of the classical scheme and the "never punt" scheme should be developed.


September 17th, 2009 at 5:14 PM ^

Another factor that I don't think I've seen mentioned is practice time. I played high school football (though not very well) and I can remember a lot of what felt like wasted time practicing special teams. I'm sure it wasn't actually wasted, but if you more or less cut out that aspect of preparation, then players and coaches can spend more energy focusing on offense and defense.

I can definitely see how this sort of a approach works in some scenarios, such as the one presented in the article.