It’s no secret here on WG that we’re fans of both the NFL and longwinded blogging. So this is a real treat for me, and hopefully for you. Football Outsiders is a team of NFL analysts that act more like baseball die-hards, digging OH SO DEEP into the numbers behind the gridiron. So recently, FO’s Bill Barnwell took some questions from the readers at the Freakonomics blog, and the answers are sure to please mental masturbation enthusiasts the world over. Although the NFL’s overtime rules were modified this year to exempt first-possession field goals from ending the game, it’s still an obligatory topic, and FO offers a suggestion that you likely haven’t heard before.
In my improved overtime format, the team captains would meet at midfield for a coin toss, just as they did on Sunday when the Ravens played the Seahawks. But the captain of the Seahawks wouldn’t decide to kick or receive when he won the toss. Instead, he would have to name a yard line where the overtime kickoff would be placed. Then the Ravens’ captain would say whether he wanted to kick or receive. So Mike Holmgren might instruct his captain to have the kickoff spotted at the 43-yard line. Brian Billick would tell his captain, “If they put it anywhere inside the 40, we’ll receive. Otherwise, we’ll kick.” Losing the toss really wouldn’t be any disadvantage, because both teams can determine what they think is a fair spot for the opening kickoff.
–Splitting the Overtime Pizza by Michael David Smith
So Smith takes a game-theory approach and lets competitive decision-making trump a 50/50 coinflip. Smart. I like. Other topics include, drastic team turnarounds, unconventional play-calling, and the randomness of field goal kicking, so head on over to Freakonomics to check out the Q&A.