When I said that in the meeting I did not, mind you, swear; I said "Google Effing Exists" and yet some of the people still acted as though I had sworn, which was just like the time I said a guy was a "dick" and Some Guy At Work said he never hears me swear, which I guess means people think I'm a Mormon or something.
Anyway, I was reading Jamboroo today and Magary after a story about how he threw up in public said this about one of the games:
Giants at Ravens: One of the stupidest NFL cliches is when a team wins the coin toss, elects to receive the ball, and then one of the analysts is like, "Coach Harbaugh wants his offense to set the tone for this game," or some other stupid bullshit like that. I can't stand it when my team wins the coin toss and then takes the ball. You should always defer. Here's evidence from SI's Jim Trotter back in November:
Since the start of the 2010 season, flip-winning clubs that have opted to receive first are 185-209 (.470), versus 140-115 (.549) for those deferring.Obviously, deferring doesn't guarantee that your team will end up with more possessions than the other team by the time the game is over. But announcers act like getting your offense on the field first in the first quarter is some kind of amazing confidence builder. It's not. You're just eating your dessert before you have dinner. In fact, once the giddy rush of having the ball first wears off, you have to sit there knowing the OTHER team gets the ball first in the second half. And if that team has the ball at the end of the first half and goes right into another possession after halftime, it crushes your spirit. DEFER, dammit. Always defer.
Let me first say that I do not understand how Magary is ranking the games, and nor do I care. People rank games in lots of ways and for lots of reasons, all of them stupid. Here is how to decide how good (meaning you should watch it) or bad (meaning the opposite) a game is, in three easy steps:
1. Do you care about one of the teams in the game, or at least one of the players?
2. Does the game matter in the scheme of things, meaning will it affect that team's/player's chances to get into the playoffs and/or championship?
3. Is the other team any good?
The answer to all three of those questions has to be yes or the game is not worth watching.
And if the answer is "yes" and at any point the game gets out of hand, the game is again not worth watching.
Anyway, I was reading Jamboroo today and I got to that and I wondered is that true? Should you always defer? Because it would seem on the one hand that it would be important to get the ball first in the first half, there being only a limited number of possessions in a game. You can guarantee, I suppose, that there will be at least two possessions per game, that being the minimum: if Green Bay gets the ball at the outset, and holds it for 30 minutes, and then kicks to Chicago at the start of the second half, and the Bears hold it for 30 minutes, that's the minimum number of possessions in which case it wouldn't matter at all if you deferred or not.
Looked at another way, it matters a lot: wouldn't you want the ball first, I always figure, so you can score and put pressure on the other team to keep up?
Looked at a third way, if you can defer and then stop the other team and get possession, then you've guaranteed yourself two possession to their one, because you get possession from stopping them, and then you've got a guaranteed possession at the start of the second half.
And then there's this: wouldn't you decide that based on which aspect of your team you think is the best? If you've got a great defense (or them a bad offense) defer and play the odds and get that guaranteed extra possession; if the alternative, then take the ball and score first.
So I figured someone somewhere has done a study of this, right? I mean, if there are cards that tell coaches when to go for 2 (which they should do all the time no matter what because if they did they would get better at it and would force other teams to get better at it or fall behind) and if Bill Barnwell on Grantland can always be saying something like "Going for the first there would improve Seattle's odds of winning to 6.3%" which seems scientific but I don't know where that math comes from, then someone somewhere must have studied whether teams should defer if they win the coin toss, right?
This is still America, I mean.
The first article I found when I googled "study should teams defer" was this one on something called "Total Packer", which said:
Deferring the decision to the second half after winning the coin toss is the correct decision about 95 percent of the time for any team. The reason is simple: knowing that you get the ball first in the second half is a tremendous psychological edge. It calms the nerves when you’re behind and it makes a small lead seem even larger.
Which is awesomely unscientific in that it does not explain
A. why the other 5% of the time deferring wouldn't calm the nerves, and
B. why you wouldn't get an edge from knowing you get the ball first in the first half.
That lapse in judgment could be explained by the fact that Packer fans are never ever ever objective about the Packers. If Aaron Rodgers were to be caught eating puppies for breakfast Packer fans would start publishing blogs about how puppies are a known sports energy factor and anyway puppies don't have souls.
The Packer blogger went on to cite (and attack as nonsense) an article by John Clayton on NFL.com from 2011 that argued that deferring doesn't make sense:
To support my theory, the team that received the opening kickoff was first to score 59.8 percent of the time. Even more telling is the team that received the opening kickoff scored 34.8 percent of the time on that first possession, netting 53 touchdowns and 36 field goals.
If a strong offensive script can fulfill a long week of practicing and scheming and produce a lead on the opening possession 34.8 percent of the time or eventually provide field position to get the first score almost 60 percent of the time, why give that up?
Clayton's theory is just as he said in that second paragraph: you practice all week and script the first 15 plays, so why give that up?
(As an aside: I always heard that the reasons for scripting the plays were first to take emotion out of the beginning of a game, and second to test how the defense reacts to them in order to adjust throughout the rest of the week. You could therefore run your first fifteen plays whether you receive the opening kickoff or not. There's no rule, John Clayton, that says you can only run scripted plays if you get possession first.)
(Sports nonsense is the nonsensiest nonsense of all.)
Clayton goes on to add, immediately after that quote:
For supporters of the deferred kickoffs, 55.8 percent of the teams that deferred the kickoff won games.I mean, so there's that. It reminded me of the time, on King of the Hill, that Dale Gribble had to testify and said "If all you're going on is my testimony, forget it. I'm just not credible as a witness."
Another study showed that teams that win the coin toss win 52.8% of the time, which is essentially meaningless: teams that correctly call the coin toss win almost half the time, so teams that lose the coin toss win almost half the time.
The rule that allows a team to defer to the second half has only been in place since 2008. Officially, the rule right now is that if you win the coin toss, you to choose both 1. whether to kick or receive, and 2., which goal to defend, and winning the toss gave you the right to defer option 1 until the second half -- meaning, technically, that a coin toss winner who chooses to defer could still get the ball, because deferring means that you are letting the other team choose "kick, or receive." So someone could turn the tables on Drew Magary and when his teams defer, they could opt to kick to that team (but would be giving up a possession.) Pre-2008, the rule was that you got to choose only whether you wanted to kick off, or receive, right then.
I wasn't, in the end, able to find a study that showed whether it makes sense to kick or receive when you win the coin toss, except for this fact: in the old NFL overtime rules, teams that won the coin toss won the game only 40% of the time.
That seems significant to me, in that the old rules were sudden-death, single-possession rules in which winning the toss would mean you could opt to play offense first and in a sudden death situation you almost always want your offense on the field, making it seem a natural to opt to receive.
Except that those teams won only 40% of the time.
Which proves this: the coin toss and option to defer or not is almost meaningless in light of the many, many other factors that play into winning a game, since winning the coin toss is nearly imperceptible in its impact on the outcome of the game in regular play, and winning the toss correlates with losing the game (under old rules) in overtime.
There is another logic that goes into play, though, and that is playing to fan's expectations. In 2002, the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears. In overtime, Detroit's coach Marty Morninwheg opted to receive after winning the toss because he wanted the wind at his kicker's back. Chicago scored on the first drive of overtime, and Morninwheg was fired.
Had Morninwheg opted to receive,and his team failed to score, and Chicago won, the odds are at least as good as a coin toss that Morninwheg would've been back the next year (or maybe not; he went 3-13 that year.)
But fans failed to blame Detroit's defense for not stopping the Bears, instead blaming the coach for not making the right call -- just as Packer fans never blamed the Packers for giving up 10 sacks to the Seahawks and ending up in a position where the Worst Call Ever could affect them, and so the coin toss decision will continue to be seen as a hugely important one, and defensible or indefensible based not on its impact on the game but on how you want to view the evidence.