I was fascinated by the video below as a football fan, but even more so from the lessons it teaches all of us about how we can never stop questioning what we assume and how the numbers and data analysis can lead us to incredible solutions in in our startup or any business. Coach Kevin Kelley ran the numbers and realized that statistically, punting was a losing proposition.

I saw a fifteen-minute video where a professor analyzed 2000 football games and he’d come to the conclusion that you shouldn’t punt. That’s when I started asking why. I had our coaching staff asking why about everything in our program.  Why are we really punting? Because everybody else does it on 4th down? One of the things we don’t do is we don’t punt. It’s numbers. It’s the numbers. There are so many reasons why going for it on fourth-down statistically helps you win games.
The_Coach_Who_Never_Punts___Grantland_Features_-_YouTubeEven in the worst-case scenario when going for it on 4th down and turning the ball over on the 5, statistically it works in his team’s favor to go for it instead of punting. They give up a 92% chance of scoring from the 5 for the opposing team and a 72% chance of scoring after they punt it to the 40. Link to the analysis point in the video (full video below).
He goes on to show that if he does an onside kick on kickoffs instead of kicking it away, then her gains even more statistically as an advantage. His team recovers 20% of all onside kicks they attempt, so they are increasing the number of turnovers they gain as a result and keep the ball out of their opponents hands, which at the least means less chances for his opponent to score and at best another score for his team.
Overall, he determined, that these 2 fundamental changes to his game led him to gain a 15% better chance of winning. When you are a competitive football team, that’s the difference between making the playoffs and not.
Are you questioning every assumption for your company? Are you always asking why you do the things you do? Are the assumptions you make and the course you take based on real data or just based upon the way you have always done things or the way your industry has?
As startups, we usually enter the field of play, because we want to upset the status quo, but that doesn’t mean we’ve upset every convention. It’s critical to never stop asking why, but make sure any decision you make is backed up by the data. Coach Kevin Kelley did and now the payoff is a great football team. Watch the entire video, it’s a great example and a great story to watch.