Bidding for the kickoff

A system for bidding for the kick-off:

Dispensing with a coin toss, the teams would bid on where the ball is kicked from by the kicking team. In the NFL, it’s now the 30-yard line. Under Brams and Jorasch’s rule, the kicking team would be the team that bids the lower number, because it is willing to put itself at a disadvantage by kicking from farther back. However, it would not kick from the number it bids, but from the average of the two bids.

To illustrate, assume team A bids to kick from the 38-yard line, while team B bids its 32-yard line. Team B would win the bidding and, therefore, be designated as the kick-off team. But B wouldn’t kick from 32, but instead from the average of 38 and 32–its 35-yard line.

This is better for B by 3 yards than the 32-yard line that it proposed, because it’s closer to the end zone it is kicking towards. It’s also better for A by 3 yards to have B kick from the 35-yard line, rather than from the 38-yard line, it proposed if it were the kick-off team.

In other words, the 35-yard line is a win-win solution–both teams gain a 3-yard advantage over what they reported would make them indifferent between kicking and receiving. While bidding to determine the yard line from which a ball is kicked has been proposed before, the win-win feature of using the average of the bids–and recognizing that both teams benefit if the low bidder is the kicking team–has not. Teams seeking to merely get the ball first would be discouraged from bidding too high–for example, the 45-yard line–as this could result in a kick-off pinning them far back in their own territory.

“Metaphorically speaking, the bidding system levels the playing field,” Brams and Jorasch maintain. “It also enhances the importance of the strategic choices that the teams make, rather than leaving to chance which team gets a boost in the overtime period.”

This has been proposed before and I think it’d work well. It would also provide more opportunities to second guess coaches — a favored activity.

  • zlionsfan

    Hmm … while I understand the mechanics behind this proposal (and similar ones), I’m not sure that I agree with the way they’re explained.

    I don’t see kicking off from the 35 as a win-win situation: maybe it’s 3 yards better than what team A bid, but team A wasn’t bidding to receive from the 38, they were bidding to kick off from the 38. Receiving from the 35 is 5 yards worse than the current system; you’re talking about a distance that about half the league can reach on an average kick rather than a distance that only an average Billy Cundiff kick can reach. Another thing to consider is that yards are not all equal: beyond a certain point (the 40? the 38?), most kicks would be a touchback.

    And there’s nothing that says that the captains are bidding a yard line that would make them indifferent … that’s like saying that money lines in Vegas are set based on what they think the final score will be. The captains would most likely be bidding yard lines that would give them acceptable outcomes either way, or possibly yard lines that would avoid an unacceptable outcome in one direction.

    How does this work with the choice of direction? Does the team with the high bid choose the end of the field to defend? If this is used during regulation, what happens at halftime?

    How is the bidding done? Does the visiting team give their yard line first? Do both coaches write down their bids and submit them silently?

    I guess I’m reacting this way because I’ve seen plenty of rule changes in various sports that were designed to achieve something specific … but the assumption was that the only impetus would be the change itself. Instead, coaches and/or players modified their approaches to move back toward equilibrium. (The NHL and various methods of “avoiding” ties, for example.) I think it’s a mistake to assume that a new system would automatically cause different situations to appear: it’s not out of the question that coaches would simply bid 31 or 29 each time.

  • mitch v.

    maybe i’m being thick but this makes no sense to me

    “Under Brams and Jorasch’s rule, the kicking team would be the team that bids the lower number, because it is willing to put itself at a disadvantage by kicking from farther back.”

    seems like the team bidding the lower number, for being willing to take the disadvantage of kicking further back, should get the ball, no?

    otherwise i bid the opponents 1 (or 99 relatively speaking) every time, guaranteeing the other team bids lower and i get the ball?

    so either the quoted article is sketchy or i’m really missing the point.

    on a side note, the idea of bidding in itself sound pretty awful to me.

  • JLK1

    My head is also hurting trying to figure out how this would play out.

    I think the part that bugs me is that the more conservative team is rewarded with the ball, while the risk-taking team (that was willing to kick from farther back) has to kick off. It seems like the dominant strategy would be to pick shorter kicking distances so that you can get possession. Who cares if they kick from the 50 and it’s a touchback? Possession is more important!

  • Chris

    I think this proposal is a bit too complicated; I agree. I actually think this concept could be used to make the game safer and simply eliminate kickoffs altogether — they are one of the most dangerous parts of the game (one of the few times guys get to run full speed into each other). Under this system, you would just bid on how far back you were willing to simply take possession of the ball: if you bid your own 20 and I bid my own 15, I get the ball.

    If you want to keep the kickoff I think you should get to bid how close the other team gets to kickoff from, i.e. if I’m willing to let you kickoff from the 20 and you’re willing to let me kickoff from the 30, you get the ball.

    That’s how I’d do it, at least.

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  • Ryan

    The biggest problem is at other times in the game that would be hard to do this with. Would you bid after every score? What do you do if your team is in the position of wanting to do an onside kick with only a minute left in the game? This would change the complexion of the game too much. Special teams are an important part of the game.