Yesterday we looked at comments that Mike Shanahan made regarding the decision he has made to defer every time the Redskins have won the toss this year. He said that research says that teams that defer win 60 percent of the time.
While I’m not going to dispute the 60 percent number, there may be some confusion as to cause and effect there. For example, Bill Belichick likes to defer to the second half if the Patriots win the toss. I suspect that the Patriots’ impressive winning percentage has a lot more to do with Tom Brady and very little to do with when the Patriots kick off and receive.
We have way too small a sample size to draw any conclusions about the efficacy of the decision to defer but here’s a game by game look at the coin toss and what happened on the opening and second-half kickoffs in each of the Redskins games this year.
@ NO: Saints on the toss, received. Went three and out gaining no yards. Redskins took second half kickoff and drove 77 yards in six plays to a touchdown.
@ StL: Rams won the toss, received. On their first play from scrimmage they fumbled, returned for 30 yards and a touchdown. Redskins take second half kickoff and gain three yards while going three and out.
vs. Cin: Redskins won the toss, deferred. Bengals took first half kickoff and took one play to score on a 73-yard pass. Redskins took second half kickoff and drove 80 yards to a touchdown.
@ TB: Redskins won the toss, deferred. Bucs took first half kickoff, ran seven plays, moved 30 yards and punted. Redskins took second half kickoff, ran 11 plays seven plays for 30 yards and punted.
vs. Atl: Redskins won the toss, deferred. Falcons took first half kickoff, ran 11 plays for 27 yards and punted. Redskins took second half kickoff, ran six plays for 23 yards and punted.
vs. Min: Redskins won the toss, deferred. Vikings took first half kickoff and drove 78 yards to a FG. Redskins took second half kickoff and drove 80 yards to a touchdown.
So the Redskins have lost the toss twice, in the first two games of the season, and received the kickoff in the second half both times. They have netted +14 points on those half-opening drives if you count the fumble return for a touchdown they got on the Rams’ first play from scrimmage after taking the opening kickoff.
They have kicked off to start the game by their own choice each of the last four games. They have given up 10 points on the other teams’ opening drives. And on the Redskins second-half opening drives they have scored two touchdowns.
Adding it all up, the Redskins have a net of +18 points on the first possessions of each half. Does this mean that Shanahan’s strategy is working? It’s hard to conclude that due to the small sample size and the fact that we just don’t know what might have happened if Shanahan had elected to receive.
Regardless, we’ll check back on this later in the season to see if the Redskins are still netting positive points with their first drives. If they are, it’s hard to argue that they should change the way they’re doing it.