Fairmount InSights

Since 2003, Pulaski Academy, a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, has compiled a 111-21 record in football, winning the state championship 3 times. Why do I tell you this? Because they’ve done this without punting!

In 2006, David Romer, an economist at the University of California in Berkeley, published a paper suggesting that NFL teams should punt less frequently. Nobody took note, except for Pulaski coach Kevin Kelley. Kelley realized that even in the worst case scenario, the chances that the opposing team would score as a result did not significantly increase. So why would Kelley and Pulaski just willingly give the ball away? They haven’t, and they continue to dominate area competition.

Why don’t more teams do this? Why doesn’t the supposedly data-driven NFL do this? Explanations abound: traditional conservatism among coaches; fear of losing your job if it fails; the trepidation that accompanies any major paradigm shift, etc. But the numbers speak for themselves, and Kelley believes in numbers.

The point of talking about Pulaski isn’t that we need to look for ways to flip everything we know on its head (although I’m tempted to believe that it is a worthwhile thought exercise). Instead, it’s an example of a situation where someone took a “risk” based on data, and succeeded. What do the numbers tell you about your work? What data is your organization looking at, and is it drawing the right conclusions?

As we recently advised a client of ours: Evaluate everything!