Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Nov 2005

He's No Kenny Rogers

Jeff Ma talks about the Great Dick Vermeil End Zone Gamble of 2005. (TM) Here's the thing: if Larry Johnson had not made it, and then after the game Vermeil had knocked down a cameraman in anger, then he would be Kenny Rogers, wouldn't he?

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 10 Nov 2005

15 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2005, 9:08pm by Trogdor


by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 11:54am

Or Tom "My life is in danger" Benson is -- at least Benson actually went after somebody, right?

Of course, it didn't really happen because it was an owner, and owners aren't disciplined by the league, no matter what messes they get into (see Tose, Leonard and Irsay, Jim for starters).

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 11:59am

Benson's life IS in danger. You must not know any New Orleanians.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 12:08pm

Okey Dokey Jeff...we all know that you implemented Ed Thorp's blackjack strategies and won like a bajillion dollars...not need to reference it...endlessly.

That being said, it's nice to see someone point out a prime example of the media's ignorance of probabilities. I do take issue with the notion that this wasn't a ballsy call, notwithstanding that it improved his chances of winning. Bravery and stupidity are typically subjective and had he kicked the fieldgoal and lost in OT, few people would have said anything about it. If he misses the plunge and loses in regulation, he would have been pilloried. He was taking less risk with the outcome but more with his image, I think that takes stones.

Quick question on the success stat: It's defined as cases where a run of 2 or fewer yards on third or fourth down achievs a first down or a TD. Does this mean that the 3rd and 4th down are counted as one attempt or two.

For example:
I have the ball 3rd &2 to go, I rush once on 3rd and gain 1 yard. I then get ballsy and go for it on 4th &1 and succeed. Would my success rate be 50% (1/2 attempts is successful) or would it be 100% (I got the first down, it just took me two rushes to get it. If it's the latter than we may have to rethink Vermeil's odds, as I think he would have only had time for one running play that did not end in a TD.

by Bassett (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 12:12pm

Ma makes an excellent point. After watching the end of the game and seeing some highlights, Johnson was doing a pretty good job of moving the ball. Listening to the color commentator, he kept saying that they would throw the ball to keep some time... with that good of an o-line from the 1... why bother?

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 12:57pm

Lost in all this is that they had time to call aTO after the run. It was quite fast.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 1:00pm

"Lost in all this is that they had time to call aTO after the run. It was quite fast."

I agree that it was fast, as Johnson easily broke into the endzone, but if he gets stuffed, I'm not sure that the play takes all 5 seconds.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 1:01pm

"Lost in all this is that they had time to call aTO after the run. It was quite fast."

I agree that it was fast, as Johnson easily broke into the endzone, but if he gets stuffed, I'm not sure that
the play doesn't take all 5 seconds.

by Adam H. (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 1:06pm

Oh no, TO is gonna take over this thread.

by Steelersin06 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 1:38pm

The chiefs did not have any time outs left, if Johnson goes down in bounds the game is over.

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 1:45pm

But the Raiders did, my rivet-headed friend. The RAIDERS would have had time to at least get a return.


I know quite a few Orleanians, and quite a few Baltimoreans and even Clevelanders. They might wish Benson, Irsay, Modell, Adams, Davis, etc. dead, but that doesn't mean they'd do it.

Although I love the story about the trashed refrigerators spray-painted "DO NOT OPEN -- TB INSIDE". That's a NOLA reaction if I've ever heard of one.

by Chris Owen (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 1:52pm

I agree that it wasn't a gutsy call; it was the right call. I also have a hard time believing that Vermeil would have faced a lot of substantive criticism had they failed. Bitchy criticism, sure, but substantive critcism, no. How exactly would the Chiefs been better off in overtime?

Didn't Dom Capers go for two to try to win one of the Panthers' very first games? That was a much riskier proposition, it didn't work, and I don't recall Capers getting reamed for it. Sure, that was a different situation, with an expansion team and all, but it does have bearing on this situation (assuming I'm remembering it correctly).

I think the only substantive criticism Vermeil would have faced would have stemmed from settling for a field goal and losing in overtime.

by andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:32pm

I remember Bud Grant doing this... and failing in 1985, if memory serves. His last year, against the Rams in L.A.

When asked about it, me mentioned that his team had a plane to catch.

Can't find any links to accounts of the games in my limited lunch time.

by MCS (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:50pm

Texans did this last season or season before. Not exactly sure.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 4:27pm

re #11: actually Capers WAS going to go for two and the win in his first game with the Panthers back in 1995. It was against the Falcons and the Panthers scored a late TD when trailing by 7. A false start penalty forced Capers to abondon his 2-point plans and the Panthers lost in OT. Sad story!

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 9:08pm

Mike Tice went for two (and they made it, a QB draw I think) and the win after a late TD a few years ago. The Texans also went for the TD instead of the tying FG - Carr just took the snap and reached the ball over the line for the score. We didn't get quite as many articles about that, because it's the Texans and nobody really gives a crap. But most writers did at least mention it in passing.