The 3-2-1

January 24, 2019

Welcome to the 3-2-1, a quick rundown of some sports takes that's titled to raise awareness for the NHL's crippling need to move to a 3-2-1 point system. Rolling through the overtime coin toss, the Buffalo Bills' draft "needs", and just what the Buffalo Sabres really are, to this point.

Let's go!

1.) The misleading stat that looks good, but just obscures the big point

I’m still thinking about NFL overtime, and I’m still stuck on the idea that a coin toss is a terrible way to determine possession in the postseason. And if the NFL continues on its current course, it’s only going to get worse.

“But Jer, I saw a stat that says NFL overtime and College overtime have about the same win percentage when lining up the coin toss winner!”

Yes, I saw that too… first let’s look at college:

It should be close to 50-percent. The coin toss winner is a little more likely to win the game because of the football strategy they employ.

You win the toss in college, you defer. Why? Because you get to know whether or not a field goal is good enough. You are given a strategic edge to use all four downs. Your offense, your defense, and your special teams (kickers) are all involved. Each team gets a chance to score. Each defense is called upon. If you survive the first overtime, you go to a second, where they switch the order.

Why don’t they keep the same order? They swap in the interest of fairness. Team A survived the first overtime while going first… now it’s their turn to “know what they have to get”.

Now to the NFL…

Think about tossing a coin before a game. If the best team in the NFL plays the worst and it goes to overtime, who should win? Should it be 50-50? Probably not.  

If it ends up as 50-50, isn’t that a sign that the coin toss is artificially leveling the playing field?  

When you see that the NFL’s overtime coin-toss winners are a little over 50-percent (About 52%) and not far off from college, that’s because it pulls from the sample from all teams. Good offenses and bad offenses. The Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers could go to overtime this year and that’d be tossed in to the measure, when it’s nothing close to the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots. It should hang around 50-percent overall. It’s not determining every game. It’s influencing every game and the numbers settle in a little north of 50-50, as they should.

The postseason should be viewed as a separate event. You have much better offenses, and that’s not new. Teams that score go to the playoffs. If all you have to do is score once to win, you’re putting more into a postseason coin toss, than you are when you’re including all 32 teams.  

The pool of NFL playoff teams is not equal to the pool of all NFL teams.

This year in the playoffs, we saw offense make it. The final four teams were the top-four teams in passing efficiency. The final four teams were all top-five in offensive DVOA from Football Outsiders, with the Los Angeles Chargers the other team.

The league is about watching great offenses trade shots. It should stand to reason you’ll see great games. Close games. Overtime games.  

And we’re flipping a coin?

Let me flip it around another way. Imagine for a moment that “get a stop” is the way we determine who wins. You flip a coin, and play choose to play defense. If the team you’re playing against doesn’t score on that drive, it’s game over.

Would we sign up for it? How different is it really? You asked one side of the ball to get a job done and they couldn’t do it.

In an NFL age where offenses are scoring so often, for a team like the Chiefs or Patriots to not score when they need to is rare. The Chiefs had four scoring drives in the fourth quarter of that game alone.  

So we flip it around... score some points, or lose. It sounds stupid, and is perhaps a little on the straw man side, but I think it illustrates just how nuts it is to have games decided by one side of the ball.  

The policy the NFL has for determining possession is something worthy of a league that does almost everything wrong, the NHL. The NHL probably loves the coin toss. A coin toss to determine possession between two powerhouse offenses is right there on the level with having the playoffs stick in division… where the second and fourth best teams in the entire league play in the second round of the playoffs, with the winner playing the top team.

You know what you hear when that happens, right?

“Well ya gotta beat the best.”

Is it a fair talking point? Sure, but what is the league here for above ensuring competitive balance?

The NHL should hate its current playoff format.

The NFL should run to change the coin toss for overtime.

Remember the Phil Luckett debacle? He incorrectly called heads/tails for the Steelers and they ended up losing the toss, and losing the game. The format of coin tosses was changed that year. What happened to “make a stop”? The Steelers lost the toss because the official got the call wrong, but there was no skill involved by the toss-caller. If the toss doesn’t effect the outcome, then why change that rule?  

What if home meant heads? Why does anyone call it anyway? It’s all so stupid!

The league wants offense and… they’ve got it. So, come one come all to the great big football game where offenses will go toe-to-toe and if we can’t decide a winner… well you’d better dad gum hope you win that coin toss because you’ll then have the ability to put that offense on the field and not hold your defense accountable for anything.

The Patriots have won a Super Bowl and advanced to another with their defense getting shredded throughout the game, and not having to show up as the game is on the line.

It’s not about New England. It should never happen again.

Flip to the college format. Build in the first possession to home-field advantage. Eliminate the increasingly important coin toss before it undeniably taints a great game again.


2.) I feel the need… the need for speed!*

* - Or help at OL, DT, DE, CB, TE, and possibly later on RB

Bills general manager Brandon Beane seems to love telling anyone that listens that he will not be drafting for need, but rather he’s shooting for the ever-popular BPA.

Best Player Available is draft talk for “we are going to select the players we think are the best.” This is the tactic that every team employs. No one ever walks to the podium to tell you that they don’t like the pick they’ve just made. Every player drafted has either been A.) tops on the board at that time, or B.) Shocking to still have been around at that point.

It’s not a non-stop BPA draft because if it was… you’d set it to autodraft. If you’ve ever traded up, then you’re not taking BPA. You’re changing what is “available” by paying more. If you’re ever trading down, you’re not taking BPA because you’re choosing to pass on that player.

When the Bills traded out of the Mahomes spot… it wasn’t about BPA. When they traded up for Edmunds, it wasn’t BPA.

You draft the best players you can, with an eye on who you are and who you want to be.

It’s stupid semantics on my part, but until I see a draft board… I’m just not going to put much stock in the talking point that is BPA.

Prediction: The Bills spend 10 picks, and at least seven of them will be obvious needs, with the likelihood that all 10 will be. They’ve got a lot of needs. Quarterback, safety are really the only non-needs.


3.) Is that net regulation size or what?

Stop comparing the Sabres to the colossal disaster that was last year’s team. The 10-game win streak might not end up as a sign of what they can be, so much as it could stand as a massive case of lipstick on a pig.  

Is the coach’s seat hot or warm? Tough to tell how Jason Botterill looks at it. At the start of the season I said that Housley had a lot to prove in the early stages. They did fairly well. They’ve since given it all back. Here’s a good time to reset things when it comes to the coach. 34 games to go, and I think the pressure starts to, yet again, find its way to the coach.

As of this posting, only Chicago, Detroit, and Anaheim have fewer regulation wins.

Whoa, right?

You want to say they're better than last year? Of course they are. Imagine if they weren't?!