NEW YORK—As the 2012 NFL playoffs begin, coaches across the league find themselves in agreement on one fundamental aspect of the game: Punting the ball sucks, because the other team gains possession of the ball.
"I was glad we only had to punt about 50 times this season, because punting is really, really shitty," New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters, adding that he is typically unhappy whenever he sends the punting team out, and happy when he doesn't have to. "Having the ball is better than not having the ball. And if you punt, not only does it mean you don't have the ball anymore—it means you didn't score, which sucks."
"It also sucks because your opponent now has the ball, which means they can score," Payton added. "I hate that."
According to coaches, punting "mainly blows" because it ruins their team's chances of scoring a touchdown, an aspect of the game 100 percent of NFL coaches said they really love.
"Scoring touchdowns is the best," Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey said. "You usually get seven points, which can really help in terms of beating your opponent. But you can't get that number of points when you punt unless something really weird happens."
"Overall, I prefer when my team scores a touchdown a lot more than when another team scores a touchdown," he continued.
In a league-wide poll, head coaches from all 32 teams were asked if they enjoyed punting, and to describe how much enjoyment it made them feel. All 32 answered "no" to the first question, and either "none at all" or "very little" to the second.
Only two respondents answered "very little" instead of "none at all": Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who admitted he may have been confused by the question, and Denver coach John Fox, who said he took some comfort in the fact that punting meant he was voluntarily relinquishing possession of the ball and that his quarterback, Tim Tebow, hadn't done anything stupid with it.
"I've found that, throughout the course of a football game, having the ball is really important and good," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, widely regarded as the league's greatest football mind. "Given that the idea behind punting is to willingly and knowingly give the ball away, one would not expect it to be a very popular thing to do. Understood?"
Many head coaches also discussed how, when their teams do not have the ball, most of their energy and concentration is devoted to getting the ball back, thinking of what they would do if they did have the ball, and hoping that, when they do get the ball back, they can score and not have to punt.
"You have to give the ball away after you score by kicking it off, and no one likes that, but that's different from punting," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "For one thing, you're in a good mood because you just scored. And you can't score more than one touchdown each time you have the ball—that's the rule. So you have to kick the ball away, but it's sort of okay, since you can't really do anything else."
"Wouldn't it be awesome to score on a kickoff, though?" Tomlin added. "You can, you know, but it's very hard."
The poll found 100 percent of coaches agreed punting late in games is particularly bad, because then you might not ever get the ball back; 100 percent also said punting in the playoffs is worse than punting in the regular season, because being able to score during playoff games is "really important," mostly because if you don't have the ball, you might not score as many points as the other team, might be eliminated from the playoffs, and therefore might be unable to play any more football games. In addition, 100 percent said they hated their punters—players whose sole job is to punt the ball away—very, very much.
However, 100 percent of coaches agreed being punted to was "pretty great."
"I really like making the other team punt, because that means we did something right and they did something wrong," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. "And even better, now we have the ball. If I had the choice, I would want to have the ball all the time and never give it away."
When asked if they shared Coughlin's opinions, NFL head coaches said, "Yes."