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What's The Right Coaching Call - Instructions to Tavon Austin Receiving Punt?


What's your instruction for Austin there if you're the Cowboys coach?  

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I'm not sure the reason for a fair catch there unless you're worried Austin is going to dance around and waste time without getting upfield, but it seems like you could just tell him not to do that.

A punt return TD is your most likely chance of scoring a TD with that little time left, and punt return yards are the quickest way to pick up yardage (it's quicker for Austin to run 10 yards upfield than it is to run a passing play that requires dropping back to pass prior to throwing a 10 yard pass).

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The chances of returning a punt for a TD (or a large return) are dramatically higher when the kicking team is backed up the way they were. As a Bears fan, I could tell you that during the Hester era I would sit at the edge of my seat if a punt team was kicking from that far back. It was either going to be kicked out of bounds in good position or Hester would get a returnable kick. Point being anytime a team punts from that far back you should be licking your chops for a return. Especially in a situation where the punt team is first and foremost concerned with stopping the punt block and getting it off clean. Austin had sooooo much room there. Austin is no Hester but you have to give that guy the agency to make the decision himself. If it is covered well then yes take the fair catch and let your offense try and do what they can. But if you have a chance to break one, take it. He easily could have got it down to the 30 with say 10 seconds left. Take 2 legitimate shots at the end zone from there. 

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Fair catch. No way to know that there would be open field out front.

If you give him the option? There's no way he's making a fair catch under any circumstances.

Can't believe people are talking about this to be honest... the play calling on last possession prior to getting to "the punt" should be enough for whiners to chew on today.

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Yeah i saw a bunch about this today too, and think it is an inaccurate attack against Dallas. Watched the clip twice and you can definitely see the Vikings players slow up 15 yards away from Tavon since he called it so early. People are acting like he had tons of space, but just watching the clip shows the Vikings' players probably would have been 5-7 yards closer to Tavon when he makes the catch.

I voted trust your player and let him make the call, but ensuring they don't make a turnover by fair catch is probably not in the top 5 reasons the Cowboys lost that game

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1 hour ago, FreeBaGeL said:

I'm not sure the reason for a fair catch there unless you're worried Austin is going to dance around and waste time without getting upfield, but it seems like you could just tell him not to do that.

A punt return TD is your most likely chance of scoring a TD with that little time left, and punt return yards are the quickest way to pick up yardage (it's quicker for Austin to run 10 yards upfield than it is to run a passing play that requires dropping back to pass prior to throwing a 10 yard pass).

at first i thought i agreed with telling him to fair catch it, but the more i thought about it, i agree with your bolded point.

Edited by joffer
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My instruction.  Make sure you catch the ball.  Make sure you have space to do so.  If they are remotely close fair catch it, if not run, but only straight up field, no dancing or cutting.  Get down before contact.   If a defender hits you remotely around the head as you are sliding down, stay down, don't move, eyes closed and unresponsive for at least a 5 count.  Hope for a flag.

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2 hours ago, Joe Bryant said:

Cowboys coaches are taking a lot of heat for instructing Tavon Austin to fair catch the punt at the end of the game. 

He had open field in front of him.

What's your instruction for Austin there if you're the Cowboys coach?

The results of this poll will be right up there with the Coach K one in the FFA.

Part of being a great coach is empowering your players.  If you can't/don't trust them to do what you've coached and practiced they shouldn't be in position to make poor decisions on their own.

Weak decision by the Cowboys staff.

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Tough call. I get the coaches telling him just to take the fair catch but also Austin should have improvised and played the situation. He’s a vet and should know when it’s ok to adlib. 

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32 minutes ago, mr roboto said:

Tavon is one of the most electric players in the NFL. Let him return it. 

he's another i was good in college and showed some flash early in the NFL but now i've been in the league for 7 years and haven't done squat special teams guy. electric potential but not much to show for it.

but i don't think it had anything to do with anything other than put it back in Dak's hands with as much time as possible since he had been lighting up the Minney D in the second half.

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I think they should've let him return it, with instructions to get downfield and not dance around.

There is some chance of Austin breaking it for a TD (he has 3 TDs on 183 career punt returns).

There is a very good chance of Austin picking up some yards (they instead wound up spending 3 plays and 14 seconds to get 9 yards).

There is very little risk of the clock running out during the punt return, so they would have a shot at a hail mary regardless (there were 24 seconds left at the snap and 17 when he fielded the punt).

There is some risk of a fumble or a penalty which sets them back out of hail mary range, but that seems like a risk worth taking.

If Dallas was going to take 2-3 shots at the end zone rather than dinking and dunking for field position then the fair catch would make more sense. But apparently they didn't want to do that from their own 46 yard line. Maybe they could've given him instructions like "try to get it past midfield - fair catch it if it's in MIN territory and try to return it (for a quick straight-ahead return) if the punt goes past the 50".

Edited by ZWK
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1 hour ago, ZWK said:

I think they should've let him return it, with instructions to get downfield and not dance around.

 

There is a very good chance of Austin picking up some yards (they instead wound up spending 3 plays and 14 seconds to get 9 yards).

 

this is the best hindsight arguement for having him run it back

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Fair catch. Full authority for the decision by the coaches. I don't have a problem with it as I've seen too many guys dance around to get one-two yards at the expense of seven-ten seconds at the end of the game.

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5 hours ago, Dizzy said:

Fair catch. No way to know that there would be open field out front.

If you give him the option? There's no way he's making a fair catch under any circumstances.

Can't believe people are talking about this to be honest... the play calling on last possession prior to getting to "the punt" should be enough for whiners to chew on today.

That's not true. Those guys don't belong on the field, even in the 1st quarter, if they can't navigate the question of whether to fair catch or not when the ball is in the air. It is actually a really hard job and the question is whether they trust someone like Austin, a vet that's been doing it a long time, as opposed to say some flashy rookie where maybe you wouldn't trust him. 17 seconds is enough time to give them the option. If it was 10 or less I'd probably agree. I think this question hinges on the quality of your return guy.

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4 hours ago, modogg said:

Yeah i saw a bunch about this today too, and think it is an inaccurate attack against Dallas. Watched the clip twice and you can definitely see the Vikings players slow up 15 yards away from Tavon since he called it so early. People are acting like he had tons of space, but just watching the clip shows the Vikings' players probably would have been 5-7 yards closer to Tavon when he makes the catch.

I voted trust your player and let him make the call, but ensuring they don't make a turnover by fair catch is probably not in the top 5 reasons the Cowboys lost that game

Totally agree. I think the nuances of the decision are worth talking about from basically a nerdy perspective. But I don't think it's something to throw shade about as far as the outcome of the game is concerned.

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3 hours ago, Ilov80s said:

Tough call. I get the coaches telling him just to take the fair catch but also Austin should have improvised and played the situation. He’s a vet and should know when it’s ok to adlib. 

I thought one of the reasons Ty Montgomery was kicked out of Green Bay was because of his decision to return a kickoff, eventhough he was instructed to not return the kick if it was in the end zone.  Anyway he fumbled the kickoff and Aaron Rodgers didn’t get a chance for a game winning drive, I can’t remember if it was a playoff game or not.   If Austin was told to fair catch it, no way he should adlib.

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2 minutes ago, Kevrunner said:

I thought one of the reasons Ty Montgomery was kicked out of Green Bay was because of his decision to return a kickoff, eventhough he was instructed to not return the kick if it was in the end zone.  Anyway he fumbled the kickoff and Aaron Rodgers didn’t get a chance for a game winning drive, I can’t remember if it was a playoff game or not.   If Austin was told to fair catch it, no way he should adlib.

Big difference between a touchback on a KO and a punt return from near the 50. He absolutely should have returned it no matter what the coaches said. He had a ton of space and blockers. Hell they had the punt return call on, there were blockers, he might have taken it to the red zone.

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2 minutes ago, Kevrunner said:

I thought one of the reasons Ty Montgomery was kicked out of Green Bay was because of his decision to return a kickoff, eventhough he was instructed to not return the kick if it was in the end zone.  Anyway he fumbled the kickoff and Aaron Rodgers didn’t get a chance for a game winning drive, I can’t remember if it was a playoff game or not.   If Austin was told to fair catch it, no way he should adlib.

Punt returns and kickoff returns are apples and oranges. With a punt the returner absolutely *has* to make a physical decision as to fair catch or not, unless he just lets the ball go, which I'm pretty sure everyone would agree would have been an even worse option than returning or fair catching. But a kickoff doesn't have to be brought out or fielded at all, unless it is kicked short. A coaches decision to tell a player not to bring a kickoff out of the endzone is very different than a punt. Especially a punt being returned from midfield. Also, and I can't say this enough, 17 seconds is enough time to get a return there. And by far the most efficient use of time to get those yards. But whatever, they lost because they lost, not because of this decision. The fair catch isn't a *bad* idea. But they should have followed it up with more than those little 6 yards TE outs that took the rest of the time before one hail mary.

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When the ball comes at a punt returner, there is usually a pretty high chance he is about to get curbstomped, which is the main reason for calling a fair catch. It typically has nothing to do with the clock. This is *never* the case for a kickoff return. So a coach can tell a player one thing, but if it is a punt, it is in that punt returner's best interest to develop a really strong instinct for when there is room and when there isn't, regardless of what the coach says. So even if the coach gives them the allowance to return it in that spot last night, they're only going to do it if they aren't about to get killed. Vet returners have a really good sense for this kind of thing. Anyway I'm done now.

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2 hours ago, Johnny B. Goode said:

Alternate Universe 451b:

Austin doesn't fair catch it, strip fumble, Vikings recover. 

Joe Bryant posts a thread next morning and commenters go nuts at why he wouldn't have been told to fair catch the ball. 

Lol wut?  That post would not exist.

A kick returner can get stripped on any play.  So can a WR after they catch the ball.  So unless you think every kicker returner should take a knee every time, every punt returner should call a fair catch every time (actually they could still muff it, so better not to put anyone back there at all) and every WR should take a knee after catching a pass before they get tackled, the risk of a turnover is really irrelevant here.

They did it to save time and try and get a chance to score, even though the fair catch accomplishes the exact opposite of that.

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22 minutes ago, FreeBaGeL said:

Lol wut?  That post would not exist.

A kick returner can get stripped on any play.  So can a WR after they catch the ball.  So unless you think every kicker returner should take a knee every time, every punt returner should call a fair catch every time (actually they could still muff it, so better not to put anyone back there at all) and every WR should take a knee after catching a pass before they get tackled, the risk of a turnover is really irrelevant here.

They did it to save time and try and get a chance to score, even though the fair catch accomplishes the exact opposite of that.

The point is everyone assumes that if he ran it back it goes perfect, or he even could score. Sure, more chances of scoring than taking a fair catch, but what if he runs off 20 seconds? What if he fumbles? Sure, a few more yards could have helped, but I dont think it's a mistake to keep as much time on the clock for one of your best players to win the game. 

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1 hour ago, ZWK said:

We should look at the moment that Austin called the fair catch. This is like showing that a receiver is wide open a second or two after the QB threw the ball to someone else.

I think that’s as simple as moving the purple guys back 5 yards. It will only make it look worse lol

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4 hours ago, Bigboy10182000 said:

I think that’s as simple as moving the purple guys back 5 yards. It will only make it look worse lol

I think the point was that once he started waiving for the fair catch the Viking players stopped going full speed so they slowed up considerable making it look like he had more running room than he would have if he didn't start waiving for the fair catch so early.  I have no idea if this is true, but I believe that was the point of the comment. 

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12 hours ago, Walking Boot said:

Should fair catch if the punt is to the middle of the field. Return if along the sideline and there's room to run forward. The returner only has a little time to judge the situation before making his call, so, if he's wrong in the middle of the field it could be bad. If he's wrong on the edge, he can stop the play at any time by stepping out.

If he's wrong in the middle of the field couldn't he just give himself up?  That would stop the play and the clock due to change of possession. 

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In that situation, with a high kick and good coverage, then a fair catch was absolutely the right move. It's more important to secure possession and to conserve time.

In the history of the NFL, there have only been 4 go-ahead fourth-quarter punt return TDs from less than 55 yards.

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