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» Scramble for the Ball: The Best Losers

Tom and Mike perform the ritual "complimenting of the Loser League team names," pile on Marty Mornhinweg, and actually find a scenario where starting Geno Smith is a good idea.

21 Sep 2011

Scramble for the Ball: P-P-P-Pressure

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

On the Hot Seat

Tom: With 11:16 to go in Sunday's game, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh sent David Akers out to try a 55-yard field goal. Akers made the field goal to give the 49ers a 24-14 lead. On the play, Dallas linebacker Keith Brooking was flagged for Leverage. Harbaugh elected, controversially, to take the made field goal and a kickoff from midfield rather than a first-and-10 at the 22-yard line. This decision was noted in Audibles and elsewhere, as the 49ers could have run an additional 2:00 or more and maybe even scored a touchdown had they accepted the penalty. The Cowboys eventually forced overtime with a field goal as time expired, and then went on to win the game in overtime. I also recently read this article, on what (probably minimal) influence David Romer's piece on going for two had on actual decision-making by coaches. I ended up with a very natural question: at what rate for two-point conversions would you essentially always go for two instead of kicking an extra point?

Mike: One would think that whenever the conversion rate went over 50 percent, since that would naturally mean you would get more than one point, on average, on your tries.

Tom: Yup, and not every extra point is made. So if you knew you had a 50 percent chance of converting a two-point conversion, you should go for it virtually every time. Yet there have been years where the league as a whole has converted two-point plays over half the time, yet teams didn't go for it every time. Heck, in 2006, 60 percent of called two-point conversions were converted. Mike, are NFL coaches just crazy?

Mike: No, they are terrified of looking bad.

Tom: I agree with you -- they're not crazy. I have a slightly different take though: NFL coaches, for reasons we can guess at, don't like variance.

Mike: I dunno, I like my answer better. I doubt there is a well-reasoned argument from the coaches, but rather the very real sense that anything they do that can be turned into a narrative of why the team lost, will.

Tom: True. The reason we're talking about why Harbaugh's variance-avoidance decision looks bad today is because his team lost.

Mike: Well, Harbaugh's situation is a bit atypical. He turned down a new set of downs.

Tom: The 49ers lost. He could have made a different decision that might have changed the outcome, so he looks bad. Coaches should thus be absolute win probability-maximizers then, because any decision in a game they don't win becomes part of the losing narrative. Why don't they listen more to stats people?

Mike: I disagree. Coaches are narrative-averse, which is very different. A coach that loses 21-23 could have won if he went for two after all three touchdowns. Nobody will criticize that coach, yet clearly he made decisions that harmed his team's ability to win the game. Harbaugh is subject to extra criticism because the perceived risk was so low yet he still refused the opportunity of a new set of downs, the ability to drain the clock, and the possibility of a touchdown.

Tom: Well, I can see circumstances where taking the extra point would be criticized then, such as a touchdown to go down 23-13 (or more) in the second half. I kind of get the Harbaugh criticism, and can see the case for taking the penalty. I'm just not sure it's that overwhelming or even particularly clear. If you accept the penalty, you should be in the zone where field goals are made at a high rate. Using Akers' career stats for 30-39 yard kicks, there's a roughly 88 percent chance of making a subsequent field goal even if the ensuing possession gains nothing.

Mike: 88 percent is darn good odds.

Tom: You only burn two minutes off the clock if you call three running plays or there are no incomplete passes. I feel like some of the post-game criticism is harsher than it should be precisely because Dallas made the tying field goal as time expired. That was kind of misleading, as the Cowboys had the same field position with 1:00 and two timeouts remaining.

Mike: You don't need to burn it all off the clock, though, just as much as you can. You still try to get into better field goal range or a touchdown, and even if you can't do that, your risk is 12 percent.

Tom: Maybe I'm trying to overcomplicate things, and variance-avoidance merges with risk-avoidance at some point. The old mantra "you never take points off the field" is, I would say, clearly not always the right answer, but I'm missing the overwhelming upside in this case.

Mike: I just told you the upside: lowering the likelihood of your opponent scoring by draining the clock, the possibility of touchdown, and barring a touchdown, the possibility of a shorter field goal to reduce the risk. Which is already very low at roughly 12 percent.

Tom: I don't mean to suggest 12 percent is absolutely the right chance Akers had at making a subsequent field goal. That's just intended to be a ballpark estimate, and I'm sure Harbaugh had a better sense at Akers' range and accuracy than I did.

Mike: I doubt he really considered it, honestly. After all, he had his points. On the other hand, I'm not going to rip Harbaugh personally too much for this. He had a few seconds to make an extremely important decision.

Tom: In the post-game press conference, Harbaugh apparently expressed that he had confidence in his defense to get a stop, which obviously didn't happen.

Mike: Any coach will say that. Norv has said that.

Tom: I didn't mean to make this column about Harbaugh per se. I just wanted to talk about how coaches evaluated risk, and how I think they’re variance-averse as much as anything else.

Mike: While I think you may have something to your anti-variance theory, I think it's more applicable to strategic decisions rather than spot decisions like this one.

Tom: I think we have seen coaches respond to the Romer paper. There is an increasing awareness of the mathematical odds of going for it on fourth down -- more than the article indicates, anyway. It's just an incomplete evolution, and one that's likely limited because coaches aren't absolute pure win-probability-maximizers. I'm also not sure I get your distinction between strategic decisions and spot decisions -- every spot decision is a strategic decision, it seems. It's just most of them don't matter that much.

Mike: No, spot decisions are not part of any coherent or long-term strategy. They are simply a coach weighing what option he thinks is more likely to result in a win.

Tom: So you're talking more about tactical decision-making, which I see as strategic in-game decision-making?

Mike: Honestly, I don't think there's much time for strategy in the game itself. You just don't have enough time to weigh all the options fully.

Tom: Sure, and with the NFL's restrictions on things like iPads and laptops and calculators on the sideline, the coach has to make the decision on the fly with only his built-in heuristics to guide him.

Mike: You are the only person I know who would describe "gut feelings" as "built-in heuristics." And again, I studied engineering.

Tom: I have "gut feelings," too. They're just things like "I'm thirsty, I think I'll have another Diet Coke."

Mike: Har.

Tom: That's not something that, even for me, is particularly amenable and responsive to reasoned decision-making. This may seem odd for somebody who keeps bringing up decision-making, but I'm sort of off the idea that coaches should be absolute win probability-maximizers. Like I thought of the Belichick decision against the Colts, it wasn't clearly wrong, and there are a bunch of squishy factors any reasonably competent coach has a better handle on that could skew a close call one way or the other. It's one thing for me on the couch to yell and scream about things, but the coach is making many, many decisions in the lead-up to the game and during the game itself. While a guy like Andy Reid could benefit at times from a clock management guru, he's still doing a much better job than you or I or most people not employed by an NFL team would at the whole spectrum of his job tasks. So maybe we all just need to relax a little.

Mike: While I agree in general, to use the Reid example, he should simply hire someone to handle that. So while it is nitpicking, it's something eminently solvable.

Tom: I think the Herm Edwards-Dick Curl experiment says that's actually harder to implement in practice than you think, and Reid would be better off reading this book in the offseason. (No, I haven't read it and don't own it yet myself. I have too much to read already and am not actually a coach.)

Mike: It never ceases to amaze me that these books are actually published.

Tom: I knew chess wasn't the game for me when I saw a book titled something like "128 Essential Openings." That's a little far afield, but I want to hear from you, reader, at what percentage point would you as a coach be willing to go for the two-point conversion virtually every time?

Fantasy Football Update

Tom: Another week, another week where I had the league's highest score. This time, it was the other non-Staff League team.

Mike: And so modest, too.

Tom: Josh Freeman had a very average 14-point performance, but all three of my wide receivers were better than him. I also benched Roddy White for Stevie Johnson in a decision that paid off, and started Ryan Mathews over Ben Tate and Joe Addai. The biggest performer was Miles Austin and his 143 yards for three touchdowns.

My opponent had three 20-point scorers on his bench in Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, and Jahvid Best, but even if he'd started them, he still would have lost.

Mike: Fitzpatrick is a strange situation. I think I might actually start suggesting people start him.

Tom: I have Stevie Johnson in a couple leagues. I'm not sure Fitzpatrick is a regular starter, but in the right matchup, sure.

Mike: The only downside is that most people with iffy quarterback situations have already nabbed him up, so the teams that could use a player like him are probably out of luck.

Tom: Probably.

Mike: Your other team?

Tom: My other team skated out a victory by the slimmest of margins, 286.70 to 286.20.

Mike: To be fair, that is not actually the slimmest of margins.

Tom: Well, fine. I was just glad the Rams didn't run a play on fourth-and-28, because if Kenny Phillips had made a tackle, I would have lost. I was projected to win the game by 37 points, but my team underperformed and my opponent's team outperformed expectations. And it was easy to single out particular players for blame and praise: Reggie Bush for me and Denarius Moore for him.

Mike: Still you persist with Bush. How long are you going to keep starting him?

Tom: Well, this might be the last week in non-PPR leagues. He had a great performance in Week 1. The game was a bit closer than it should have been. I left a questionable Champ Bailey in the lineup instead of benching him.

Mike: The Broncos stick to their injury report pretty well. I'd never start a questionable Bronco.

Tom: I shouldn't have started him, I just didn't pay enough attention to his status.

Mike: Ah. One of the things I like about Yahoo! is that it has a little red letter next to the player for injury status. That makes it very easy to swoop in right before gametime and shuffle things around.

Tom: That plus the little box with an asterisk for recent news made it easy. I just missed him in my run-through.

Mike: That's an asterisk? I thought it was just the card being shiny. Weird.

Tom: Eh, I still skated my way through and am now 2-0 in that league.

Mike: I had somewhat commanding victories in both of my leagues.

Tom: Excellent.

Mike: Vincent Jackson's career day ended up being a double-edged sword, actually.

Tom: How so?

Mike: On one hand, he gave me 31.2 points in one of my leagues, but I was up against him in the other league, where my opponent received 34.2 points. In fact, Jackson was the main reason my second game was close. He accounted for nearly a third of my opponent's total points.

Tom: That kind of thing does happen sometimes.

Mike: That said, Philly Almost-Hero Jeremy Maclin did even better, with a 35.7. Darren McFadden's 27.8, Drew Brees' 23.0 and Mike Wallace's 22.6 all made up for the 0.00 I received from Antonio Gates and the 2.00 from Chicago DST. I think McFadden's going to have a very good year.

Tom: Oh, the league where I had the week's highest score? 2.00 from Bears DST prevented me from an even better performance.

Mike: Chicago was a disaster this week.

Tom: I'm still a little bit skeptical McFadden will have that good a year, but he has outperformed my expectations to date. Granted, two games and whatnot.

Mike: McFadden has big draw on PPR leagues, since he is a legitimate receiver out of the backfield. In non-PPR leagues I'm slightly less optimistic, but still see him as a solid RB2 if not RB1.

Tom: I guess I agree with that. I'm still not entirely comfortable thinking of players in terms of their fantasy production as opposed to how good I think they are.

Mike: As far as my first league, it was a pretty workmanlike effort. Once again, Brees and one other player (this week Jackson) led the way, supported by good but not fantastic days from the rest of the peanut gallery. Adjusting your thinking takes some getting used to. The end result is that I'm in second place in both leagues, although I'm not second in points in my family league and next week I have to actually deal with Robert Meachem and Lance Moore. I’m probably going to go with a healthy Moore, but I'm still nervous.

Tom: I'd go with Moore for sure, especially in a PPR league.

Mike: Although ... I have Julio Jones, who is clearly a target.

Tom: At least he was this past week.

Mike: In basically any coverage, as this week showed. He was the week prior, too, with five catches for 71 yards. That’s not bad for a WR3.

Tom: I mostly managed to restrain myself in Audibles, so I'll repeat the feat here. It's getting tough, though.

Mike: You see, dear readers? We can show restraint! Sometimes. When we feel like it.


FO Staff League Update

Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom, 1-1) 78 def. Intentional Rounding (Danny, 0-2) 75

I'm going to have to check on those other league victories about which Tom keeps bragging, because Wagstaff's Ringers is a two-year-long train wreck. On the bright side, the Ringers didn't actually post the lowest total this week; merely the second-lowest. Still, a win is a win. Of course, Rounding isn't much better, despite having talent like Michael Vick (13 points), Hakeem Nicks (7) and Chris Johnson (6) on the roster. I'd say Bills DST (-4 points) was Danny's downfall, but Tom received a mighty -7 points from Chargers DST, which I think is actually a record for defenses that were actually started. Seppuku for everyone.

Reverse Jinxes (Elias, 1-1) 132 def. Known Chumpsky (Rivers, 1-1) 92

We go from the closest match to the biggest blowout. Everything went right for Elias this week, from Tom Brady's monster game (28 points) to Fred Jackson's monster game (25) to Miles Austin's super-ultra-godzilla game (32). Chumpsky simply could not keep up, much like the Ravens DST, which posted a mind-boggling -1 points.

Dyscalculia Plus Ones (Will, 2-0) 112 def. Edmonton Eulers (Tanier, 1-1) 83

The Dyscalculias continue to ride the Cam Newton train to fantasy victory, although there are some dark clouds overhead if the second half of Week 2 is an indicator. For now, Will's team will keep chugging along hoping to catch lightning from a cast of decent but inconsistent stars (Tony Gonzalez, Jets DST, Wes Welker). The Eulers, meanwhile, somehow did not predict that Rob Gronkowski was going to have a career day! I know, impossible, right?

That's Great Hustle! (Sean, 2-0) 145 def. Los Pollos Hermanos (Rob, 0-1) 123

Poor Rob drew the best performance of the week as his opponent, instead of, say, Tom. Both of these teams has great weeks, actually, Sean pulling double-digits from 6 of his slots and Rob from all but one. The real difference was the ceiling: Los Hermanos' top score was 21 points (Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Hillis), while Hustle had three players that topped that total (Matthew Stafford with 25, Jahvid Best with 23 and Vincent Jackson with 29). Rob really should look into unloading Sam Bradford and Ryan Fitzpatrick, both riding the pine, while their values are high.

Equippo del Jefe (Aaron, 1-1) 102 def. Parts Unknown Mufflers (Ben, 0-1) 92

The difference-maker here is the Detroit Lions' mascot, who magically caused Jamaal Charles to land awkwardly and tear his ACL. Charles is now on IR, and Ben is in some serious trouble. Aaron received great production from running backs Darren McFadden and LeSean McCoy (24 and 23, respectively), but missed out on the Jeremy Maclin experience in Atlanta. The Mufflers have no one to blame but themselves, however, as the only surprise on the bench was Ben Tate, and honestly, who is going to start Ben Tate against Miami?

Walk a Random, Confusing Mile in His Shoes

Tom: By request of Mr. Tanier, and please note that Scramble is not the Brady-Manning Irrational Thread.

Mike: Although, as the featured comment notes, this means Peyton Manning will dress up in a pickle costume. This pickle commercial will, of course, be awesome. Unlike this ... thing.

Tom: I don’t know. I thought Peyton's latest commercial was distressingly average.

Mike: To which one are you referring?

Tom: Reebok, I believe.

Mike: Oh, yeah. Pretty lame, sadly does not play to Manning's talents. In any case, still probably better than this Ugg commercial.

Tom: Yes.

Mike: Who thought stutter was a good visual effect? Especially for a graceful, powerful athlete?

Tom: One thing I noticed: the only time we see both the legs and Tom Brady in the same shot is at the end when he's sitting down in the locker room. For most of this commercial, the shoes don't have to be on Tom Brady's feet at all. It could be a body double.

Mike: In fact, it probably is, walking in rather weird ways at certain points. Of course, they then have Brady making weird faces while waving a stick in the air, so maybe he's going through some sort of magical incantation.

Tom: I blame the Friskies CGI cat. And in fact he could be using the Friskies CGI cat's ability to open wormholes into other dimension to change both the shoes on his feet as he goes through different settings. If you've read Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos, think of the trip down the River Tethys through farcasters.

Mike: It would be much easier for you to just make a Harry Potter joke, but OK.

Tom: This commercial is fundamentally not aimed at people like me, a universe that consists of at least me, even if nobody else. If you want me to buy footwear because Tom Brady's endorsing it, show me Tom Brady doing things like playing quarterback well, not walking from place to place. Heck, at least show me other people admiring Tom Brady's awesome footwear.

Mike: The commercial, as much as the commenters on YouTube want to pretend it isn't, is aimed at women. Sure, they make men's shoes, but men don't sit around looking at shoes. And men definitely don't care about lifestyle shots of Tom Brady, no matter how jarringly filmed. This commercial is clearly aimed at women. Even on those terms, it fails at its basic goal, which is to beefcake it up with Tom Brady.

Tom: In that case, why show this commercial during Monday Night Football, a show that I assume skews heavily male? Why not show it during, say, Two and a Half Men?

Mike: Why show Spanish-language commercials during "Please Love Us Latinos" month? Or all the NFL women's apparel commercials the league airs?

Tom: This feels like another commercial that exists because people in advertising agencies aren't like me.

Mike: There is a not-insignificant number of women watching, and they're desperate to see something they're interested in.

Tom: Sure, there are a number of women watching. I'm just skeptical that it's a cost-effective buy.

Mike: Tom Brady is very relevant to their interests.

Tom: NFL apparel for women appeals to both sexes, even.

Mike: Are the bored housewives watching Two and a Half Men going to buy Uggs? There are few places where a spot like this would work. Might as well get the exposure.

Tom: Ok, fine, buy commercials on some show the kind of people who would buy Uggs watch, like Breaking Bad or whatever.

Mike: Another male-skewed viewership.

Tom: Commercials during NFL games are expensive because you can reach a big and relatively diverse audience. Buy one NFL commercial or three during other times?

Mike: This conversation is really boring. We're debating ad slot purchasing strategy.

Tom: I prefer to think of it as plumbing the mystery of Ugg's intentions.

Mike: I doubt our readers would agree.

Tom: If you're trying to sell me a shoe, though, show me the same shoe in the entire commercial. Don't change shoes on me mid-stream.

Mike: But they have so very many shoes! Because men are famous for buying lots of shoes of varying styles.

Tom: I don't know about you, Mike, but I only wear one pair of shoes at a time. If I put on a pair of shoes, I want it to be as versatile as my life. I don't want to have to put on a different pair of shoes if I want to go walk on the grass.

Mike: That is why you are not a famous football player! Clearly we have found your problem. Oh, there's a related video: "Top 100 Players of 2011." That sounds like a reasonable topic! Let's see who it's by ... "BostonSportsFTW" ... oh.

(Tom makes a joke that is better off not being made. Bad Tom! Bad!)

Mike: Anyway, what direction do you think Brady/Not-Brady had for this? "Wander aimlessly while we film your torso/feet?" There's one bit where he runs quickly in one direction, then stops, and starts walking back from whence he came.

Tom: "Walk down this block." Mid-block: "Ok, start walking back up the block."

Mike: And then there's a dog, but not TOO MUCH dog.

Tom: I knew Air Jordans wouldn't give me Michael Jordan's ability, but at least his shoes might have been reasonably connected to what he was doing.

Mike: But while the dog is around we have to wobble the camera back and forth. This is the artsiest commercial we've ever covered, except maybe ANA.

Tom: Levi's Walt Whitman? That was really artsy, I remember thinking.

Mike: Drat. It’s true. It was also even worse than this one, although I guess that is impressive in and of itself, making Tom Brady mediocre.

Tom: I'm not so sure. I thought the Walt Whitman kind of added to the artistic ethos of that commercial. This Mos Def, though, I'm not sure what it's supposed to do, but it doesn't add anything for me.

Mike: Well, it doesn't do much, because they're scared of alientating the old white people watching the game. So while it is Mos Def, it's basically generic quiet hip-hop background #2362. That said, nothing can do more damage than the creepy stare Brady gives us at the end. It's like he knows we miss Catholic Match Girl and is trying to destroy our beautiful memories. Bad Brady! Bad!

Loser League Update

As a reminder, you can access the full results here.

Kicker: No offense for Seattle, 0 points for Steven Hauschka. Like the sun in the East.

Wide Receiver: Remember how Harry Douglas was supposed to have a big role in Atlanta this year? Ok, so Chansi Stuckey’s 0 was low man this week, but Douglas joined Andre Roberts, Eddie Royal, Anthony Armstrong, Victor Cruz, Jordan Shipley, Legedu Naanee, and Golden Tate with 1 point each.

Running Back: You might have started Felix Jones on your real fantasy team and gotten 2 points, or even Mark Ingram, Cadillac Williams, or Arian Foster and gotten 3.

Quarterback: Luke McCown couldn’t even get his name spelled right on a Jaguars preseason telecast last year. This week, he wishes it was some guy named “Luke McGowen” that had put up his -6.

Awards!

KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: So, two years ago, the Jaguars went into New York and knocked off the Jets on the road. David Garrard was their quarterback that day. Quarterback Luke McCown’s penchant for throwing the ball to the Jets was one of the reasons they were not able to repeat that feat on Sunday.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: The rare dual award this week. After stopping the Eagles on a fourth down late in Sunday night’s game, the Atlanta Falcons and Mike Smith elected to kneel the ball immediately three straight times and then punt. While the Falcons still won, they faced a DeSean Jackson punt return and a play from scrimmage -- if they’d tried to run time off the clock they might have been able to end the game by punting out of bounds. Not impressed with this display, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo simply demanded co-winner status by conceding Monday night’s contest against the Giants by punting. Yes, down two scores with less than two minutes to play, on fourth-and-23, the Rams’ chance of winning was minimal, but it wasn’t exactly zero.

COLBERT AWARD: Facing fourth-and-1 from the 10 in a tie game in the third quarter, Titans coach Mike Munchak elected to eschew the safe field goal to take the lead and instead went for it. Javon Ringer took the pitch for a score and a lead the Titans would not relinquish in the week’s biggest upset.

Scramble Mailbag

Nickorton86: I play in a pretty crazy 12-team league with 3 WR, flex, 1 QB/Flex (so essentially 2 QBs), 1 PPR. I have Andre Johnson and Peyton Hillis starting, and will probably start Darren McFadden (NYJ) and Wes Welker (@BUF) despite not great matchups. So I have one WR and one flex left for Shonn Greene (@OAK), Santana Moss (ARI), and Reggie Wayne (PIT). My gut is to start Moss and Shonn Greene and leave Wayne on the bench based on matchups, but Greene has not exactly lit it up this year. Thoughts?

Tom: At the start of the year, even with Collins, I was slightly optimstic Wayne would still be a decent fantasy play. I haven't seen much of the Colts-Browns game yet, but I've changed my mind. I thought Wayne was declining last year, and Kerry Collins plus a leaky offensive line makes him a deeply marginal fantasy play. The Colts basically can't throw the ball downfield at all, which hurts wide receivers' fantasy value.

Mike: The Colts are a disaster in general. If you've talked yourself into starting a Colt, you should swing by because I have a fantastic bridge you're sure to be interested in. Wayne is worth holding on to until Manning returns, but in the meantime starting him is basically insane.

Tom: I wouldn't go that far. I think you just have to think of him as more like a WR3 and play him based on matchups. The Steelers are not a good matchup, so you don't play him.

Mike: Fair enough. In any case, I agree. You have to go with Greene and Moss. And pray. Good luck with your really rough week.

Tom: Shonn Greene has underperformed this year, but I liked him coming into the year for a reason and I think those reasons are still valid. Even with the right tackle and Mangold's injury situation, play him. But yeah, what Mike said, good luck.

Bask in the comic! Bask I say! We'll see how long we can keep this up. In the meantime, send your questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com or drop by the forum topic, which Tom assures me will actually exist this week.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 21 Sep 2011

55 comments, Last at 28 Sep 2011, 8:38am by Mr Shush

Comments

1
by Tom Gower :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 7:58pm

After press time, I got stat-corrected to a loss in the league where I thought I'd won by 0.5 points, so I'm now 1-1 in both non-Staff League leagues despite being first in points in both.

6
by SFC B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:38pm

Hakeem Nicks?

2
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 8:38pm

I played chess in high school. I was even team captain my senior year. (I was also the only senior on the team that year.) You don't need to know 128 openings, unless you really want to. You can get by with about a dozen. Most players have a favorite first move as white: P-K4 and P-Q4 (e4 and d4) are the most common. So you learn the common defenses against those two moves for white. As black, you pick your favorite defense against each along with learning how to defend against unusual openings like the English or King's Indian. After that, if you find out you're decent and like to play you can add to your repertoire. It's still a lot to memorize, but I had to learn something in high school.

3
by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:07pm

One thing that is rarely discussed in the go for 2 everytime debate is whether or not there are a limited amount of superior short yardage/2 point plays. If the number of good short yardage plays is a limiting factor, it perhaps is better to save those for critial 4th and 1s/4th and 2s rather than that put them on film. Additionally, it would be helpful to know if the success rate has been as high as it has been because teams have been using their best plays in those situations.

4
by Intropy :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:31pm

What's the success rate on two point conversions when the defense knows one is going to be attempted. If that rate hit, say 55%, then going for two would be my default. Also take into account that going for two probably has higher injury exposure than kicking an extra point.

I also disagree that coaches should exclusively be win maximizers. Is it a good idea to bench a banged up QB when home field is locked up even if it decreases your winning chance?

7
by PatsFan :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:42pm

Ummmm....

Doesn't the defense virtually always know when a two-point conversion is going to be attempted? The kicker not being on the field might give it away...

8
by Rhys :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:45pm

Indeed. I think fake extra point GF2s are a separate issue which would require its own discussion. What's on the table here is obvious "we're going for two" behavior.

9
by tuluse :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:48pm

I was going to make a similar point to your first paragraph. 2 point attempts get converted at high rates at their current usage level, if a coach started going for it all the time, defenses would adapt.

Edit: I also remember these two blasting Lovie Smith for going for it on 4th and goal from the 1. Which is a situation where one should be even more likely to make it than a 2 point attempt which is a yard further out, and increases expected scoring by a larger amount than going for 2 does over a PAT.

10
by Rhys :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:49pm

I don't see how you can adapt for that. Do you bring different (more goal-liney) personnel on your 46 man roster? It isn't like an offense might hit a special button and go for two by surprise on the 50 yard line, there's (almost always) advance warning, and the whole play is set up with everyone knowing what they're getting into. You can't play the whole game in an "Anti-2" formation and have it do any good (unlike being able to adapt to a pass or rush heavy offense that way).

27
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 5:36am

You have a lot more film to analyze for opponent tendencies in that situation, and incentive to spend more time preparing for it. I don't think it's by any means clear that two point conversion rates would stay constant if if vastly more were attempted.

35
by zlionsfan :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 9:12am

Exactly. This is one of the arguments against two-point conversion attempts in the preseason: while we might see those as perfect opportunities to practice (and also ways to avoid overtime), those also become opportunities for opposing teams to study plays you might run when you need them.

In a sense, saying that coaches should always attempt two-point conversions because the success rate overall is above 50% is similar to saying that coaches should call only pass plays because even the worst team in the league averages more than 4 yards per attempt. The latter is more obviously inaccurate, but both are similar to "on pace" projections.

42
by dbt :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 12:13pm

You can spend more time preparing for it.

Watching film on previous 2 pt attempts.
Drawing up plays to attack where they've been successful.
Practicing those plays against the scout team during the week.

Preparation is a huge hidden factor in team success.

5
by Rhys :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:38pm

The big glaring hole in the "variance is bad" argument is that football is a zero sum game. If variance has an effect which will alter the probable outcomes of the game, it must necessarily be better for one team or the other, or have no effect at all.

For example, one might make the case that variance is something the underdog in a game wants and the favorite detests. In that case, the underdog should go for two even if his GF2 percentage dips below 50%, up until the point where the extra variance is no longer worth the loss in average points (who knows where this is, call it 40% as an example). Similarly, the favorite should kick extra points even if they have higher than a 50% GF2 average, until the gain in extra average points was enough to be worth the added variance (in this random example, they'd need a 60% GF2 rate to want to go for it.)

But clearly, if both teams expect that they can convert more than 50% of GF2 attempts, and neither team is going for two regularly, at least one of those teams MUST be making a mistake.

16
by RickD :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 11:19pm

Huh???

What on Earth does one team's decision to have their offense go for a 2-point attempt against the other team's defense have to do with any possible 2-point attempt made by the other teams' offense against the first team's defense?

Isn't it possible that both teams have good goal-line defenses and poor goal-line offenses?

This isn't a tug-of-war.

28
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 5:42am

"Isn't it possible that both teams have good goal-line defenses and poor goal-line offenses?"

No. He specified that he was talking about a game in which both teams have a better than 50% chance of converting two point tries. In such a game, it is automatically a good idea for at least one (and possibly but not necessarily both) team(s) to (almost) always go for two.

39
by drobviousso :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 10:42am

Exactly. The question in the article about how often would I go for two? My answer is it depends on how much better the other team is than mine.

41
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 11:38am

Among other things.

11
by Nickorton86 :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:50pm

First off, thanks for taking my question, much appreciated. I realized after posting Moss is playing Dallas this week - still a very favorable matchup.

Second, I disagree that you should go for 2 early in the game if your chance of conversion is greater than 50%. There's a significant first-mover disadvantage in going for 2. If you go for 2 and make it, your opponent has the opportunity to catch up when they score the next TD. If you miss, your opponent can kick the extra point and force you to go for 2 later on to even the ledger TD wise. The existence of field goals and safeties complicates things a bit but the basic point still stands, especially, say, late in a tie game when you score the go-ahead TD.

12
by andrew :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 10:21pm

Did Raheem Morris' surprise onside kick get any consideration for the Colbert award? He did it when they had just scored to cut their defecit to 17-7, and it very much helped turn the tide, even if after recovering it they didn't score on that drive... it was part of a huge turn of momentum for Tampa.

14
by Tom Gower :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 10:50pm

I thought about it some, partly because we try not to make any of the awards about the Titans or Steelers unless they really deserve it, but I ultimately thought (a) Munchak's call had more impact on the outcome and (b) we'll probably end up giving it to onside kicks a lot over the course of the year (it's a good default choice if no other decision stands out) so we try to avoid it unless it's particularly aggressive or unexpected.

13
by johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 10:25pm

Whoa my best loser league finish eva. I suck!

25
by TimK :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 3:41am

If you mean best as in most points scored then you didn't score more points than my team this week. Curse this Bills Offensive juggernaut (and my rookie QBs aren't helping either).

If you mean best as in actually doing well in LL terms, then congratulations!

29
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 5:45am

Dalton and Newton jobbing you too, huh?

15
by RickD :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 11:16pm

"Yet there have been years where the league as a whole has converted two-point plays over half the time, yet teams didn't go for it every time. Heck, in 2006, 60 percent of called two-point conversions were converted. Mike, are NFL coaches just crazy?"

Why on Earth would you suppose that all two-point attempt defenses are created equal?
Why would you ever think that all two-point attempts are equally likely to succeed?

Your math falls apart without this presumption.

31
by Temo :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 7:33am

N/A

17
by Temo :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 11:27pm

Mike: The commercial, as much as the commenters on YouTube want to pretend it isn't, is aimed at women. Sure, they make men's shoes, but men don't sit around looking at shoes. And men definitely don't care about lifestyle shots of Tom Brady, no matter how jarringly filmed. This commercial is clearly aimed at women.

1. Mike has clearly never read GQ or Details magazine (admittedly, this is probably to his credit as a human being).

2. Vaguely sexist.

18
by RickD :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 11:34pm

There's a lot of fallacious thinking going on in this 2-point discussion. For starters, the coach's goal is not to maximize his expected number of points. His goal is to maximize his probability of winning.

How does this differ? Let's consider the following.

Let's say that you're at the end of the game, and instead of having a choice between a 1-point conversion and a 2-point conversion, there's a choice between a 1-point conversion and a 2000-point conversion. Let's say that the team is down by 1 point, and the probability of getting the 1-point conversion is 100%, but the chance of getting the 2000-point conversion is only 1 in 100.

And let's say the result in OT is a 50-50 coin toss.

The people who insist on maximizing the expected score will say "go for the 2000-point conversion, your expected return is 20 points, which is much better than 1 point! And if you get it, you'll definitely win!"

But if you take this strategy, you will lose 99% of the time, instead of 50% of the time using the other strategy.

My point is that you can only expect the expected return on the 2-point attempt to be meaningful when the Law of Large Numbers kicks in. But coaches aren't trying to maximize the number of points scored over the long term, they're trying to win the game at hand. The way probabilities interact with the game situations is more complicated than the simple question of maximizing the expected number of points.

21
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 1:26am

We intentionally elided over a lot of complications to try to draw out what I thought was a more interesting idea.

There's obviously a certain point at which a coach should kick the extra point. To use an extreme example, following a touchdown as the game ends you should kick an extra point you have a 95% chance of making even if you have an 85% chance of making a 2-point conversion, because increasing your chance of winning is more important than increasing your maximum number of points. In the second half, you can refer to something like this go-for-two chart developed by William Krasker. The question I was more interested in exploring is more along the lines of when do you go for two when you score a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, when the effect on win percentage is much less clear?

23
by Mike529 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 2:49am

On the other hand if you are down by 14 points late in the game you should go for 2 even if you have only a %40 chance of making the 2 point conversion you should go for it.
Rationale: The only chance you have of winning the game is scoring 2 TDs. If you go for 1 both times you go to overtime and have a %50 chance of winning.
If you go for 2 there are 3 scenarios
1. Make the conversion and then make extra-point=win (40%)
2. Miss the first conversion make the second go to overtime (.60*.40*.50=.12)
3. Miss both conversions
The total chance of winning is over 50% (given 2 TDs even with such low odds) if the 2-point conversion was 50-50 then it would be a %62.5 chance of winning.

19
by beargoggles :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 12:13am

Lost in all the business about taking points off the board: Harbaugh had already tipped his hand. He went for the 55 yard field goal on 4th and 1 or 4th and 2, which is by itself a pretty insane decision. I think more insane than the one he's getting criticized for. No way on earth that's the sound statistical play.

I'm excited that Harbaugh will no longer be around to take it to Cal, but I wish he hadn't taken Tedford's decision making process to the NFL.

51
by zenbitz :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 6:04pm

I thought that was wacky. But the Niners are seemingly not an average offense... so perhaps the WP for the FG attempt wasn't as bad as the numbers say. I am not sure I would give the Niners a 50-50 of making the first down on 4th-and-1.

That penalty screwed Harbaugh from a PR perspective. From a WP perspective it's very close to a 50-50 proposition (well within margin of error for WP calculations). So no matter what he picks, he gets crucified if he loses.

Chances are (80%+?), if he takes the 3 downs he gets another FG (or possibly 7), and no criticism (win or lose). However, if he takes points off the board and doesn't score (missed FG/turnover) then he will get raked even if he wins!

I wonder if it was more of a "bad money after bad" decision on JHs' part... did he consider going for it on 4th-and-1. Decide to kick, then makes the FG. Once he's made THAT decision... it's harder to take the penalty since he already decided to kick "in his heart".

(Note that the average team WPAs for the niners either way are ~90% post FG! so he was unlucky regardless)

20
by Dales :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 12:27am

Gil Thorpe, don't ever leave again.

22
by ticttocs (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 2:12am

only thing going for that commercial is the Mos Def song. Did I hear rumors he changed his name? And no I have no time to google.

24
by BigDerf :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 3:30am

I'm tired of NFL coaches getting a pass on strategic decision making just because the a coach "is making many, many decisions in the lead-up to the game and during the game itself."

That is a horrible defense, because these situations aren't complicated. The moment in the 49ers game where that flag came out on that field goal, I immediately said take the flag. It's not something you have to actually think about, because the game scenarios aren't hard. Clock management isn't hard. Using logic and common sense isn't hard. Especially for those of us who have lived these clock situations out hundreds and hundreds of times in Madden since 92.

In this particular example....You would never kick a field goal on first down from that field position, and by not taking the first down, that's essentially what you were doing. Giving up a fresh set of downs for the three points.

And honestly, it's just stupid to not have someone on every NFL sideline for clock management/2Pt Conversion/Penalty taking purposes. You're telling me it wouldn't be worth 40k a year plus an extra travel body to possibly squeak out another win a year? Seems like an obvious "Extra 2%" Tampa Rays idea. There need not be any tension either... you wouldn't have to give the guy the final say, just have him pop into the coach with the right move whenever it was pertinent.

Plus, NFL Head Coaches would have one more guy below them to fire when things were going wrong. It's really a win all around.

40
by Southern Philly :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 11:21am

Head coaches are not going to relinquish that authority. Their ego and pride won't let them.

26
by rots (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 4:06am

@BigDerf - i think you touch on an underplayed (as far as i have seen) aspect here and that is that a lot of us have far, far more experience with end of half/end of game decisions than practically any coach through the magic of video games.

Ive played probably around 10k games of Maddens of the years (might be a conservative estimate) and because of that i have seen practically any and all permutations that can occur and real life coaches who are focused on real life stuff can never, ever approach that sort of clock/situational management experience.

I hate to give TMQ any credit but his consistent critiques over coaches who are afraid of winning and that just try and keep the score close is right on the mark and very evident when evaluating coaching decision making in situations like this.

30
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 5:54am

"Ive played probably around 10k games of Maddens of the years (might be a conservative estimate) and because of that i have seen practically any and all permutations that can occur and real life coaches who are focused on real life stuff can never, ever approach that sort of clock/situational management experience."

This. Even the most experienced coaches have been responsible for clock management in at most a few hundred games. Many have done it for only a few dozen. And those coaches have vastly more pressure and distractions than the Madden player, who is probably devoting a higher proportion of his attention to clock management in the first place.

32
by Thok :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 7:33am

You'd think somebody would encourage their coach to play a bunch of Madden in their free time, just to work on clock management.

33
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 8:25am

Well, that would involve the owner or GM deciding that it was a good idea. It's a bit out there, as ideas go.

Also, coaches' time is extremely valuable and heavily booked. I think hiring a specialist is probably a more cost-effective way to go, even before you factor in the difficulty older guys are likely to have playing video games.

34
by Travis :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 8:52am

Bill James suggested something similar with regards to the hiring of coaches in one of his Baseball Abstracts (not sure which, but somewhere between 1984 and 1988). The idea was that GMs should have prospective managers play a few games of APBA to give the GMs an idea of their game-decision skills.

37
by zlionsfan :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 9:50am

First, you'd have to get GMs and owners to give head coaches an environment where they have free time. My understanding is that with very few exceptions (like Dungy), free time would be viewed as a sign that a coach "isn't working hard enough". That's obviously a stupid approach, but then so is punting when you're down 14 late in the fourth quarter.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the type of Madden player who has that level of online experience most likely has very little experience making decisions for a team as weak as the one for which they'd be working. The no-consequences aspect of playing Madden isn't relevant here, because we're trying to stop coaches from considering consequences of decisions that don't work out, but those Madden players have all that experience in an environment where they make decisions and then carry out much of that action as a result of that decision: you call the two-point play, make adjustments at the line as the QB, and execute the play as some combination of QB and RB/WR/TE/whatever.

You not only have the advantage of calling and executing plays, but you're executing them in a non-physical environment: the "QB" hasn't been hit X times during the game. And even Madden 12 doesn't replicate the in-game wear and tear that players experience (which is good, because they'd probably just make it random crap that makes no sense like so much of the other "enhancements" they do).

Relying on someone else to work out estimated probabilities or whatever for fourth-down and conversion attempts is a great idea - the more assistance the head coach gets, the better - but it would still have to be provided in the context of the current team. It doesn't make sense to go for two on 75% of your touchdowns if your QB is Tarvaris Jackson.

36
by TI (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 9:19am

Isn't the issue that the difference between 6 and 7 points (exactly 2 field goals vs more than 2 field goals) is really big, while the difference between 7 and 8 points is less (both more than 2 field goals)? If we're looking for the incremental point (8 vs 7), what is that point worth in terms of the remainder of the game? The benefit of getting the 8th point seems small compared to the penalty of failing to get the 7th.

50
by Duke :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 4:28pm

This, absolutely.

I'm not saying it decides the issue entirely, but I think it's worth discussing the marginal utility of the 7th point versus the 8th point. As the starting score in a game, getting that 7th point matters more than that 8th point, I would think.

38
by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 10:06am

(1) 'going for two': at a 60% rate of making two point conversions, that would add about .25 points/game for a total of about 4 points per season (for a 40 TD offense, which is above average). by pythagorean, it would have taken about 40 more points to add an extra win for San Fran last year, so you would expect that the extra points value would add about 1 win per decade if you went for two every time, maintaining the 60% rate throughout (ignoring any hypothesized diminishing returns from 'saving good plays for key situations).

at the same time, this puts your offensive starters on the field for an extra 400 snaps over this decade, accruing an extra 7 games or so worth of injuries, which should be expected to have some cost in Ws that is much harder to estimate. then we have the effect of variance. for a good team, variance effects of the 'go for two' strategy should be expected to reduce win expectation. for a very bad team, the variance might help. is a very bad team likely to convert key short yardage plays at a 60% clip? if they could, do they really want an extra 0.1 wins to bump down their draft status?

(2) 'points off the board': akers may be good from 30-39 for his career at an 88% clip, but depending on the spot of the hold, the actual kick would have been from 39 or 40 yards out, not a particularly ideal representative of the '30-39' range. from 40-49, Akers isn't quite 70% for his career, and at 38 years old, he probably isn't up to 'average Akers' standard anymore. a holding penalty, and the 9ers are 50 yards out, where Akers has hit at a 6-of-15 clip since 2005 (including the one he had just made). the 49ers O is currently ranked 31st in the league; the chance of a drive that went nowhere or even lost yardage was pretty good. in terms of clock burning, drives that basically start in the red zone aren't going to do much.

even a TD is still only a 2-score lead; taking the penalty meant a pretty significant chance of walking away with a 1-score lead. where taking the field goal meant a 100% chance of a 2-score lead midway through the 4th of a game your D has controlled.

i agree that he should have taken the penalty, but i don't think it's as easy a choice as made out. further, after watching the rosencopter it's hard not to understand why an NFL coach would avoid putting his trust in a bad QB when he had pretty good odds of winning without trusting his QB.

44
by nat :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 1:12pm

The wear and tear issue is an interesting thought. Points/Play averages around 0.33 around the league. You'd need to score on a 2-point conversion 66% of the time to be worth the wear on your "skill" players, if that's the only consideration.

Since you'd only use this strategy if you believed you had a better than 50% of success anyway, I'm guessing wear and tear is a very minor consideration. It may even reduce your injury risk by giving you the occasional meaningless drive at the end of games.

43
by c0rrections (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 12:21pm

"Honestly, I don't think there's much time for strategy in the game itself. You just don't have enough time to weigh all the options fully"

I think you just made Clauswitz spin in his grave. It depends on where you want to make the demarcation line between strategy and tactics but assuming macro-game planning is strategy I think there are definitely shifts to the overall plan and therefore strategic shifts that occur in game. Just because you don't have time to weigh all of the options doesn't make it none strategic. You don't necessarily have time to weigh all of the options in war strategy either at a given point and that doesn't make it non-strategic.

52
by Wikitorix (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 10:37pm

Not just Clausewitz. Very often, victory goes to the one who makes the quickest decisions, not who makes the best ones.

45
by Temo :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 1:26pm

The relevant variance consideration decreases the more TDs you score (because you have more trials for the 2 point conversion)-- or so you'd think (as it turns out, the 2 point/1 point thing makes having an odd number of TDs a riskier proposition). Success on a 2 point conversion is binomial, so a simple binomial distribution would give you the chances of at least duplicating the expected point value from kicking XPs vs. going for two.

For instance, if you score 2 touchdowns and go for 2 every time with a probability of success of 50%, then 25% of the time you'll get 0 points, 50% of the time you'll get 2 points, and 25% of the time you'll get 4 points. So 75% of the time, you'll have the same result or better as if you'd kicked PATs.

Here's a table summing all that up:

% Success Trials (TDs) Chance of Loss Chance of Gain
0.5 1 50% 50%
0.5 2 25% 25%
0.5 3 50% 50%
0.5 4 31% 31%
0.5 5 50% 50%
0.55 1 45% 55%
0.55 2 20% 30%
0.55 3 43% 57%
0.55 4 24% 39%
0.55 5 41% 59%
0.6 1 40% 60%
0.6 2 16% 36%
0.6 3 35% 65%
0.6 4 18% 48%
0.6 5 32% 68%

46
by drobviousso :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 1:33pm

But you also have a decision point after the second touch down to go PAT or 2 point attempt, and that decision can include the outcome of the first 2 point attempt.

47
by Temo :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 1:42pm

Not relevant here, as I'm talking only variance of decision making, not the decision making itself. Essentially I'm talking about how much of chance of success you'd need (and how many trials) to make going for two not only a point maximizing exercise (which is, obviously, anything >50% success), but also with a low enough variance for a coach to consider it.

What you're talking about is covered in all the "go for two" charts out there, especially those that use game data to calculate probability of winning depending on the decision made.

48
by are-tee :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 3:09pm

I think Sapgnuolo also deserves recognition for kicking three field goals on 4th and short from inside the Giants' 10-yard line.

49
by Marko :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 3:47pm

I didn't see the game, but based on the information above, I understand Harbaugh's decision and would have kept the points on the board like he did. That's probably based on years of experience as a fan of a team that usually has been very good defensively and mediocre to bad offensively. With 10 minutes to go, I would rather be up 10 points (forcing the opponent to score twice to tie or take the lead) than be up only 7 with a first down at the 22 yard line and the opportunity to burn some more time off the clock and possibly score a TD or still kick a field goal. Because in that situation, especially after taking points off the board, I would be worried about committing a turnover, which not only could stop you from scoring, but could be a pick-6 or a scoop and score. I also would be worried about a blocked field goal, which could be returned for a TD. So you could quicly go from being up 10 to being tied (or being down 1 if the opponent goes for 2 and succeeds).

So I don't think this decision can be made without considering the strength or weakness of your offense, your defense, and those of your opponent. If you have a defense like the 1985 Bears or 2000 Ravens, I definitely would say keep the points on the board and just protect your 10 point lead (especially if your offense is as feeble as the 2000 Ravens or if you have a mistake-prone QB). But if your defense is terrible and you have a good offense, then I would keep the ball and go for the TD.

P.S. As I type this, they are talking about DeAngelo Hall on ESPN and showing his pick 6 against the Bears last year. That play came in the third quarter with the Bears ahead by 4 points and in the red zone. After that play and the ensuing PAT, they were down 3 points, and neither team scored again. I remember thinking just before that third down play (I think it was third and 8) that we needed to do something safe and, if nothing was wide open, take the field goal and go up by 7 against a Redskins team that was very weak offensively.

53
by BigDerf :: Fri, 09/23/2011 - 8:21pm

Points off the board doesn't makes sense.

If the penalty had occurred on 3rd down... you would take it 1000000% of the time....But suddenly after you hit the kick you don't want the penalty?

If you had a 1st down on the 30...you would never kick a field goal when up with that much time on the clock, so why take the points?

It make 0 sense to not take the first down there. Permutations of what might happen are stupid because they work both ways. Yeah you might turn it over, but you are far more likely to just take another 3 or possibly get 7 if you just run the ball 3 times at the line (in this case... with FRANK GORE).

You can't assume the worst on offense just because you just made a field goal you didn't keep. It's playing to not lose the game... not to win the game. I hate the Patriots... But Would Belichick ever take the points off the board? No... Because he's trying to win the game... not not lose the game.

54
by Subrata Sircar :: Tue, 09/27/2011 - 6:40am

I'll go for two virtually every time when ownership won't fire me until after my team has scored 100 touchdowns. More seriously, coaches are risk-averse for a variety of reasons, one of which is the risk of losing your job on small-sample-size, results-based evaluation, rather than long-term or process-based evaluation.

55
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 09/28/2011 - 8:38am

Ok, but what about Belichick? Or to a significant extent Tomlin, Payton or McCarthy? I'd say those guys would have to have a pretty extraordinary stretch of bad luck for going for two (or going for it on fourth down, or what have you) to get them fired.

My (insane) theory: going for two is so marginal that it's not worth worrying about, but there is an elaborate league-wide conspiracy barring coaches from adopting the never punt strategy because the massive increase in run:pass ratio it would cause would drive away viewers.