September 01, 2002

Economics Professor to NFL Coaches: GO FOR IT!: "Despite its weighty title and intimidating volume of data, Romer's conclusions are fairly simple: Coaches should gamble more on fourth down, not just in scoring territory but from nearly every spot on the field, even in situations such as fourth-and-3 from their own 10." Of course, there's a new coach in the league who says: "I've always believed that if you play a lot of close games, you're going to lose your share. Teams that kick a lot of field goals, they don't go real far, it seems like." (here's a PDF of the paper in question)

posted by owillis to football at 02:07 PM - 12 comments

Since you appear to be the resident expert here, owillis, has the game changed in recent years to favour one side over the other? Are defences now bigger and harder when it comes to challenging fourth downs, or are offences faster and smarter? (It seems, from my distant observation, that the days of grotesquely huge defensive lines appears to have given way to more agile players. And that trick plays are back in fashion, too.)

posted by etagloh at 04:41 PM on September 01, 2002

Whether Romer's conclusions are correct or not, maybe this will influence a few coaches to try conversions where they previously would not. They certainly make games alot more exciting for the fans and are great momentum and confidence builders for the teams.

posted by ttrendel at 06:07 PM on September 01, 2002

Romer points something out that applies in just about every sport. When a coach takes a risk that doesn't come off, he will get slaughtered by the fans and the media. No matter that it might be the "logical" thing to do, the coach often seems to take the safe option for his own protection.

posted by salmacis at 06:35 PM on September 01, 2002

salmacis hits on a very important point: job security. Few fans will gripe much for a coach choosing a field goal on a 4th and 1 on the 5 yard line. They will respect the coaches decision to kick. But if he went on 4th down and it failed, fans would be yelling that the team came away with nothing. Then there's the psychological momentum. A team that drives 80+ yards, goes for it on fourth down, and fails may be demoralized since all that work resulted in zero points. Context and psychology are really, really hard to incorporate into dynamic programming.

posted by shackbar at 12:05 AM on September 02, 2002

I don't think much has changed lately to make this more or less viable. I do think that some coaches can be ridiculously cautious, which can result in a very boring game. For instance, when Schottenheimer coached the Redskins last year I learned how boring even a win could be. The 'Skins were up in the fourth quarter and the guy next to me said "Be cool if we throw another touchdown". I replied "don't hold your breath". True to form, Schottenheimer - ran, ran, ran, ran the ball ragged until time ran out. He also had the annoying habit of taking a knee going into halftime. HALFTIME. For God's sake if you're at the 50, just chuck it up in the end zone and see what can happen, at least pretend like you want to win the damn thing. I guarantee that if the 'Skins go 8-8 under Spurrier it'l be a hell of a lot more entertaiing than Marty's 8-8. One coach who gambles quite succesfully is Martz, though with his personnel you can gamble quite well.

posted by owillis at 12:36 AM on September 02, 2002

And didn't you just capture the gist of the question, owillis? Does a successful team have more to gain through conversions? Is coach or consumer confidence more important? Does dismissal have more to do with record than public opinion? Are trick plays on the rise? If so, is it because of the growing complexity of the league or is it because of a sudden surge of multi-faceted players? Why are mobile, large quarterbacks getting attention now, while Randall Cunningham was ignored as a physical quarterback. He wan't quicksilver, but he had the power to fight out of the pocket. i.e. Why is football is evolving? Why can't it be stagnant like baseball?

posted by ttrendel at 03:33 AM on September 02, 2002

Actually, you can make the same comparison. Yes, football quarterbacks have become much more athletic. Meanwhile, baseball players are much bigger and stronger than they were even 10 years ago. Nothing stagnant about that.

posted by justgary at 04:53 AM on September 02, 2002


posted by tieguy at 09:16 AM on September 03, 2002

I know! Imagine how weak we are, if even big O is not reading 3 days back!

posted by djacobs at 11:39 AM on September 03, 2002

Throw him out of the pantheon!

posted by tieguy at 02:02 PM on September 03, 2002

Hysteical blindness. Yeah, that's it.

posted by owillis at 01:18 AM on September 04, 2002

I was just trying to figure where I had seen this before...

posted by tj at 02:52 PM on September 04, 2002

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