December 28, 2016


Why NFL Coaches Take No Chances : Rex Ryan, fired on Tuesday, stuck with a conservative style that most math experts say doesn't add up but remains the league norm. (MICHAEL SALFINO and  JIM CHAIRUSMI, Dec. 27, 2016, WSJ)

A Wall Street Journal analysis of NFL play calling this season shows that--despite a legion of mathematicians, economists and win probability models urging them to take more chances--most of the league's coaches still reach for the conventional choice by habit.

The Journal analysis examines how coaches played their hand this season across three broad categories of game management: fourth downs; play calling (blitzing on defense; passing on early downs or with the lead on offense) and special teams (going for a 2-point conversion and onside kicks when ahead).

Since the data in the analysis is relative to what average coaches did in each situation, it didn't take much to stand out.

The analysis shows that the four most aggressive coaches are on track to guide teams to the playoffs--the New York Giants' Ben McAdoo, Detroit's Jim Caldwell, Green Bay's Mike McCarthy and Atlanta's Dan Quinn. Eight of the top 10 most risk-averse coaches, will watch the playoffs from home.

University of Pennsylvania professor Cade Massey, who researches behavior and judgment, said many NFL coaches habitually choose to postpone the certainty of losing in football for as long as possible--even if doing so actually lowers the odds of losing in the end, such as opting to punt on fourth-and-short in overtime.

The best example of the mystifying conformity among the NFL's head coaches occurs in the fourth quarter when a team is losing by two possessions--between nine and 16 points (factoring in the chance for 2-point conversions)--with more than four minutes remaining. On 4th and 10 yards or less outside of their opponent's 40-yard line, teams punt 80% of the time-- 32 times in 40 chances.

Strangely, when faced with fourth and five or less, coaches opt to punt about as frequently (9 times out of 12). The New York Jets' Todd Bowles has been in the latter situation three times this year and punted each time.

It's an uninteresting sport to begin with, made worse by the low skill levels, shoddy officiating, and abysmal coaching.

Posted by at December 28, 2016 5:29 AM