Monday, November 16, 2009

Hubris or Self-Knowledge [update]

The Patriots go for it on fourth down and two yards to go--on their own thirty yard line.  And Fail.  Colts get the ball back and easily score.  So, is this example of arrogance--that Coach Belichick just expected that his offense could pick up two yards? Or is it that he knew how tired his under-manned defense was?  His defense stopped Manning for most of the game, while losing players to various injuries.  But not during the fourth quarter.

I guess I have to go with the guy who brought us here.  That is, I have enjoyed watching the Patriots over the past ten years or so because I admire the high level of strategic thinking.  Belichick has out-thought his opponents most of the time, and even last night.  While he is capable of making mistakes (not just the ethical ones of taping his opponents or not taking injuries seriously), he clearly thought about it and weighed the difference of the gamble of going for it versus giving Manning sixty yards or so with one timeout.  And Belichick was going to going to get the blame for  the decision if it failed.  That takes a bit more guts than following convention. 

I will be interested to see what Gregg Easterbrook (ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback) says since he has long advocated going for it on fourth down, even in one's own end of the field.  But he also has problems with Belicheck's arrogance.  My bet is that the former sentiment will prevail, but, unlike Belichick, I have nothing at stake.

What would be the political equivalent?  Obama announcing either zero or forty thousand new troops for Afghanistan?  Taking a hard line either way will be a widely criticized gamble.

Update: The math suggests that Belichick made the right decision.  See here (basically what the TMQ has been saying for a few years) and here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced by these statistical arguments that the math validates Belichick's decision. It seems like a lot of the probabilities being cited are irrelevant. E.g. it is irrelevant what yardage the typical punt gets from that field position -what is relevant is the yardage the typical punt gets by that punter from that field position. Likewise, it is irrelevant what the typical probability of success is on 4th and 2 -what is relevant is what the probability of success is for that team with those players going against that specific defense in a clutch situation.

Simply applying aggregate historical data to argue for going for it in a specific situation seems incredibly lazy thinking.