Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

You Play to Win The Game! (Unless You’re a Football Coach)

Posted by flyingbk on 09/12/2016

If you’re even a casual football fan, you remember the following rant. Take it away, Herm:

 

Sadly, in today’s NFL, this truism is not true. Rare is the NFL coach that actually seeks to win the game. In abundant supply is the coach who abhors risking any kind of failure and opts for the safer option.

Take the Giants/Cowboys game yesterday. The Giants were up a point, 20-19. They now faced a 4th and 1 at the Dallas 37 with 1:12 left and the Cowboys out of timeouts. Convert the first down, and it’s victory formation time. Instead, the Giants chose to punt and put the game in the hands of their defense.

The conventional wisdom is to punt, and of course, Mr. CW himself, Troy Aikman espoused it. (Pro tip: Whatever Aikman supports is the wrong strategy 99% of the time.) The CW is certifiably insane, and completely wrong.

The game’s current rules make it ridiculously easy to march a good chunk of yardage in a short period of time in order to attempt a field goal. It happened in SIX different games already in Week 1: Panthers/Broncos, Raiders/Saints, Bengals/Jets, Lions/Colts, Patriots/Cardinals, and Giants/Cowboys. Now, the Lions were the only team to actually convert their game-winning try since the Panthers, Saints, and Cardinals all missed on their kicks. And Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a game-ending interception that gave Jets fans a bad case of deja vu. And we all know how the Giants/Cowboys game ended.

But, let’s take a step back. Today’s kickers are more accurate than ever before. The chances of the Panthers and Cardinals kickers to make their attempts were easily over 50%. If Terrance Williams properly makes a beeline for the sideline, the Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey is attempting about a 60-yard field goal. Quite a long distance, sure, but Bailey is one of the accurate kickers in NFL history and had perfectly split the uprights with room to spare on a 56-yard attempt in the 2nd quarter. Also, if Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar had been able to get out of bounds earlier in the drive, there would’ve been more time to get closer (basically, the Giants were saved by not one, but two Cowboys who displayed utter lack of game awareness).

You have one yard to get. You have a solid back in Rashad Jennings, and an offensive line that was winning the battles at the line of scrimmage. Shoot, forget running, you have Eli Manning and three receivers who had little trouble getting open. Instead, not only did the Giants punt, but they punted without any pushback from the announcers calling the game or any outcry on social media. And they only gained a measly 17 yards of field position as the punt sailed harmlessly into the end zone (courtesy of Giants punter Brad Wing, who had already failed to land two punts inside the 20-yard line).

So it came down to two choices: Gain a measly yard for 100% guaranteed victory, or rely on a shaky defense (that had rarely succeeded in applying quarterback pressure) and hope that an All-Pro kicker misses (or hope that a Cowboys receiver screws up, I suppose). And everyone’s impulse is to opt for the latter.

That’s insanity. But that is the state of football coaching (and fandom) in 2016. Disappointment management, don’t try to win the game, hope and defense as the best strategy in a league that actively seeks to give offenses as much an advantage as possible.

I’ll write more tomorrow about how pervasive disappointment management is in sports managing and coaching, and why. But for now, let me say that Jack del Rio is my new favorite NFL coach.

 

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One Response to “You Play to Win The Game! (Unless You’re a Football Coach)”

  1. […] « You Play to Win The Game! (Unless You’re a Football Coach) […]

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