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End of Game Rant - Patriots vs Falcons
September
30th 2013 - Old Man Winner

This whole idea of "doing whatever you can to stay alive in a game until the last play" has gone way off the rails!!! I can't stand it anymore. This idea that its always wise to kick a field goal on 4th down, when down 10 points, so that you don't "lose" the game at that point, is outright stupid, in many cases!!! A LOSS IS A LOSS. It doesn't matter at what point in the game you made a decision that cost you the game. The only thing that matters is the final score! What ever happened to coaches taking a chance to WIN a game???

Yesterday, late in the NE/ATL game, the Falcon's coach Mike Smith followed this "new" logic, like most teams do now, only to lose later in the game rather than earlier. I realize there is no such thing as "losing later vs. earlier", I'm just using that misleading terminology to prove the point.

I understand the underlying logic, and if executed properly it is sound. However, it has now reached a point where purportedly "smart" coaches cannot assess when this strategy should be executed and when it shouldn't be.

Here was the situation in yesterday's game : Atlanta is down 10 points. They have marched down the field and have a 4th and 1 at the New England 7 yard line with exactly 3:00 minutes to go in the game and at least two of their three timeouts remaining. Mike Smith chooses to kick a field goal playing by the adage "to always choose to bring your team to within one score and never risk 'losing' the game before time runs out."

I'll bet if you ask most fans with common sense to objectively assess which situation would provide the better likelihood of success (scoring 10 points) given these two situations, most would choose option A.
Given: down 10 points, 3 minutes to go and 3 timeouts remaining:
A) Go for it on 4th and 1 from the 7 yd line. If you convert, try to score a TD, then you only need a field goal to tie.
B) Kick field goal and then try to get the ball back and score a TD

I agree with the general philosophy to kick the field goal early when, and only when, you assess that the odds of converting that "losing" play are worse than the likelihood of converting the likely end of game plays. In other words, if it were 4th and 10 from the 20 yd line it becomes a no-brainer to kick the field goal because the odds of converting a 4th and 10 are equally as low or lower than anything you will likely face if you get the ball back and have to convert a 4th down then. However, when you have a 4th and 1, the success rate of converting will most likely be a lot higher than the 4th downs (or last play given an expiring clock) you will likely need to convert later in the game. Also, if you convert on 4th down there, then scoring a TD from the 7 yd line is likely much higher than the distance from which you will need to convert later in the game.

I also realize that the clock comes into play on these decisions as well. The adage uses the clock argument to support the field goal decision by stating that it will leave more time on the clock for getting a TD later. But, I believe its simply pay me now or pay me later. If I can take a little more time now and increase my chances of getting the TD, and very possibly using less time to do it than I might use later, then shouldn't that be deemed the better decision?

The funny thing is, these decisions are now so ingrained in the coaching playbook that I don't even hear these decisions being challenged anymore - by the fans or the analysts. For some reason everyone is drinking the Kool-aid on this foolishness. What good is "being in the game until the end" if it gives you a lower overall success rate of winning. This certainly sounds like politicking to me. As a coach if i can say we were in it until the last play, then maybe that buys me more support from the ownership of the team. Hogwash! If I was an owner I would always be instructing my coach to make the decisions that give our team the best chance to win, NOT to make sure the team is within one score when the final second clicks off the clock. Sheesh - just having to explain this is raising my blood pressure. C'mon, man!

This is just one of several decisions in the current coaching playbook that is inherently wrong and will be corrected someday when the right coach comes along, with the right sized gonads, and the right data to show to the masses. And when this time does come, this coach will be deemed a "genius", when in fact, it will actually be that all the others before him just refused to understand the data and/or didn't have the balls to make some tough calls. And, when that day comes, I will also find it pleasurably ironic when the "genius" pulls a page from the playbook and states, "hey, I'm not a genius, I'm simply trying to give my team the best chance to win."

 
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