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PlayaHata

Optimal football strategy article

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Just read this article in the newest Esquire, "The Genius Issue". I found it very interesting.

:D

 

ZEUS Football

 

 

It's three main findings...

 

1) Always (almost) go for it on 4th and short

 

2) Use the onside kick much more frequently

 

3) In kicking, strength trumps accuracy

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and ZEUS can envision a hundred thousand or more play simulations in a matter of seconds.

 

Why do I think that some QB's would have a problem keeping up with a hundred thousand plays? :D

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Just read a little more of the article in detail, and the developers of ZEUS have a website, Pigskin Revolution where they provide analysis of play-calling decisions during the NFL season. Click on "2006 Commentary".

 

Coming from a Colts fan, they had a nice writeup on the Patriots/Colts game from two weeks ago.

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1) Always (almost) go for it on 4th and short

 

TMQ has been touting this forever.

 

In fact, TMQ makes a compelling argument to NEVER punt in situations of any 4th down of 5yds or less even when in your own territory. This doesn't mean forego FGs in enemy territory. The average play from scrimmage is something like 5 or 6yds even for 'bad' teams. Also it would bring a different tempo to the game... yeah you may give the opposing team the ball in your own territory but if a FG or TD results (which is a big if because lots of things can happen on any possession even when a score seems certain) you'd get the ball back that much sooner and your D would more likely to have more gas in the tank in the 4th b/c they didn't have to be on the field every other possession for long drives of 50+yds, 5-6+mins. Almost like playing football the way the Suns play b-ball.

 

Not saying it would work but the NFL is such a copycat league. Teams' game management decisions become very predicable. If a coach/team came along and did something like this and had success, they'd look like geniuses and be touted for changing the game. :D

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What I don't get is why these things are viewed by most as being counter-intuitive?

 

These calls have always been frustrating for me to watch ... 4th and 2 from the opponents 41 yardline ... and you're punting? Why?

 

:shakeshead:

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What I don't get is why these things are viewed by most as being counter-intuitive?

 

These calls have always been frustrating for me to watch ... 4th and 2 from the opponents 41 yardline ... and you're punting? Why?

 

:shakeshead:

 

 

I'm not that smart of a guy, but I'm guessing that driving 80 yards (or hopefully more) is more difficult than driving 59 yards???

Edited by scuba chuck

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Sure, driving 80 yards is more difficult than driving 59 yards ... but, probabilistically, the team that punted would have made a 1st down on a 4th and 2 say 40% of the time ... so, yes, 60% of the time, they punt, but 40% of the time, they keep marching ...

 

... and, with a 1st down from the 39 yard line, I'd guess that teams are lots more likely to score a FG (say 70% of the time) or a TD (say 20% of the time) than they are to lose the ball without scoring (say 10% of the time) ...

 

... so, by going for it, they have a 40% chance of scoring and a 60% chance of giving it up on downs ... and if they make it they have a statistical chance of making 3.5 points (70% of 3pts for a FG, plus 20% chance of getting 7pts for a TD and PAT) ... and, 40% of 3.5 points is 1.4 points.

 

In sum, by going for it on 4th and 2 from the opponents 41, a team would make 1.4 points every time they do it when done over several seasons (i.e., with a large sample size).

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In sum, by going for it on 4th and 2 from the opponents 41, a team would make 1.4 points every time they do it when done over several seasons (i.e., with a large sample size).

 

 

Ok, so we think alike. I'm not going to check your math 'cos it doesn't matter. The only potential flaw in your above analysis, is what are you giving up to gain that? For example, let's assume your math is 100% accurate. But we're not taking into consideration the fact that when we turn it over, we might be giving up a number greater than 1.4 pts.

 

A similar analogy might be made with a card game like cribbage. Strategically deciding what you throw in your opponents crib is a critical decision. For example, let's say you have a hand like TTA478. (T= ten or any face card, A = ace). Clearly, tossing the 78 into the crib gives us the most points now, but the 78 is a powder keg in potential points for your opponent. Thus it might be wiser to accept fewer points now to avoid that potential larger loss. Hope that makes sense...

 

Again, I like your thought process about your math/analysis. It was well thought out (again, no idea if it's right/wrong or even close).

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I'm pretty sure my math is wrong ... but the logic is sound.

 

It would make sense that if the expected value of having a 1st down from the opponents 39 yard line is 1.4 points, that the opposition would have a much smaller expected value of having the ball at their own 41 if I failed on my 4th down and 2 conversion attempt.

 

PS - I have only played cribbage two or three times in my life, and none in the last 20 years...

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I'm pretty sure my math is wrong ... but the logic is sound.

 

It would make sense that if the expected value of having a 1st down from the opponents 39 yard line is 1.4 points, that the opposition would have a much smaller expected value of having the ball at their own 41 if I failed on my 4th down and 2 conversion attempt.

 

PS - I have only played cribbage two or three times in my life, and none in the last 20 years...

 

 

There just are additional factors yet not considered in your math. For example, what is the expected value of punting and playing position? That answer along with my other comment about the negative expected value of turning over on downs is what needs to be compared against your 1.4 number.

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the game is more than math. it's largely based on emotions. momentum is huge in sports and especially in football. As an example, take the Monday night Giants -Bears game. The giants D looked inpenetrable until that T Jones 3rd and 22 run and the momentum completely shifted. If teams miss on 4th down, the momentum could easily switch in an instant. Also, consider plays like this have a home crowd and it even further impacts momentum.

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This is clearly a case of not understanding the game theory of football and looking at football as a numbers game. It's not their fault - they don't know any better and have a lot in common with a lot of football fans.

 

Football is not primarily a game of scoring, it is a battle of field position. Better field position enhances the probability of a team's ability to score. The other part of the equation left out is that of the team function of the game and the effect of emotion on the play of the game.

 

Going for first down on fourth down a lot more may net more first downs, but it also entails the risk of giving up 35-45 yards in field position as well as a significant emotional boost to the opponent if a team goes for it and doesn't make it. That difference doesn't justify the risk of going for more fourth down conversions. The field position can be translated directly to points and the emotional differential, which while not tangible, is very real for anyone who has played the game & understands the dynamics of the human emotional factors.

 

The same thing goes for the onside kick. The risk of gaining the ball for an additional possession is far outweighed by allowing the other offense to start its drive on the postive side of the 50 yard line, which translates directly into points. The emotional differential between recovering an onside kick & losing an onside kick is huge to each side. Their "conservative" recovery rate of 25% means that 75% of the time the onside kick is the exact equivalent of a team losing a fumble on its own 45 yd line - which is a disaster in terms of field position & the other team's ability to score from that point on the field when starting a drive, not to mention the extreme emotional sway.

 

As far as strength in kicking, now it seems to grasp the field position concepts that it didn't in the previous 2 items, but neglects to allow for teams that carry kickoff specialists or use their punter to kick off because of leg strength. In short - coaches have understood this concept long before Zeus "discovered" it.

 

Pretty poor article, IMNSHO.

 

Post edit - if these guys are math geniuses, how come they don't have the hard data ond percenatges on the recovery rate of onside kicks? The sample size over the past 30-40 years ought to be sufficient to determine a recovery rate if they were serious about their pronouncements.

Edited by Bronco Billy

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Pretty poor article, IMNSHO.

 

When have you ever had a humble opinion?

 

:oldrazz:

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There just are additional factors yet not considered in your math. For example, what is the expected value of punting and playing position? That answer along with my other comment about the negative expected value of turning over on downs is what needs to be compared against your 1.4 number.

 

 

Also, consider the potential (that ATL tried for a while this year, and DAL used successfully w/ Danny White) of having a player from another position kick the ball, freeing up a roster spot for another player.

 

If, say (and I don't know, I'm pulling this out of my butt), teams typically have ten posessions in a game. Say they score on three of them (whether FGs or TDs) on average and lose two to fumbles or INTs (again on average)...resulting in five punts.

 

Let's say that they go for it on three of those five drives until they either turn it over or score, requiring only two punts a game (average) ... and the PK (or backup QB, or whomever) can handle that ... allowing the team to carry another player at another position. What's that worth to a team?

 

When it's all said and done, we (as fans) b|tch and moan about clock management ... and there hasn't been really any new thinking on the subject for some time.

 

Yeah, I get the emotional swing ... but, it can be used in your favor too.

 

Say you're getting schellacked ... this is your fourth posession (the first three were all punts, including two drives of 'three and out' and one drive that only had one first down) and you're down 13-0 at the middle of the 2nd quarter. It's 4th and 1 from the opposing 47 yard line. If you go for it, you've given up good field position and are facing the potential for being down three posessions. However, if you make it, you have a decent chance of turning the tide and if you can get another 10 yards or so, you have a chance of at least trying for a FG.

 

.....

 

Has anyone ever looked at what the opposing teams typically do after one team misses a long FG, say over 50 yards? That should be fairly similar to going for it on 4th down and not making it from just over the 50 yard line...

Edited by muck

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Their "conservative" recovery rate of 25% means that 75% of the time the onside kick is the exact equivalent of a team losing a fumble on its own 45 yd line - which is a disaster in terms of field position & the other team's ability to score from that point on the field when starting a drive, not to mention the extreme emotional sway.

 

 

While I don't necessarily disagree with you conclusion, this statement is completely inaccurate.

Losing a fumble occurs when you have control of the ball.

On a kickoff, you are already giving up control of the ball by rule.

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While I don't necessarily disagree with you conclusion, this statement is completely inaccurate.

Losing a fumble occurs when you have control of the ball.

On a kickoff, you are already giving up control of the ball by rule.

 

 

I apologize for the confusion - I meant the comment in terms of field position regarding starting a drive. You are right, of course.

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The average play from scrimmage is something like 5 or 6yds even for 'bad' teams.

 

This is the funny thing about statistics. I remember my old college stats prof saying something like statisically speaking, more crime is committed in cities with more police officers. Therefore, cities should have less police officers so they'll have less crime. Or something like that.

 

Anyway, the (assumed) fact that the average play from scrimmage gains 5 yards does not mean you should go for it on 4th & 2. Since offenses and defenses run different plays in different situations, the overall average from scrimmage is largely irrelevant. You'd need to examine the average gain on short-yardage plays against short-yardage defenses to gain better insight.

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This is the funny thing about statistics. I remember my old college stats prof saying something like statisically speaking, more crime is committed in cities with more police officers. Therefore, cities should have less police officers so they'll have less crime. Or something like that.

 

Anyway, the (assumed) fact that the average play from scrimmage gains 5 yards does not mean you should go for it on 4th & 2. Since offenses and defenses run different plays in different situations, the overall average from scrimmage is largely irrelevant. You'd need to examine the average gain on short-yardage plays against short-yardage defenses to gain better insight.

 

 

Good point.

 

Here's another one: The worst starter, or any starter that has been benched this season, has a yards per pass attempt of 4.7 yds or better.

 

If it takes 10 yds to get a first down and a team has four downs to get it, logic dictates that at a very worst possible 4.7 ypa that teams should pass on every down including 4th down, knowing that they'll gain a minimum average gain of 18.8 yds for every 4 downs. That's easily enough to gain a first down every 4 attempts almost every set of downs, even with a 5 yd penalty thrown in. A coach might be a risk taker and try to get a 1st down on 4 throws if his team were caught for holding, but then he could always just punt immediately after any holding call & hope the other team gets 10 yds in penalties or worse in one of their 4 down sets or turns the ball over, or otherwise it would just be reasonable to concede a TD & just have the other team kickoff.

 

Valid strategy, right?

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Going for first down on fourth down a lot more may net more first downs, but it also entails the risk of giving up 35-45 yards in field position as well as a significant emotional boost to the opponent if a team goes for it and doesn't make it. That difference doesn't justify the risk of going for more fourth down conversions. The field position can be translated directly to points and the emotional differential, which while not tangible, is very real for anyone who has played the game & understands the dynamics of the human emotional factors.

 

The same thing goes for the onside kick. The risk of gaining the ball for an additional possession is far outweighed by allowing the other offense to start its drive on the postive side of the 50 yard line, which translates directly into points. The emotional differential between recovering an onside kick & losing an onside kick is huge to each side. Their "conservative" recovery rate of 25% means that 75% of the time the onside kick is the exact equivalent of a team losing a fumble on its own 45 yd line - which is a disaster in terms of field position & the other team's ability to score from that point on the field when starting a drive, not to mention the extreme emotional sway.

 

well first of all, let me just agree with everything wedgie said about the intellectual content of this post.

 

but let's pretend for a second that there really is some credence to the notion of "extreme emotional sway" within BB's theory of womanly football psychology. wouldn't you have to weigh that against the presumably extreme positive emotional sway on a team if they go for it on fourth down and convert (or recover an onside kick)? that enormous boost to their self-esteem has got to be worth at LEAST as much as stuart smalley telling them they're good enough, smart enough, and doggonenit, people like them.

 

so if the team is extremely deflated (:D) if they go for it on fourth and fail, won't they also be extremely pumped (:clap:) if they go for it and succeed? and wouldn't that bring it back, more or less, to the hard statistics? it seems as though you only want to account for the :bash:. i would expect perhaps an amateur, out-of-his-depth football psychologist like wiegie to forget to account for this :tup: factor, but for you, a true master of the motivations of the human mind....shame :D

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The field position can be translated directly to points and the emotional differential, which while not tangible, is very real for anyone who has played the game & understands the dynamics of the human emotional factors.

 

 

I believe you might give too much credence to emotional differentials in a given situation. Especially on the professional level.

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its not madden07 on playstation, its real nfl games were talking about here. any team would piss away more games following that strategy.

 

i do agree there are instances where more coaches should go for it, but not to that extent.

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well first of all, let me just agree with everything wedgie said about the intellectual content of this post.

Well, apparently my thread got deleted for some reason :oldrolleyes:

 

WW & DMD, what a freaking joke :D

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Mario Williams had a 4 yard average on a running play last year when he recovered a fumble. I don't know about you guys, but 4 x 4 is more than 10 yards: FIRST DOWN!

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