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Monday, February 2, 2015

Conventional wisdom with the championship at stake: throwing on the one yard line.

Last night the National Football League (NFL) championship game turned on such a play with less than a minute to play.  Yes, football uses a clock.  Immediately there was a rush to judgement about the coach's play calling.

The Baseball Equivalent of Throwing on the One Yard Line
by Dave Cameron - February 2, 2015  fangraphs.com

I’m probably a bit more sympathetic to the Seahawks play call than the national response, but I don’t know football or game theory well enough to say that it was justifiable.
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Good job by Dave Cameron trying to put the football situation into a baseball context, which proved to be impossible.  The clock makes the difference.

Today ​I saw the game winning New England interception broken down from a wider sideline view.​  It was a good call by Seattle.  The rookie defensive back made an even better play than I had thought Sunday.  Plus he held the ball for the interception, which defenders often do not, especially with such a hard collision.  The mistake was Seattle head coach Pete Caroll not being defiant to the knee jerk reaction after his team had lost.

I also saw replays of Seattle's monster fullback Marshawn Lynch stopped on all but one of his attempts this season from the one yard line.  And what if Lynch had fumbled against a defense stacked to stop him?

We're always criticising a coach/manager for following conventional wisdom to avoid criticism,  This is why they do.

In the late 1980s Jim Mora. Sr. was an NFL head coach.  I saw him on TV speaking at a press conference.  No, not the one where he's asked about his team making the "playoffs" and he repeats the word as a question with incredulity.  In this other one Mora becomes disgusted with the questions and he tells the writers: "You think you know the game ... but you don't".  The room got strangely quiet.  It was apparent to me that they all knew that he had called their bluff.  That when they speak or ask questions, they have only a very simple understanding of what the coaches know.  That's why New England coach Bill Belichick has difficulty hiding his disdain for the media, which incurs their wrath at any provocation, big or small.

So the next person you hear telling you with certainty that Seattle should have simply run the ball ... consider how much any of us really know.

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