Redskins-Saints Winners & Losers

moss-are-leapfrog.jpgWhere we hand out labels following each Skins game. Today’s case is a glorious 29-24 win over New Orleans

WINNERS: Jason Campbell — It don’t get no better than 67% completions and 8.9 yards/attempt, especially when you throw 36 times. He’s still slow on the trigger, but, unlike past games where he moved the ball but came up short (i.e. Dallas and Tampa Bay last year), this ended with a 67-yard game-winning bomb and 4th-and-2 game-clinching conversion. It was beautiful, and it’s what getting over the hump looks like.

Santana Moss — It was ‘Tana’s day from the start as he was catching balls all over the place and took a reverse for 27 yards. Then he caught those big ones at the end to remind us why he’s the most beloved WR in DC since 81.

LaRon Landry — Made superb back-to-back pass deflections to force the Saints to punt at a crucial point in the 4th. Looks very scary out there.

Cornelious Griffin — Got a huge sack to force 3rd-and-17 late in the 3rd. Looks like Forrest Whitaker. (Update: Also helped keep NO to 2.9 yards/rush.)

Clinton Portis — Another solid game, marking his sixth straight dating back to last year’s playoff run (Skins’ record during that stretch: 5-1).

Chris Horton — Rookie 7th-rounder with dreads starts for a sick Reed Doughty, recovers a fumble and makes two picks. (Shout-out to LFB Rocky, Smoot and Evans on the forced fumble and deflections that led to those.)

Jason Taylor — First sack! Not hurt!

Chris Cooley — Nice bounce-back game. (Update: Um, maybe not.)

brunell-saints.jpgLOSERS: Jim Zorn — The Redskins score a TD with five minutes left in the third to make it 17-15 Saints. Zorn goes for two, which is obviously, unspeakably dumb. The Skins fail to convert, and the Saints score a TD to go up nine, which means Washington’s down two scores rather than one. The Skins then score a TD to make it 24-21 with six minutes left in the fourth. If they’d have kicked an extra point to begin with they could’ve been going for two to tie. Lucky for Zorn Star, they wound up stopping New Orleans on the next series and dropping that Campbell-to-Moss bomb the series thereafter. Otherwise we’re all talking about what a horse’s ass the new guy is.

Antwaan Randle El — The fumbled punt return was just a killer, giving all the momentum to New Orleans and handing them easy points. Remember, Washington signed ARE in large part because of his return skills, yet he was one of the NFL’s worst punt returners last year.

Durant Brooks — Another tough game for the kid as he botched the hold on a gimme FG, his first punt was returned for a TD and he later shanked a 28-yarder. Ouch. (Update: Hey, at least Frost sucked too.)

“The Killer B’s” — As if a Brian Baldinger booth couldn’t get any worse, you go and add Brian Billick. Thanks, FOX! And the robots still do it for me!

Carlos Rogers — Earned an easy unnecessary roughness flag by throwing a WR to the ground way out of bounds.

Shawn Springs — Why was he playing that short zone on Meachem’s TD?

NEXT: Arizona at Washington Sunday 9/21, 1 p.m. ET

49 thoughts on “Redskins-Saints Winners & Losers”

  1. “Chris Horton — Rookie 7th-rounder with dreads starts for a sick Reed Doughty, recovers a fumble and makes two picks.”

    Well, that explains that. I had no clue why he was on the field so much (no audio of the Skins game in the bar). Of course, he had a better day than all of Doughty’s combined.

    But for real, how did we win that game? The Skins never win these type of games. We only those them in the most brutal, painful way possible. Down two scores with eight minutes left? This shit was ova.

  2. I am sorry I can not talk in depth too much about DC sports, but when it comes to my boy JC from War Eagle country, I knew he was going to do great.

    I believe that Jason Campbell will be the best QB the Skins have seen in a long time, and he loves to find his favorite receivers. Moss will continue to get the ball a lot, and Cooley needs to be open and he will find the ball. JC loves his check down receivers.

    Most people look at him and do not realize that he is a great field general. He DOES NOT make the big mistake. He understands who has the hot hands etc…

    I am sorry I am rambling, but I am happy for my boy.

    Carlos Rogers = I did not see the unnecessary roughness play, but I am sure that it was necessary :-) .

  3. Speaking of the Rogers’ 15 yarder, it was very, very iffy. He started tackling the receiver in bounds and just continued the tackle. It would’ve been hard to stop at that point.

    And yeah, this win helps silence some of the dumb fucking rednecks down here who constantly ask, “So, what ya think ’bout Campbell? He gun be any good or what?”

    Okay, I’m finished … for now.

  4. I sent a text to a buddy of mine in the first half saying that the Zorn Era resembled the Spurrier Era too much — no run blocking, too many throws and stupid penalties.

    But I also think that he improved dramatically in his playcalling this week. Nice misdirections, balls to go for the 1st down to kill the clock at the end, and the pump-fake handoff to Portis for his 2nd TD. The going for two sucked and was dumb, but redeemed himself by calling for Campbell to throw the bomb instead of staying safe.

    Liking Horton a lot. Good stuff.

  5. Long time reader…1st time poster….You are way wrong on this one duder…Brian Billick is one of the best color guys in the league right now…Yes, better than Madden, Simms, and Aikman…I’ve heard both his games now (last week Bucs vs. Saints), not just the Redskin one today. WHO AGREES WITH ME ON THIS ONE?????? As a former Washingtonian myself I used to roll with your takes and opinions, but you’ve missed the obvious lately Mr. Irrelevant….Is it because you have moved out of state?

  6. Wow that was a fun game. I didn’t see the roughness. It looked like he was letting him go as they went out of bounds. I’m not sure going for two was so awful. I liked it at the time (until they missed). My buddies thought it was better to go for one. Put it this way…I’d have gone for it in Madden. Rocky had a very good game. So did Chris Samuels (much improved over last week). Right side of the line was getting pushed around early on run plays, in fact…did we even try to run right in the second half? Nice to take step in the right direction with this game. AZ ain’t gonna be easy, unlike the Saints, they have wide receivers.

  7. I meant to mention this as well, but I agree with riley here: Billick is really good in the booth. At least, he was last week … as I mentioned, I didn’t have the audio for the Skins game yesterday. Maybe he regressed, or Baldinger’s stupidity wore off on him momentarily.

  8. Re: Billick — This is the first I’ve ever heard him call a game, and, for me, his boorish personality gets in the way. Plus he was soft on Zorn’s two-point conversion decision, even though it makes no sense to go for two unless you absolutely have to. I mean, there were 20 minutes left in the damn game. Ridiculous.

    Re: Rogers — If the tables were turned, and that had been a Saints corner throwing Moss to the ground well out of bounds, I’d be irate had there not been a flag. Seemed like an easy call to me.

  9. “I believe that Jason Campbell will be the best QB the Skins have seen in a long time, and he loves to find his favorite receivers. Moss will continue to get the ball a lot, and Cooley needs to be open and he will find the ball. JC loves his check down receivers.”

    Well, that isn’t that hard is it? Seriously, how many seasons of good quarterbacking has D.C. seen since 1990? Two? Three?

    Campbell looked pretty good though, I was impressed that he found eight different receivers in the first half.

  10. #1: Randal El leapfrogging 5’10 Santana Moss is the best Redskins end zone celebration since THE FUN BUNCH. (and almost makes up for that awful fumble on the PR)

    #2: Suisham was good on the kickoffs, but he did miss more field goals Sunday than Moseley did in his entire ’82 MVP season.

    #3: Don’t see going for 2 in the 3rd quarter as epically stupid. You’d still need to go for 2 later on, going for it early at least you know what you need.

    #4: Horton is on pace to break the team single-season interceptions record (13 by Dan Sandifer in 1948)

    #5: We need more Redskins with dreads, and not to give away 14 points on special teams.

  11. Re: Suisham — Relative to last year, his kickoffs were amazing. And the only missed FG that was his fault was a 49-yarder, I believe. So he gets a push.

    Re: Going for two — There’s a less than 50% chance of converting. Meaning you average less than 1 point per attempt. Meaning you take the extra point every single time unless you know for sure that you need those two points.

  12. “The Skins fail to convert, and the Saints score a TD to go up nine, which means Washington’s down two scores rather than one.”

    This is a silly way to look at it though; of course it looks dumb *after* they don’t convert it. They’re now down two scores, but it’s no different than if they’d kicked the XP, then NO scored to go up 8, then WAS scored and missed the conversion then. The order doesn’t matter.

    You can argue against going for two, but that’s not the way to do it. I don’t know what the math is, but two points there is definitely worth more than twice as much as one, so the

  13. Chris Mottram Last Week:
    “…the bottom line is that Campbell either doesn’t get Zorn’s offense at all yet, or Zorn’s offense is a steaming pile of shit. I’ll go with the former.”

    Rooster Last Week:
    “I know people are gonna kill Jason Campbell this week but lets wait until week 4 or 5 and see what happens.”

    Let me preface this by saying I think this is a great blog and the Mottram’s seem like good dudes. But this game is a perfect example of why you cannot judge a team after Week 1. People were so quick to jump on Campbell, Zorn, and our offense in general last week and now everyone is saying how poised Campbell looked. What happens if we lose to Arizona next week, is the season over? Or if we win by 20 are we Super Bowl bound. DC Football fans are great. They are very knowledgeable about the game of football. However when Redskin fans are criticized it is usually becaue they overreact to wins and losses. Again this is only one game. I still am not convinced this is a good team. We need to wait until week 5 to start making judgements. That’s all.

    Chris Mottram: And yeah, this win helps silence some of the dumb fucking rednecks down here who constantly ask, “So, what ya think ’bout Campbell? He gun be any good or what?”

    Are you one of these Rednecks Chris?

    “Judge not, before you judge yourself”

  14. I have never, ever questioned Campbell’s ability to be a quality, or even great, QB. In fact, I am constantly defending him. I said after Week 1 that he didn’t grasp THE SYSTEM, as a result of having a different one every single season. That wasn’t a knock on his specific talents.

    And yeah, I 100% stick by what I said about the offense last week: They didn’t get it and/or it wasn’t clicking. Clearly, they made some adjustments.

    Thanks for being all holier than thou, however. We appreciate that sort of arrogance around these parts.

  15. Also, why is Zorn a loser? Becasue he decided to go for a two point conversion? I would have done the same thing, following those stupid sheets that coaches make up is for pussies. Gibbs followed that sheet all the time last year and it didn’t seem to help us one bit. I can remember the painful Gibba press conferences lastyear when he would be asked why he kicked an extra point or why he went for two and he would say “..well the sheet says to do this when your in this situation”. Idiotic. Screw the stupid sheet. Good for Zorn for being his own man. I thought Zorn called a great game. How ’bout going for it on 4th and two at the end of the game to seal the deal. Is that something a loser would do? Okay I’m really done now. Really thats it.

  16. Rooster, Zorn going for two in that situation stands to reason that he’d go for two all of the time, barring a late tie when it’s obvious that all you need is an XP. But he doesn’t go for two all the time. Just when down two with 20 minutes left, apparently. And it almost bit him in the ass big time.

    As for going for it on 4th-and-2 with a minute left, that was a ballsy call, but also the right one as the alternatives were a long FG or short punt on a day when the special teams were terrible.

  17. My apologies to Suisham, I forgot the bad snap/hold on the short one he missed. Still, I think Moseley would have found a way to get that ball through the uprights.

    I thought Fox showed a stat on the 2-pt conversion rate as 49% last season — pretty close to 50/50.

    There’s two ways not going for 2 in that situation could’ve come back to bite us — a) nobody scores in the final 20 minutes, which wouldn’t have been shocking given we’d only scored 2 touchdowns in 6+ quarters. b) we play for one score if we’re down 8, and get a TD late and miss the 2-pt try later. Maybe the call Zorn made was aggressive, but it wasn’t awful.

  18. I can’t find the all-time two-point conversion rate for the NFL, but from ’94-’03 it was just 43%. Until someone shows me data that it’s 50% or better, I’ll continue saying that, generally speaking, teams shouldn’t go for it unless it’s apparent that they have to.

    Of course, there may be coaches out there (Zorn, perhaps?) who believe their chances to be better than 50%. To them I’d say this: Go for two all the time, and not just when you’re down by two with 20 minutes left. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense.

  19. As for the 2pt conversion thing. If you count college and the NFL it is still between 40 – 43% success (according to Steve Maruicci last night on NFL network) so point goes to Mottram.

    So was going for the 2pt conversion a good choice, maybe. If anything it is gutsy and when it didnt work, the team stuck together and battled back and didn’t let it destroy their chances. If this happened last year, no comeback win.

    All in all I think it panned out like this:

    Offense – B+ (Couldn’t get points in the 1st half and still look bad converting 3rd downs, 3-11 isnt gonna cut it. But 455 yards of total offense with a real good balance of run/pass)

    Defense – A (only gave up 17 points, 7 of which were gift wrapped because of the ARE fumble, they got sacks and turnovers)

    Special Teams – F (2 miss fg’s and a punt taken to the house, not very good)

    Coaching – B- (The 2pt thing, but also the trust of his offense to convert the 4th and 2 late in the game that sealed the win. Making strides, but will need to continue to improve)

  20. “Guty” … “aggressive” … showed he’s “his own man”. Whatever. It was the wrong call, bottom line. Making the right decision and taking the extra point doesn’t make him a pussy, it makes him smart. It was an absolutely indefensible decision, even if it had been successful. You simply do not EVER go for 2 with 20 mins left. You take the fucking point. I can’t believe people are even trying to justify the contrary.

  21. Chris — seriously? “absolutely indefensible?” “not EVER?”
    Come on, this was not like that time Barry Switzer decided to go for it on 4th and 1 on his own 30 against the Eagles with 2 minutes left in a game they were tied or leading.

    If you play the percentages all the time, you would never go for it on 4th down, or fake a kick….

    He went against the percentages, but he wasn’t incompetent.

    Next you’ll be telling me you didn’t like the white pants with the white jerseys. I love that late ’05 look.

  22. “If you play the percentages all the time, you would never go for it on 4th down, or fake a kick….”

    Actually, according to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point,” coaches playing the percentages would go for it more often on 4th down.

  23. Here’s a question:
    If Jim Zorn knew how to run a hurry-up offense in his PLAYING days, why therefore has he NOT given thought to doing so now that he’s COACHING??
    Also, how long before the “Prima Danna” gets Bill Cowher’s agent on speed-dial?? We’re looking at another Schotenheimer-type situation here (aka “one and done”), peeps!!!

  24. Hogs: It’s perfectly fine for you to feel that way. My girlfriend shares that point of view. (Seriously.)

    The point here is that Zorn clearly picks and chooses his spots to go for two, and under than philosophy, going for two when he did was unspeakably dumb.

  25. Maybe, maybe not. If I’m of the opinion that always going for two (except under some very specific circumstances, such as end of the game) is preferable to kicking an XP, then I’d just as soon have him going for two as often as possible. He went for two with 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. That’s as defensible a moment to go for two as any, under any circumstances. I am fairly certain I can demonstrate that two point conversions are, in 2008, worth more net points (even granting failures) than are extra points.

    There’s really a tiny sliver of circumstances where it makes sense to kick an extra point, and that definitely wasn’t one of those moments.

    Don’t know what to tell you but: Your GF is right.

  26. “That’s as defensible a moment to go for two as any, under any circumstances.”

    I wouldn’t defend going for two unless you’re down two with not enough time to get another possession. Or, you’ll only have time for two possessions total, and you’re down, say, by 5.

    “I am fairly certain I can demonstrate that two point conversions are, in 2008, worth more net points (even granting failures) than are extra points.”

    I’d encourage you to complete your study and send your findings to every NFL coach in the league, seeing as not one of them shares your point of view on this.

    “There’s really a tiny sliver of circumstances where it makes sense to kick an extra point, and that definitely wasn’t one of those moments.”

    Alright, this is satire at this point, right? I mean, you can’t honestly believe this.

  27. Absolutely not.

    Emailed Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, 2PC success rate over the past 5 years is now 52% (and growing, highest it has been in the 2PC era starting in 1994) and has not dipped below 50% since 2003. (Yesterday in an article, Gregg Easterbrook alleged that the number was actually 55% in the past 5 years.)

    XP success rate has remained steady at around 98%.

    1 x .98 = .98
    2 x .52 = 1.04

    2PC is the optimal strategy for scoring in the NFL. The only times it makes sense to kick XPs is when the difference in points between a successful 2PC and a successful XP is result-neutral, ie. when there is no time on the clock and it is tied and you just scored, or if there’s only one opponent possession remaining in the game and you’re up 3 or 0.

    But the first 1-3 quarters, at least, are not those kinds of situations. During those times, coaches should be maximizing the amount of points they score, and that simply doesn’t happen when they line up to kick XPs.

    The “chart” coaches rely on was written by Dick Vermeil 38 years ago, 24 years before the NFL even implemented the 2PC. And it was done in College, where you line up on the 3 yard line (2 yard line in NFL) and your attempt can be returned for 2 points (cannot in NFL). I only mention that to demonstrate that maybe NFL coaches aren’t all that reasonable when it comes to utilizing their post-touchdown resources or deciding upon either XP or 2PC in the right kinds of ways.

    I’m just challenging you to consider that: Maybe the entire league has it wrong, and your GF has it right. Phil Simms correctly criticized coaches years ago for going for 2PC TOO often, because the success rate was well below 50% and thus you were constantly leaving points on the board. It’s fairly intuitive that the amount a coach should go for 2PC should actually depend on, you know, the actual success rate of that play. And as the success rate of that particular play has climbed in recent years (attributed, perhaps, to an increase in passes on that down, or at least that’s what David Leonhardt of the NYTimes speculated last year, and Dick Vermeil agreed with him) wouldn’t it stand to reason that 2PC attempts should increase?

    Have they? No. Should they? Only if coaches think scoring more points in the NFL is better than scoring less points.

  28. Don’t you also need to consider specific teams, coaches, etc. and their success rate? The entire league in PAT and 2PT is basically 50/50. Jim Zorn is 100/0. (An unfair example, I realize, but I’m just sayin’.)

    But again, back to my original point: If Zorn wants to have the philosophy you have, and go for 2 after every single TD, then I can accept that. Or at least, I’m willing to let him try that until it blows up in his face. If the success rate for Zorn on 2′s really is 52%, then he would’ve got those two points back after the next TD. But the spot in which he decided to go for two, made no sense.

  29. What both of you are saying is correct. If the success rate actually is above 50%, then coaches should go for it more often (like all the time). But that’s not what Zorn Star is doing, so it seems stupid.

  30. “Don’t you also need to consider specific teams, coaches, etc. and their success rate? The entire league in PAT and 2PT is basically 50/50. Jim Zorn is 100/0. (An unfair example, I realize, but I’m just sayin’.)”

    Absolutely. Some teams are much higher than 52%, some lower than 50%. Some defenses are better at defending than others. The point is, though, that teams generally are better going for 2PC, and teams generally go for FG. A lot of coaches are systematically playing in error.

    In so far as it is irrational for Zorn to go for two sometimes and not others, yea that can certainly be irrational, but if our success rate is above 52% a “sometimes” strategy is less irrational than a “virtually never” one. I would prefer he goes for 2 nearly all the time, as opposed to picking and choosing moments.

    Against the Saints defense? I’m very near saying that virtually every offense should always go for two. They are a below average defense.

  31. The formula that Hogs uses is interesting. I got my degree in finance and it reminds me a lot of the expected return formula that is used to calculate what you should be willing to pay for a stock. (If this is interesting to you google “capital asset pricing model”, “beta”, “expected return”; if not stop reading)

    Basically what the above googlable phrases are saying is that in order to make an investor take more risk you have to give them the chance at more return.

    It seems debatable that 2 point conversions have a higher expected return because the chance of success is always changing and hovers around 50%. Even if the 2 point conversion’s return looks is greater (like this)…

    2 * .51 = 1.02
    1 * .98 = .98

    …you have to ask yourself as a coach if the extra .04 of a point is worth the risk of only coming away with six points. I mean the average team probably kicks 40 extra points in a year meaning that 40 times .04 = 1.6 extra points per season.

    That isn’t a lot when you really think about it…

    I don’t know how you would go about creating a beta for this to decide what level of risk is commensurate with this level of return but to me it seems like it would not be beneficial.

    Not to mention, if you constantly went for two there would be lots of tape for opposing teams to scout and your success rate would probably go down as other teams scouted your 2pc tactics.

    /end nerdyness

  32. Jeff V:

    I think you’re absolutely right that the biggest hurdle to convincing coaches to optimize their scoring strategy is simply that you can’t convince them to change the status quo for what is, admittedly, not all that much benefit. The results aren’t amazingly consequential given that, over the course of an entire NFL season, we are talking about just a few more points.

    But what a Coach should be asking themselves after a touchdown is really only and exclusively: What can I do to maximize the points I score here? Run the permutations of teams under similar circumstances and a 2PC strategy that converts over 50% of the time wins a majority of games over an XP strategy that converts ~ 98% of the time. Two teams score one touchdown, you take that result 100 times over, and the guy who goes for 2 wins 52 games and the other guy wins 48 games.

    The issue for me is, while this is irrefutably true:

    “Basically what the above googlable phrases are saying is that in order to make an investor take more risk you have to give them the chance at more return.”

    It shouldn’t be! As has been argued by Peter Bernstein based on the research of Richard Thaler and Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tverseky, the human risk-aversion (perhaps stated more accurately as LOSS-aversion) basis for decisions is… irrational. If Head Coaches are in the business of scoring points and winning games, all that should be required to convince them of the efficacy of strategy A over strategy B is evidence that strategy B maximizes scoring. When it comes to risk, the correct answer is: Maximizing returns is the proper move. But that isn’t how things work in practice, as human beings routinely sacrifice bigger returns because we’re generally (illogically) risk-averse.

    The crazy thing is that no one would ever get this wrong if the problem were simplified. I give you an opportunity to play a game whereas you have a choice to flip two coins, one is weighted to land heads 98% of the time and the other is weighted to land heads 52% of the time. The former will result in you winning 1 dollar everytime heads lands, the latter 2 dollars everytime heads lands. No one would select the first coin.

    So why should/do coaches always do so?

  33. “I give you an opportunity to play a game whereas you have a choice to flip two coins, one is weighted to land heads 98% of the time and the other is weighted to land heads 52% of the time. The former will result in you winning 1 dollar everytime heads lands, the latter 2 dollars everytime heads lands. No one would select the first coin.”

    Uh, I’d take the free dollar from coin 1 every time over the 48% chance of winning nothing.

  34. Hogs:

    The problem with your logic is that NFL teams don’t score 100 touchdowns a game. Thus the sample size for this experiment between 2pc and XP is too small for a 4 percent increase in points to win consistently.

    Consider this: If a coach has three touchdowns in a game and kicks the extra point and makes it 3 times he has 21 points.

    If the opposing coach’s team scores three touchdowns and goes for 2 each time he could have anywhere between 18 points and 24 points. He would need two out of three 2pcs to be successful to win the game.

    Meaning that the coach who goes for two needs to be successful 66% of the time to get a win in this game. Considering the overall success rate is only a little over 50% that is not a good proposition. It would not be good enough for that coach to be 54% or 52% successful on the season. The team needs the points today!

    If the 2pc’s are just over 50% sucessful–a big if when you consider that a team who constantly went for two would have opposing teams preparing for this much more than the average team currently prepares to defend 2pcs–that means that they would most likely make one 2pc, miss one 2pc and then have a chance slighly above 50% (maybe) to make the third and win.

    Basically they would be losing games and winning games based on their ability to punch it in from two yards out. This gives the defense and special teams no chance to win. If you think your team is good why not trust your defense to stop the other team?

    As a coach I think it is a better idea to play it safe and take the points unless wacky circumstances dictate otherwise.

    Keep in mind that over the course of the year a 4% increase in extra point production only equates to a 1.6 increase in points.

    That means one or two points a season depending on how the chips fall. Those 1 or two points might come in a game where the score is not close which would mean that they don’t matter.

    Don’t underrate the consistency of the XP.

  35. Chris:

    “Uh, I’d take the free dollar from coin 1 every time over the 48% chance of winning nothing.”

    Actually I don’t think you’re alone. However that raises some serious doubts about, to quote another, “the assumptions of rational behavior.” People who want money should choose the game that produces the most of it.

    “The problem with your logic is that NFL teams don’t score 100 touchdowns a game. Thus the sample size for this experiment between 2pc and XP is too small for a 4 percent increase in points to win consistently.”

    Yes but coaches will win more games by going for 2 points than they will lose games by going for 2. The sample size only demonstrates the better strategy, besides that it is largely irrelevant. If a coach is presented with a 52% chance to win a game and a 48% chance to win a game, why would he choose the latter? Where 2PC strategy beats XP strategy a majority of games, why choose the XP strategy?

    “Meaning that the coach who goes for two needs to be successful 66% of the time to get a win in this game. Considering the overall success rate is only a little over 50% that is not a good proposition. It would not be good enough for that coach to be 54% or 52% successful on the season. The team needs the points today!”

    My response is that isn’t entirely fair because you’re conflating %s here. Yea, a coach needs to be 66% successful to win here… but he’s going to be 66% successful a majority of the time he goes for 2 points over a three touchdown history. A coach who goes for 2 at a base 52% success rate over three touchdowns has the following likelihoods of points scored after TD:

    4>2>6>0

    In other words, in a majority of circumstances, he scores more than 3 points. Stated otherwise: if you know you score three touchdowns in a game as does your opponent, and he goes for the XP, you will beat him more often than not if you go for 2.

    To turn the wording on its head, yea you have to be successful 66% of the time to win, but you also have to fail 66% of the time to lose. If the percentage of success on 2PC is higher than 50%, are you more likely to go 2 out of 3 or 1 out of 3?

    There is no number of touchdowns scored whereas you can match a XP strategy against a 2PC strategy and have the former beat the latter in a majority of instances. It remains true of 1 TD, 3 TD, 57 TD, 2 TD, etc.

    “If the 2pc’s are just over 50% sucessful–a big if when you consider that a team who constantly went for two would have opposing teams preparing for this much more than the average team currently prepares to defend 2pcs–that means that they would most likely make one 2pc, miss one 2pc and then have a chance slighly above 50% (maybe) to make the third and win.”

    Before we dive into the nuanced or esoteric arguments about game preparation, just remember that those kinds of cases can be made both ways. Does the team who gameplans the week prior against the one of 16 opponents who has a 2PC strategy decrease the odds of success more than does the team who practices 4th and 2 every single practice, every game, over the course of a 16 game season, increase their odds of success? If gameplanning to stop a 2 yard gain decreases the likelihood of success, doesn’t practicing a 2 yard gain increase it? And wouldn’t, ostensibly, a 2PC strategy team practice that a lot more (both in practice and in actual game situations) than would any team accustomed to defending an XP in 15 out of their 16 games?

    Now, regarding the output, you’re right! As the most likely scenario in a 3TD scenario is one made, one missed, and then one 52% opportunity, that’s the REASON you go for two! The alternative is you go for the XP and then you necessarily tie with the XP strategy… just so you can have the opportunity to literally flip a coin in overtime. In other words, you are sacrificing a 52% chance to win for a 50% chance to win. Why do that?

    “This gives the defense and special teams no chance to win. If you think your team is good why not trust your defense to stop the other team?”

    The coach should not be interested in spreading out the wins between his defense and special teams and offense equally, rather he should be interested in winning the most games capable by whatever means capable. There is nothing special about special teams (or offense that matter) that entitles either unit to win the game. They are simply tools used towards the ultimate end which is: Ws. A coach should seek to “give[] defense and specical teams” a chance to win only and exclusively in those circumstances where doing so… actually increase his odds of winning. Consider: Down by 4 points on 4th and 1 on the 1 yard line with 10 seconds remaining. You can give your offense a “chance to win” by going for it or you can give your special teams a chance to win it by kicking the FG, then sending them out for the onside kick, then sending them out for another FG. The proper strategy is to go for it, since equalizing opportunities for your respective unit to win the game is irrelevant.

    Response to the defense question: 1) A lot of teams don’t think their defense is good and 2) Your extra point strategy has either no impact or a net positive impact on your defense. I say no because why would your defense care what the offense does after a touchdown? I say net positive because, obviously, the point swings would dictate the game just as much as any other point differential (if you go for 2 and it ultimately puts the other opponent down by 4 points rather than 2 points your defense will play to stop the TD late in the game rather than playing to stop the FG). But from a defensive perspective… don’t you always want your offense to assume the strategy that increases the dispairty between our points and theirs positively? If team A averages 17 points and team B averages 16 points, the defense for team A is better off, since they will need to do one point less worth of work than the Team B defense.

    “As a coach I think it is a better idea to play it safe and take the points unless wacky circumstances dictate otherwise.”

    I think that is certainly the position of every single NFL coach, so you are not alone.

    “Keep in mind that over the course of the year a 4% increase in extra point production only equates to a 1.6 increase in points.”

    Sure, the question is, why would a coach given the choice between X points and X+1.6 points choose the first? You can either say the strategy is inconsequential (in which case there’s no good reason to pick an XP strategy over a 2PC strategy or vice versa, since it doesn’t matter, right?) or it is. If it is consequential — it is — than there’s only one right strategy, and it can’t be the one that generates fewer points.

    “That means one or two points a season depending on how the chips fall. Those 1 or two points might come in a game where the score is not close which would mean that they don’t matter.”

    They might or they might not. But in blowouts or monster wins your post-touchdown strategy is irrelevant. But you don’t decide to go for two on your first five touchdowns after they’re scored; you decide to go for 2, or not, after you score the first touchdown. Then you decide after you score the 2nd touchdown. Then you decide…

    Point being, coaches are presented an opportunity something like 50 times a year to take one decision and take another, the former increasing your odds of winning strategically. The strange thing is, the entire world of NFL football seems to agree that you should choose the strategy that decreases your odds of winning. It is one of the truly fascinating aspects of the game that either dramatically calls into question the rationality of coaches or, alternatively, suggests they simply aren’t aware that the statistics have turned in their favor on the 2PC.

    Whatever strategy you think is better, I think we can all agree that whether 2PC is better than XP has SOMETHING TO DO WITH the actual likelihood of converting 2PCs. Prior to 5 years ago, the 2PC rate was below 50%. Phil Simms, among others, poined out repeatedly how stupid it was for coaches to go for 2 in the majority of circumstances… and he was right! Coaches were going for two more often than they should have been based on the likelihood of success. As a result, coaches began going for two less often. This led to the absolutely absurd result of: in the history of the 2PC, coaches have gone for two more often when they should not have and less often when they should have. Anyone assuming the sanity of NFL coaches should wonder about that result.

  36. By the way, I don’t mean to appear surprised by the fact that coaches act irrationally. It has ceased to be merely water-cooler talk and has now become actual empirically supported history that coaches. To quote Cal economics professor David Romer’s abstract from his paper, Do Firms Maximize? Evidence from Professional Football:

    “This paper examines a single, narrow decision–the choice on fourth down in the National Football League between kicking and trying for a first down– as a case study of the standard view that competition in the goods, capital, and labor markets leads frims to make maximizing choices. Play-by-play data and dynamic programming are used to estimate the average payoffs to kicking and trying for a first down under different circumstances. Examination of teams’ actual decisions shows [ED emphasis added] SYSTEMATIC, CLEAR-CUT, AND OVERWHELMINGLY STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT DEPARTURES FROM THE DECISIONS THAT WOULD MAXIMIZE TEAMS’ CHANCE OF WINNING.”

    It is a different scenario but serves to illustrate the point that NFL coaches aren’t necessarily rational.

    The assumption that the correct decision is the one a majority of people would take ignores the empirical data on the irrational human psychological condition.

    It all comes back to:

    “Uh, I’d take the free dollar from coin 1 every time over the 48% chance of winning nothing.”

    So would most people. But if Chris and I played this game, and I did the exact opposite of him, I’d be richer. The motivation of maximizing profits which drives Chris’ decision (I don’t doubt by his answer, for instance, that Chris wants money) is inconsistent with the decision made, since he chooses the strategy that nets him less money. I’m just sayin’ we should recognize same when it comes to NFL coaches and post touchdown strategies.

  37. OK I see your side of the argument. I still disagree though when you consider that over the course of a ten year coaching career you are talking about 16 points. The likelihood of those points all falling in games that actually matter is extremely low. However, it is likely that you could cause your team to lose in games where you were not able to convert 2pcs

    Another Point

    In investing a lot of what your doing isn’t trying to maximize return as much as it is trying to manage a clients goals.

    For example: a young man of 24 who is investing money that he doesn’t have an every day need for and is planning to leave untouched for 40 years is wise to choose a high risk, high return portfolio.

    On the other hand, A sixty year old man who plans on retiring in 5 years is better served by a low risk, low return portfolio that doesn’t stand to bankrupt his retirement in a bad year but also doesn’t stand to make him much more rich.

    In my eyes an NFL coach is the sixty year old man. He doesn’t have a lot of chances to make either two points or one point after a touchdown and the effect of a bad string of 2pcs could be disasterous for a season.

    I think the point you made about professor such and such’s paper with risk tolerance and how everyone should maximize their return is interesting but not applicable to every investor (or in this case coach).

    Frankly, sometimes you are playing not to lose just as much as you are playing to win. The worst case scenario of going for two is much worse than kicking.

    Another new thought

    Past results do not exactly replicate real probabilities. Meaning that just because 52% of the past however many 2pcs have been made, doesn’t mean there is a liklihood of 52% that 2pcs will be made in the future.

    There have been significant portions ofthe NFL’s history where 2pcs were under 50% effective so this recent turn of good fortune for those that tried for two doesn’t necessarily mean that is indicative of the true probability.

    Anyway. I’m going home and turning my brain off now. I really enjoyed commenting on this thread with you all, especially Hogs.

    Good night and Go ‘Skins.

  38. Jeff:

    “OK I see your side of the argument. I still disagree though when you consider that over the course of a ten year coaching career you are talking about 16 points. The likelihood of those points all falling in games that actually matter is extremely low. However, it is likely that you could cause your team to lose in games where you were not able to convert 2pcs”

    It is the Super Bowl. There are 0 seconds remaining on the clock, you are down by one point. Your odds of successfully converting a 2PC are known to be above 50%. What is it you do?

    It is the first quarter of the first game of the season. You’ve just scored in 2 minutes. You are up by 6 points presented with the decision to kick an XP, which you know has a success rate no higher than 100%, or attempt a 2PC which is known to succeed 52% of the time. What is it you do?

    If 16 points are inconsequential, then it shouldn’t matter what coaches do, right? So why do they all do the same thing? We can either discuss the consequences of a 2PC strategy or we can write off consequences all together, but we can’t do both. It can’t be consequential and inconsequential at the same time.

    Also, isn’t it strange how the issue is framed at this point? Stating: “It’s only 16 points…” raises the question, why is the 2PC the strategy that needs to justify itself? X or X+16? If you’re really granting that it scores more points, why does it matter if it is 16 or 1 or .0000001? The better strategy doesn’t have to explain itself to the worse one, afterall. Is Blackjack worse than Roullette because the odds are only slightly better? How does that make sense?

    “In my eyes an NFL coach is the sixty year old man. He doesn’t have a lot of chances to make either two points or one point after a touchdown and the effect of a bad string of 2pcs could be disasterous for a season.”

    Why is it that ONLY a 2PC strategy has “disasterous” results? Disastrous results are LOSSES. You keep wanting to frame the issue in terms of the success rate of the XP, but who cares how successful the XP is? Do coaches win games because their kicker successfully kicks extra points? As it turns out, no, in fact they’d win MORE games if they didn’t send the kicker out at all.

    This is not RATIONAL RISK AVERSION. No one doubts that XPs have a higher success rate than 2PC. That is not the “risk” part of the proposition. The “risk” coaches take is the percentage chance that they will win or lose a football game. If that is the case — I don’t understand how it couldn’t be the case — than the RISKIER STRATEGY is kicking extra points. If coaches understood the statistics, a risk averse move would be to… go for 2!

    The analogy to investment can be dismissed easily enough. Risky high % return investments have an increased likelihood of completely divesting the investor of all his moneys. At which point the game stops, they lose, fooey. Depending on the level of risk, the % return, etc. reasonable minds can avoid the risk.

    Football does not stop when a coach loses a game. Another game happens. In so far as we’re talking about XP and 2PC strategy competing in the entire universe of Football, across the rest of the history of the NFL, there is no risk. The game will not stop if teams go for 2. Statistically speaking, no coach will lose every game they play because they go for 2. Indeed, when placed against a 2PC strategy, coaches who go for XPs face a higher likelihood of losing football games, which is the ultimate risk coaches want to avoid.

    Unless, of course, it is as everyone knows it to be, that coaches aren’t trying to maximize their % chance of winning by their post-touchdown strategy, but rather are just trying to play it safe. This might be a classic example of Herding. In any event, that wouldn’t justify the decision if we all agree that a coach should do what maximizes winning rather than maximizing job safety. (And I would argue that winning has a much more positive impact on whether one keeps a job.)

    “Frankly, sometimes you are playing not to lose just as much as you are playing to win.”

    If you are playing not to lose, the best strategy is to go for 2PC.

    “Past results do not exactly replicate real probabilities. Meaning that just because 52% of the past however many 2pcs have been made, doesn’t mean there is a liklihood of 52% that 2pcs will be made in the future.”

    This, I think, is the strongest criticism of the 2PC strategy. While you are correct, I can’t assume that going for it will remain above 50%, I certainly think it will. All I’m saying, my only conclusion really, is that if an NFL coach thinks he has a better than 50% chance of converting a 2PC, then he’s stupid if he kicks an XP. And in so far as the data suggests that the rate is something like 52% in the 2008 NFL game, 32 NFL coaches cannot reasonably conclude that their rate is well below 50%. If you grant me nothing else, at least acknowledge that the best offense in the league plaing against the worst defense in the league converts over 50% of its 2PC attempts. If that’s the case, we aren’t seeing enough of the 2PC.

    “There have been significant portions ofthe NFL’s history where 2pcs were under 50% effective so this recent turn of good fortune for those that tried for two doesn’t necessarily mean that is indicative of the true probability.”

    My response: Are 1997 statistics more or less relevant to the 2008 season than are 2007 statistics?

    In any event, even as recently as 4 years ago or so, the historical average (since ’94) of the 2PC was around 48%. It is approaching 50%. Assuming rates stay around where they are now above 52%, it won’t be long before the historic rate is above 50%. Will you, then, approve of a change in strategy?

    JeffV you’ve been a great sport and I really enjoyed it too. Have a good one, thanks to Mr. I for letting us rant on this thing.

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