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September 28, 2009

Too Timid for Touchdowns?

Like most professional sports, football is a game that produces a plethora of statistics.  For example, there is a quarterback’s passer rating, as well as this stat that tracks how many yards every receiver gains after catching a pass.

However, the National Football League’s head coaches may be overlooking another statistic. This column in the Wall St. Journal contends that an NFL coach who instructs his team to “go for it” on 4th down is frequently making a smart, not a risky, decision.

According to the WSJ:

An analysis of the 2008 season shows that coaches who decide to go for it on fourth down with two yards or less to go often have better results than those who choose to kick a field goal or give the ball back to the other guys with a punt.

. . . If a team faces a fourth and short at its own 40-yard line, most coaches will call out the punter. But the math says they’d be better off going for the first down. The same theory applies to situations where a team has a fourth and short on the opposing team’s 15-yard line: Most coaches will take the field goal but the numbers show it’s clearly a better bet to try for the first down and hold out for the touchdown instead.

In other words, the men wearing those headsets and strolling the sidelines should listen to their inner alpha-male. Hey, Coach Phillips: Real cowboys are adventurous dudes.