Going For It:

With 3:24 left in the Steelers-Browns game Sunday night, the Steelers led 10-3 and the had 4th and 7 on the Steelers' 20 yard line. The Browns kicked a field goal. Then kicked deep and the Steelers basically ran out the clock (and should have done so if Willie Parker had stayed in bounds).

David Romer wrote the classic article on why teams should go for it more often on 4th down (summarized by Gregg Easterbrook here). Applying the market test (and leaving aside the technicalities)--as a Steelers' fan I was absolutely ecstatic that the Browns decided to kick a field goal in that situation.

Romer's general analysis seems compelling to me, which strongly implies that in that situation you'd want to go for it. Can any readers provide any reason to believe that the Browns made the right decision? John Madden and Al Michaels both thought that the Browns made the right decision, but their rationale (it would've been bad for the Browns' morale) wasn't much of an argument.

Boyd G (www):
I disagreed with M&M at the time. Their opinion didn't make any sense to me for the reasons you note.
9.17.2008 4:28pm
Easterbrook said he would make a counterargument in a later column (he only agreed that teams punt too much), but I'm not sure if he ever did so.
9.17.2008 4:30pm
Curt Fischer:
Let's go through the four possible outcomes for the Browns:

1. Kick FG, later reclaim possession, win. The coaches look like geniuses for their patient strategy.

2. Go for TD, score, win. The coaches look gutsy and like they're willing to take chances.

3. Go for TD, miss it, lose. The coaches will be criticized for gambling with the game on the line and being impatient with their team. It's the coach's fault, not the team's fault, if this outcome happens.

4. Kick FG, never regain possession, lose. The Browns' players were unable to keep up their end of the bargain. It was just a team that wasn't willing to win. Couldn't be the coach's fault.

Out of fear of #3 happening, the coach decides to kick the FG. QED.

(Nevermind that the rationales for blaming the coach/players in a given scenario don't actually make of sense, and could easily be inverted. The fact is, these are the arguments that would most likely get made, and, regardless of truth, most easily find traction with fans and critics--at least in my estimation.)
9.17.2008 4:41pm
I watch too much football:
Trying to win in regulation without going for two. The Browns had all three of their timeouts, so Romeo must have believed that his defense could get the ball back for his offense. If the Steelers go three and out, the punt would have given the Browns decent field position with more than two minutes left on the clock. TD wins.
9.17.2008 4:43pm
John (mail):
This is hard to quantify. The advantage of the FG is that, IF you get the ball back and IF you score a TD, you win, whereas going for it on fourth, even if you get the first down, there is no assurance of any score (and given the "history" of the game itself, a very small probability of a score), and a great likelihood of using up a lot of the clock.

On the other hand, a TD would tie it and likely leave things to the toss of a coin in OT.

There are a lot of probabilities to quantify in al this: P(field goal), P(Steelers running out the clock), P(TD on going for it on 4th), P(TD if you get the ball back), and I guess a few others. I think you have to quantify those somehow to answer the question.
9.17.2008 4:46pm
Way back when the Vikings had Bud Grant, last game of the season, with the Vikings out of playoff contention, Grant sent in his FG team with a few seconds left to try to tie the game. Which happened, and that tie resulted in another team going into playoffs. (I forget the other teams involved. A win, loss, or tie, however, would not have helped the Vikings.) That bit of totally unsportsmanklike behavior on the part of its coach, essentially throwing the game to benefit another team, soured me on that team long after he left.

I hate field goals.
9.17.2008 4:49pm
SMK (mail):
I'm sure Al didn't mind because he had the Browns +6.
9.17.2008 4:51pm

I'll give you an answer that, although farfetched, might scare you. And I have some reason to believe it's not unprecedented with Romeo Crennel: the Browns were trying to cover the spread. The point spread on the game last night was Pittsburgh -6. That means that a field goal there virtually guaranteed a Browns cover, because Pittsburgh was unlikely to do anything but try to run out the clock. Going for it might have resulted in a Browns win, but failing to make it would have vastly increased the probability of not covering the spread.

The reason I thought of this last night is that two (or three) years ago, the Browns kicked a field goal on the last play of the game, even though they were down 15 (or about that) at the time. Typically, teams just either run out the clock or chuck one into the end zone at that point; they rarely kick field goals. The point spread on that game: 13.

Bill Simmons wrote about this on ESPN, and I'm betting he'll write about Monday night's game later this week.
9.17.2008 4:53pm
huh342 - Interesting. Maybe that explains my story.
9.17.2008 4:55pm
johnw- how is that throwing the game? Didn't they kicked a field goal to tie it up rather than losing? Throwing the game would be not kicking the field goal and losing. I would think a 95%tie5%loss odds play would be prefered over a 10%win90%loss play in the last few seconds. Maybe you could give more details because it sounds interesting but I can't see what they did wrong based on what you posted.
9.17.2008 5:12pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I didn't re-read the original paper but iirc it mainly dealt with early game situations trying to maximize advantage rather than possessions/clock/etc.
9.17.2008 5:19pm
I'm a Guest Here Myself:
If you're down by 15 on the last play of the game, you should try to kick a FG unless you're on the 1 yard line or very close to it. Total points scored is a tiebreaker at the end of the year, so you'd rather have a 75% chance at 3 points than a 10% chance at 7. Simmons should have never drawn that inference.

It was a bad call the other night. But the FG a couple years ago was legit. Perfectly rational, regardless of the "spread."
9.17.2008 5:19pm
To I'm a Guest Here Myself:

It wasn't a chip shot field goal two years ago, as I remember. It was 40+ yards as I remember.

And the idea that "points is the 5th tiebreaker for the playoffs" is more rational than "my brother-in-law has $1000 on us" doesn't strike me as necessarily correct. Can you even name the last time total points broke a playoff tie? Maybe once or twice since the merger.
9.17.2008 5:23pm
When you get done with football, wander over and take a gander at baseball. There is a ton of conventional wisdom in baseball ready for analysis. For example:

The assumption is that the batter gains an advantage when the count has more balls than strikes, but many batters won't swing at a 3-0 pitch.

A batter on first is usually "held on" by the first baseman as protection against a steal attempt, but on 2 out, 3-2 count when you know the batter is running, you don't hold him on.

There are different views on "no doubles" outfield alignments.
9.17.2008 5:26pm
Conrad (mail):
It made no sense for the Browns to kick a field goal in that situation. The argument for the field goal (followed by the deep kickoff) ASSUMED that the Browns' defense could force a 3-and-out and get the ball back, whereupon they would still need a touchdown to win (the field goal only made it 10-6). So if needed a touchdown regardless, why pass up the chance to pick up the first down and score the TD right then and there? Even if you don't get the first down, supposedly your stingy defense will get you the ball back, leaving you in exactly the same position you would have been in by kicking the field goal. In other words, the Browns basically elected to terminate the drive at 4th-and-7 and got essentially nothing in return.

(To be fair, I suppose what they got in making the field goal was a guarantee that they wouldn't lose the game in OT. Still, in order to win the game, they HAD to score a TD in regulation, so the field goal made no sense.)

I wouldn't even analyze the situation in terms of whether it made sense to go for it on 4th down. The situation the Browns were in was not defined by the fact that it was 4th down. It was defined by the facts that (1) the Browns NEEDED a TD in regulation in order to win the game, and (2) at the moment they decided to kick the field goal, they had possession of the ball for what was quite possibly going to be (and what turned out to be) the last time in regulation. The fact that it was 4th down forced them to make a decision, but the decision they made had nothing to do with the fact it was 4th down.
9.17.2008 5:27pm
whoa there:
Well, the Browns missed the playoffs last year because of a second-tier tiebreaker, so it does not seem so irrational to me.
9.17.2008 5:27pm
I think perhaps their rationale was this:

If we go for it and make it, we will still have to use most of the time left to score a touchdown, which will only tie the game. The result being either overtime, or Pittsburgh having enough time to kick a last second field goal. However, if we kick the field goal now, there is enough time left that if we stop Pittsburgh on three downs, we will get the ball back, in decent position, with a chance to score a touchdown and win the game.

I agree they probably should have gone for it, because if they could hold them on three downs after a failed attempt to make the first down, they would still have the ball back with a chance to tie it.
9.17.2008 5:29pm
whoa there:
Conrad, I could not agree more. It makes no sense at all to kick a field goal in that situation.
9.17.2008 5:29pm
docweasel (mail) (www):
As a Browns fan, I'd say it's worse for morale to lose safely than to give it all you got and win or lose boldly.

115 Years of Cleveland futility (and counting)
9.17.2008 5:42pm
John McCall (mail):
Yeah, I agree that the Vikings in johnw's example did exactly the right thing. If the Vikings make the field goal, Team A gets the slot. If the Vikings don't make the field goal, Team B gets the slot. Why is one of these results morally preferable to the other? Team A and Team B had plenty of opportunities to win an irrefutable spot in the playoffs, and both teams failed, because they weren't good enough. Neither team "deserves" the slot. So the Vikings just did the best thing for themselves, i.e. tie the game instead of losing it.

I mean, suppose the 49ers are 3-12 (sadly plausible), the Patriots are 15-0, and they're playing in the last game of the season. Should the 49ers just throw the game because the Patriots "deserve" an undefeated season? No, of course, because the Patriots only deserve an undefeated season if they, you know, actually beat all their opponents in fair games according to the rules of football.
9.17.2008 5:46pm
road2serfdom - What was galling about the play was that, by kicking a field goal, the Vikings sent another team to the playoffs. It didnt affect their own standing or playoff chances.

So I looked up the game (sorry, I should have done this earlier instead of relying on memory). The score was 10-3 KC leading with time running out. The Vikings kicked a field goal to LOSE 10-6, instead of trying for a TD which would have TIED the game. So it was worse than I originally thought.

Bud Grant eventually made hall of fame; IMO he should have been thrown out of the game.
9.17.2008 5:50pm
Agreed. In fact, johnw has it exactly backwards. It would have been throwing the game if the Vikings had decided not to kick the field goal. The correct thing to do is what is best for your team and not consider the consequences to other teams.
9.17.2008 5:50pm

Well, the Browns missed the playoffs last year because of a second-tier tiebreaker, so it does not seem so irrational to me.

Maybe so, but then virtually every team is being irrational when they get a big lead and try to kill the clock. No one in the NFL tries to run up the score once they are ahead more than three touchdowns. But under a theory in which the 5th tiebreaker is important, that's completely irrational.

The bottom line is no one is making individual coaching decisions because it's rational to collect points for the tiebreakers.
9.17.2008 5:51pm
It's risk averse coaching. Even where risk-reward equation seems obvious. They aren't math or econ majors after all.

Mike Leach at Texas Tech is a little nutty and seems to seek out even bad risks. He is known for going on 4th down all the time.
9.17.2008 5:51pm
I didn't see johnw's last post. In that case, it sounds like he's right. But it's not "worse than originally thought" because as originally thought it was entirely appropriate.
9.17.2008 5:52pm
John McCall - I apologize for providing some inaccurate information in my first comment.
9.17.2008 5:53pm
nyejm (mail) (www):
huh342 -- I am a fervent Browns fan and have no recollection of that game. I have also scanned the box scores for the last three seasons and haven't found it. Can you be more specific?

Todd, there is a very simple explanation for why Romeo ordered the field goal, and any self-respecting football fan knows the answer, to wit: he is a terrible coach. Two weeks in a row now he has ordered a meaningless field goal. He has shown a complete inability to manage the clock, timeouts, and replay challenges. His ineptitude with the entire kicking game is startling. Here are some examples that immediately come to mind: on Dec. 4, 2005, he ordered a punt from the JAX 29 when trailing by 6 with about 10:00 to play, rather than attempt a 46-yard FG; on Oct. 8, 2006, trailing Carolina by 11 and needing two scores to tie, the Browns did not kick a FG as soon as they got in range and then attempt an on-side kick -- instead, Romeo waited until 4th down, but by then only 11 seconds remained so even if they recovered an on-side kick (they didn't) victory would have been unlikely; on Dec. 24, 2006, Browns hosting the Buccaneers, game's first series -- Browns drive to the TB 27 before stalling, line up for the FG with the wind, and pooch punt into the end zone, for a net gain of 7 yards -- Browns go on to lose 22-7; Dec. 31, 2006, trailing the Texans by 11 at the start of the 4th, Romeo orders a punt from the Houston 38; in an Aug. 30, 2007 preseason game against Chicago, Romeo ordered punts from Bears territory five times -- I know it's just preseason, but did the Browns really need that much punting practice?

As for the FG attempts so far in 2008, I said after the kick to pull within 18 points against Dallas that Romeo should have been fired on the spot, and not even allowed to finish the game. That goes double for the kick against Pittsburgh. I also want to know why Derek Anderson didn't protest and refuse to let the offense leave the field. Do you think Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Brett Favre or (ick) Ben Roethlisberger ever would have let that happen? And if you want to argue that Anderson doesn't have the Super Bowl rings or MVPs that those guys have, fine -- Jamal Lewis has that hardware, and he shouldn't have let it happen either. Just a pathetic display all around.
9.17.2008 5:53pm
byomtov (mail):
I'm with Conrad. You need a TD sometime. Why not try now?

Suppose you don't make it. Then the Steelers have the ball on their own 20 (probably, assuming an incomplete pass). If you can stop them in three plays you get another shot at the TD just like you would if you take the FG.

What are the chances you're going to get another shot as good as this? You're going to use up time-outs on Pittsburgh's possession. If they get even one first down you're probably done.

Also, kickers have been known to miss at that distance. I'd say it was an unthinking, "automatic" decision.
9.17.2008 5:57pm
I'm a Guest Here Myself:

The odds of making a 40 plus yard FG are still in the 65-70% range. The odds of a TD in that scenario are probably less than 10%. You have one play to run. Why would you NOT kick a FG? You have three choices: hail mary for the end zone, which will still result in a loss, a FG, which has a decent chance of success, or you take a knee. The latter option may be appealing if you're concerned about injuries, so I wouldn't fault a team for taking that route, particularly because the points total is a long ways down on the tiebreaker scenario. But between options 1 and 2, the FG is the much more rational approach. And I can tell you this, if I'm a coach and I have one play left, I'd rather choose the option that gives the team the best possible shot, even if it's a remote one. Yes, the 5th tiebreaker is highly unlikely, but if it's a .5% chance, why not take it? There is no cost going the other way except the possibility of injury. And that isn't what Simmons was complaining about. He was moaning about the fact that Crennel didn't go for the TD as I recall. Going for the TD in a game where you are down 15 is completely irrational given that field position. You only go for the TD in that situation if you're deep in the red zone, which as you pointed out, they clearly weren't.
9.17.2008 6:01pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
Could going for two on the ground in conversion rather than kicking for one be applied in light of the pros/cons presented in the post and thread? What would having to beat eight points rather than seven introduce to strategy, tactics, and outcomes?

Would going for it on 4th down be dangerous to the defense as a form of West Coast Offense randomness?

Could a generic formation be used that wouldn't tip the offense's hand be devised?

The last time I saw Cleveland play live was at Municipal Stadium on the Lake, beat the Bengals by a touchdown they made right after returning from the half... a long time ago, and the only Brown's game I attended that they won.
9.17.2008 6:04pm
johnw, I just looked up that 10-6 Vikings-Chiefs game and the last FG, kicked by Minnesota, was in the third quarter. Perhaps you've been holding an unfair two and a half decades grudge against Bud Grant?
9.17.2008 6:07pm
People tend to postpone a now-or-never moment. If the Browns tried a pass on 4th and failed to get the first down, the game was lost. The FG postpones the now-or-never moment.

If they had needed a TD and a FG to win, I would approve of the kick. In this case, a TD leads to another now-or-never moment going for the 2 point conversion.
9.17.2008 6:08pm
Mike Keenan:
I tend to think that Madden may know more about what will demoralize a team than the OP.

Still, I would have been delighted too at that moment if I were a Steelers fan. It almost feels as if the other team is giving up when they do something like that. But, it's not like they have Montana or Elway slinging the ball.
9.17.2008 6:09pm
Jerrod Ankenman:
A batter on first is usually "held on" by the first baseman as protection against a steal attempt, but on 2 out, 3-2 count when you know the batter is running, you don't hold him on.

Certainly a lot of conventional wisdom in baseball is a mess, but I'm not sure what the problem with this strategy is; you hold a runner on to prevent him from taking a free base. But with 3-2, 2 out, he can never get a free base by running (that you can prevent), so you strengthen your defense instead of holding him on.
9.17.2008 6:11pm
The Ace (mail):
and any self-respecting football fan knows the answer, to wit: he is a terrible coach.

Occam's Razor!!

And, as a Steelers fan, I'm happy he is!

I have a hard time believing he did this becasue of the point spread. Are we supposed to believe he bet on the game himself???
9.17.2008 6:14pm
The Ace (mail):
By the way, Romeo's handling of the clock and subsequent interception right before the half speak volumes about his coaching ability. It is almost as if things like that always happen to bad coaches.
9.17.2008 6:17pm
Agree with Conrad. It's hard to see how this is a winning strategy. At some point your team knows it's a now or never moment. True, if they had gone for the first down and not made it the defense could, theoretically have held, the offense could have gotten the ball back and scored. But, everyone knows in 99.999% of cases it is now or never. Why not sell it to your team that way?
9.17.2008 6:30pm
John T. (mail):
The Redskins faced situations where one might go for it five times in their game against the Saints. (I'm surprised Easterbrook didn't comment on it.)

They chose to attempt field goals on 4th and 2 from the 4, the 12, and the 19. To make matters worse, they missed one (from the 12) on a bad snap. All three of those are considered almost sure bets for going for it.

They also missed a field goal on 4th and 11 from the 31 and made another on 4th and 9 from the 17. Those two are in the "maybe" category according to the research, but I would not expect coaches to go for them. (Truly terrible kickers might make it worth it, though.)

However, with two minutes left, they did go for it on 4th and 2 from the 31, which is highly recommended by the research. They made it and ended the game, being able to run out the clock.

The first local max for going for it rather than kicking is approximately just outside one's field goal kicker's range, where the kicking option is either a very low probability FG or a short punt that may well be a touchback, netting only 10-15 yards.
9.17.2008 6:39pm
John McCall (mail):
johnw: No trouble. If it really was a 10-3 short-time situation, yeah, I can understand your complaint: the Vikings should be playing to win for themselves, not to affect other teams. It still doesn't strike me as black-and-white: maybe they really thought they had no realistic shot at a touchdown.

There's a similar code of ethics for, say, board games, where players who are clearly out the running have to be careful to not intentionally tilt the competition for everyone else. Well, depending on the game; certainly a Diplomacy player has the right to try to screw a black-hearted former ally.
9.17.2008 6:40pm
Joe Gator (mail):
When the Vikings kicked the field goal, wouldnt that have just sent the game into sudden death Overtime?
9.17.2008 6:45pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
Coaches take a personal risk by "going for it" when they have a "safe" alternative. A few failed 4th down efforts in key game situations might end a career. The odds in pretty much all possible game conditions are known beforehand. To act counter to the odds would require some serious justification, e.g., the regular kicker was injured on a previous play and there is no adequate backup, making a kick in that particular circumstance anti-percentage.
9.17.2008 6:52pm
whoa there:
Coaches take a personal risk by "going for it" when they have a "safe" alternative.

There was no "safe" alternative here. The Browns still needed a defensive stop and a very quick touchdown. Kicking the field goal did not change that.

To act counter to the odds would require some serious justification,

Like the fact that they were down by 7 with 3 minutes to go?
9.17.2008 7:03pm
Crennel is a defensive coach, probably doesn't trust the offense as much as the defense.
9.17.2008 7:36pm
Ks (www): theory....where's Franco Harris?
9.17.2008 7:42pm
Re: the 10-6 Chiefs win over the Vikings that johnw brought up: If memory serves, that game was the 1981 regular season finale - and also happened to be the Vikings' final game at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington (on the current site of the Mall of America) before they and the Twins moved into the Metrodome. You'd think the Vikings (if not the players and coaches, then at least the team ownership and management paying their then-uncapped salaries) would have wanted to pull out all the stops to try and win that particular game, if only for the sake of historical pride. In that context, Bud Grant's decision to kick the field goal is even more mystifying.
9.17.2008 7:53pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
whoa there

You, apparently, know without question what the related percentages were upon which the coach made his decision. And the meaning of "" escaped you. And the point of the post was in a foreigh language you do not speak.

Or maybe you are just stupid and opinionated.
9.17.2008 8:29pm
deweber (mail):
There is another possibly obscure issue. At the end of the season, one of the tie breakers is points for( or maybe difference). While improbable, the field goal could make a difference at the end of the year. So the trade off would be chance of getting first with field position of opponent if attempt failed, getting the ball again and at what field position, along with chance of a score if successful against change of the field goal's success, the change of getting the ball again after a kick with its field position and the chance of a TD(field goal insufficient), along with the chance of affecting the tie breaker at year end
9.17.2008 8:44pm
In reponse to inquiry:

The browns game in question from two years ago was the October 8, 2006 game vs. the Panthers. Box score herehere:

The Browns were 8.5 points underdogs, and losing 20-9 with 5 seconds left. Here's what Simmons wrote on Oct. 13:

"The Browns are getting 8.5 points and trailing by 11. Fourth down, 5 seconds left. Instead of taking one more crack at the end zone, Romeo Crennel sends out the FG team for the cover. This actually happened."
9.17.2008 9:13pm
Pendulum (mail):
nyejm is 100% right: Crennel is a terrible football coach, at least as far as clock management, timeout management, and replay challenges go. I'm a Browns fan, and I suffer through this every week. He is, frankly, a moron, incapable of even the most basic rational calculations regarding value or probability.

This decision wasn't even close, and there's no way to spin it like it was. The odds against you being in a situation where the fifth tiebreaker would cost you must be a small fraction of 1%. The fact that scoring a touchdown may have quite low odds does not affect the decision at all, since the only instance in which kicking an FG helps at all is if the Steelers would then drive down and kick an FG, and the Browns would drive back again and score a TD, which is almost inconceivable with 3 minutes left.

Poor clock management in the NFL probably costs teams between 2 and 4 wins a year.
9.17.2008 9:21pm
Zywicki (mail):
What I like about Romer's paper, is that it takes account not only of the likelihood of scoring but also the likelihood of the other team scoring if you turn it over. So here's what makes Crenell's decision doubly-stupid: if the Browns fail to get it, the Steelers get the ball back on their own 20, far away from scoring.

So the Browns still have to get the 3-and-out. But if they do, then the Steelers get the ball back on their own 20. If the Browns don't stop them, then it is game over--but that is the same even if the Browns kickoff and don't stop them. If they do stop them, then the Steelers have to punt from their own 20 or so--into the strong wind at that point of the game. So then the Browns get the ball back at midfield or so. And they only have to drive 50 yards or so for a TD.

By kicking the field goal, they then gave the Steelers the ball back at the 35 or so (best case scenario would be the 20, where they were anyway). So the Steelers are closer to the Browns end zone, which means any punt will put the Browns further back. And the Browns still have to score a TD, but now they can predict that they'll have further to go.

The clock management was atrocious as well--which I suspect is corellated with what seems to me to be an utterly boneheaded strategy move.

With respect to the morale issue, for criminey sakes this is the end of the game. How much more morale do they need? It might (might!) be one thing in the first quarter, but at this point what's the benefit?
9.17.2008 9:54pm
The study is worthless, but I do respect the effort. The study looked at 3rd downs in the 1st not 4th downs in 4th. This makes a huge difference when it comes to offensive and defensive play calling. As in the 1st quarter the offense can gamble knowing they can punt and get field position. Also the defensive can gamble knowing there is the 3 more quarters to play. It is a lot easier to convert a 3rd down when you are on your own 40 than when it is 4th and goal and a very short field.
9.17.2008 10:19pm
Pendulum (mail):
With respect to the morale issue, for criminey sakes this is the end of the game. How much more morale do they need?

And furthermore, how good can it be for morale when you, Derek Anderson, finally mount a really good looking drive, push your team down the field, and aren't even allowed the opportunity to make a play on 4th down?
9.17.2008 10:58pm
vinnie (mail):
I had a flashback to a Boise state game that I was listening to on the radio(Not an exact quote):
Announcer#1: "The stats don't really show the reality of the game(BSU winning) the Broncos are only 2 for 7 on third down conversions."

Announcer#2" Yea but they are 4 for 5 on fourth down"

Announcer#1"well that explains it"
Coach Hawkins was not risk averse.
9.18.2008 12:33am
Brian G (mail) (www):
They needed a TD one way or another. They should have gone for it.

The problem in the NFL is risk-averse coaching without imagination. What really bothers me is that so many people made a big deal about Shanahan going for two to win the game against the Chargers and many people alos saying he would have been villified if they had failed on the two-point try. I ask, why?? Why is a coach beyond criticism for tying the game and putting the fate of his team on a coin flip. Take a look at the Seahawks-49ers game. Nedney misses that FG at the end of regulation. They go to OT and the 49ers win the toss, take the ball, and kick a FG without the Seahawks ever seeing the ball.

Madden and Michaels are company men who won't criticize anyone. That makes them like every other announcer out there. Romeo Crennel should have been called out for playing to keep the losing margin smaller. It seems that Gregg Easterbrook is the only one willing to point that out. Fraidy cat drives me nuts. I see a lot of that as an Eagles fan, as Andy Reid coaches that way. See e.g. an 8-yard out being called on 4th and 17, which turned out to be the last play of the game Monday night. Plus, I will never forget Reid order a punt on 4th down inside of the 2-minute warning in the playoff game vs the Saints a few years ago. The Saints got a 1st down and the Eagles never saw the ball again. Yet Reid was never called out for it.
9.18.2008 1:53am
Zywicki (mail):
Brian G:
Bingo on Shanahan--apparently in the NFL the average odds of making a two-point conversion is 49%. And if Shanahan has reason to believe that his team has an above-average likelihood of converting it, then the expected value is >50%, whereas the likelihood of winning in overtime is pretty much the expected value of the coin flip. And certainly with his offense, on that day in a shootout, with a multi-talented QB, you've gotta think that the odds of making it were higher than average.
9.18.2008 8:14am
Zywicki (mail):
As an update, looking around further, this site says the odds of converting it is only 44%. The rest of the analysis applies in the sense that on that day with his offense it seemss to me quite likely that the odds of making it were >50%.
9.18.2008 8:19am
Zywicki (mail):
Apparently I'm not the only one confused by these two different figures. See here, which presents both a below-45% and over 50% figure.
9.18.2008 8:27am
re: Vikings 10-6 loss to Chiefs. johnw has some facts mixed up. In the last minute of play the Vikings were down 10-6 and had a first down on the Chiefs one yard line. They threw four incomplete passes to lose. Perhaps johnw is under the impression that had the Vikings kicked a field goal and lost only 10-9, that the Chiefs would have been out of the playoffs on point differential.

As noted before, this was the last game at Metropolitan Stadium. The Vikings played to win.

A curse upon all who would slur the sainted Bud Grant!
9.18.2008 3:51pm