When the New England Patriots went up to the line last night on 4th and 2 from inside their 30 yard line, I thought for sure that they were trying to draw the Colts offside and could not believe when they snapped the ball. I told my son and wife that it was the worst coaching decision in history — in any sport!
Most of the sports analysts I have heard last night and this morning seem to agree, although when I look at it today from an analytical perspective, perhaps it wasn’t such a bad decision after all. In poker, which I play quite a bit, we often apply math to various scenarios. The math is only one factor that must be taken into consideration when making a poker decision, but it helps establish a base decision making criteria.
Many of you want to quickly dismiss an analytical approach to making this decision, but in truth, most football decisions come down to playing the percentages. The same football analysts who are dismissing the decision to go go for it on 4th and 2 are using math to justify their dismissal of the move. Their arguments usually go something like… can’t he trust his defense to stop Manning and the Colts? They would have had 70 yards to move down the field and Patriots had been stopping them most of the time. Most stands for a % in these analysts’ minds. Is it 40%, 50%, 60%. It has to be something, right? They are also making the mistake of applying math to some of the decision and not all of it — sure NE can stopping the Colts some significant % of the time, but how often will they make it on 4th and 2 and even if they miss, how often will the Colts score from 30 yards out? These are all factors that must be looked at. If not, why not?