In 2020, data and analytics are as synonymous with professional sports as winning and losing, but it hasn't always been this way!
The NBA only recently became a strictly lay-up, dunk or three-pointer league. In the 2009-2010 season NBA teams averaged 18.1 3PA (three point attempts) per game. This season NBA teams averaged 34.1 3PA; nearly doubling in just a decade.
Based on what Moneyball told us, prior to 2002 baseball scouts and front office execs valued OBP (on base percentage) less than the end piece of a loaf of bread.
Change can be scary, but it's vital for growth and development. Once a few people are successful in a method or practice that was previously taboo, others jump on the bandwagon.
Historically, NFL teams tend to be more conservative and risk-adversed in both play-calling and decision making. I swear I hope I never see a team punt from their opponent's 37 yard line again. Over the last few years that tide has changed.
In 2015, only four teams had 20 or more 4th down conversion attempts. Last year there were 12; highlighted by the 14-2 Baltimore Ravens who went 17/24 on 4th down.
That aggressive mindset is part of what earned the Ravens the AFC's #1 seed. Over the course of a year 17/24 looks great, but in a small sample size (AKA one playoff game) it's meaningless. When you lose a home playoff game by 16 points as 10 point favorite while going 0/4 on 4th down in the process, it will inevitably cause people to question the decision making.
I love the Raven's aggressiveness, but there were points in that game where going for it on 4th may have not been the right call; even if the odds say so. They call it chasing points. Down 14-6 on their opening drive of the second half, Baltimore failed on a 4th and 1 from the Titan 18 yard line. Justin Tucker is an All-Pro kicker who was 80/82 between 30-40 yards in his career. Idk what the odds were that they'd gain a yard, but they had a 97.56% chance at three points. This occurred AFTER failing on a 4th and 1 on their own 45 which set up a one-play touchdown drive for the Titans.
That introduction was presented to paint you a picture of last night's Sunday Night Football game. While the Los Angeles Rams debuted a new $5 BILLION stadium and new uniforms, they were not the only ones with a major change going into the game. After nearly a decade as Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett's expiring contract was not extended following the 2019 season. He was replaced with former Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
After coaching the Packers from 2006-2018, McCarthy was out of football last year. He must've used the time off to completely change his coaching philosophy as the infamously conservative coach turned into Bernie Sanders overnight.
This same guy once kicked TWO field goals from the one yard line in the NFC Championship Game.
McCarthy lost his Dallas Cowboys coaching debut last night by the score of 20-17 after opting to not attempt a very makable 28 yarder with 11:46 left in the game. Here's what he had to say about going for it in that spot.
I swear this isn't just because I took Cowboys ML last night (as I chased an 0-2 start to the 2020 season because the Colts couldn't beat the actively tanking Jaguars), but I don't care what the analytics say about it only being 4th and 3. You HAVE to take the points in that situation. I'm sure the book does say the odds are likely you'll convert on 4th and 3, but as the greatest coach in the history of the NFL, Bill Belichick preaches; you have to be situationally sound.
Sure, I don't have an equation or even method to the Dozo System, but let me tell you this. When you're down by three points in the fourth quarter in field goal range....you attempt the fucking field goal. There is playing aggressive and then there is reckless football. I'll never be convinced that going for it there was anything but the latter even if it was only stopped by a fantastic open-field tackle.
Because the way I see it, if you give up a touchdown when you're down three points in the fourth quarter it's likely game over. When it's tied, you still have life.
To the Cowboys credit, their defense didn't allow another point after this play AND they were on the wrong side of a questionable AT BEST pass interference call.
It may not be super fair to completely single-out this decision as to why they lost, but rational thoughts about a game that had (if my calculations are correct) 145 total plays don't make super interesting blogs. YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE POINTS!!!
Speaking of analytics and head-scratching moves, I was shocked that the Rams didn't go for two after Malcolm Brown's touchdown to attempt to stretch their lead to seven. Personally, I'm a huge "don't for two until you need to" guy, but wouldn't the book say to go for two in the second half? Whatever, it didn't end up hurting the Rams, but I found it odd; especially with McVay, whom I perceive as an aggressive/progressive coach.