Will we ever stop blaming "the math" on fourth down?
Teams go for it more often in today's football, and everyone always knows it was the wrong decision once the result is known.
Let’s say you knew someone, we’ll call them The Acquaintance, who never jaywalked. This was a bit curious. We all jaywalk a little bit, right? Not The Acquaintance. They only crossed the street in crosswalks and only then with a walk signal, if either or both were available, and they were pragmatic about it.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The Acquaintance would always note, if a person crossed the street 10,000 times and only jaywalked they’d be expected to die in collision with an automobile about 1,800 times, but if that same person never jaywalked they’d be expected to die 400 times in a collision. The Acquaintance was only an acquaintance, but you heard these numbers recited more than once, and, to be honest, it was kind of annoying while being tough to refute.
Yesterday, The Acquaintance was tragically killed while crossing the street in the only way they would—in the crosswalk, with the signal. How does this make you feel about The Acquaintance’s extreme but basically irrefutable stance on crossing the street?
In football we seem to consider that question anew every time there’s a fourth-down decision that doesn’t work out, and that happens more often now as more coaches know that nobody was going for it often enough since the sport’s origin. This debate happens so frequently now I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever get across this ideological street or if we’ll just be stuck at this intersection forever.
The latest coach to be sentenced to some time in the anti-analytics stocks in the middle of Screw the Numbers Square is the Detroit Lions’ Dan Campbell (but I’ll eventually make this about Nebraska, I promise).