Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hating Belichick a Little Less

I'm on board Amtrak and headed down the northeastern corridor, but have been reading a lot about this past Sunday night's Patriots-Colts game.

I had just gotten into New York that night, and had checked the score as I walked through the airport to see the Colts down by a lot, 24-7 if I remember correctly.

Since I hate the Patriots, this was unfortunate.

But I continued to monitor the game as I headed back to my apartment for the same reason most young guys do, my critical fantasy football matchup.

With Colts WR Reggie Wayne carrying my roster against my opponents Patriots WR (and all-around jerk) Wes Welker, I wasn't feeling too good about my chances and left ESPN gamecast running as I hopped in the shower.

Of course, only after I got out of the shower did I see the final score, Colts win 35-34, on a last minute TD by none other than Reggie Wayne.

Good news of course, especially because the Patriots are cheaters and Peyton Manning should always beat them.

But what was interesting to me was the next morning, when Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has been praised more than any professional coach in any sport over the last decade, was getting hammered by the media.

His crime, he went for it on fourth down, the Patriots failed to convert, Peyton Manning got the ball back, and the rest is history.

Unfortunately, as much as I've hated Belichick for things like his cheating and being an all-around not nice guy, he actually may have made the right decision.

The whole incident, precipitated by going for it on fourth down, brings up an issue I always harp on when watching the NFL. The fact that NFL coaches, by a large, are terrified of doing anything that could get the criticized.

Punting on fourth down, as opposed to going for it in a makeable situation, is the most obvious example and one that happens in just about every game.

Belichick, now that he's reached 'I'm-Keith Hernandez' status from his Super Bowl rings, no longer has to worry about being called a moron or his job security. To be fair, I don't think he's ever been worried about that stuff since he joined the Patriots, and that's one of the reasons he's a good coach.

Belichick knew, as any smart football fan does, that the whole going for it decision boils down to a relatively simple calculation of expected value.

This webpage is a pretty good calculator that will let you figure it out for yourself.


But at its most basic level, I think Belichick was right to go for it and try to end the game, even if he was deep in his own territory.

Had he succeeded, all we would hear about is how Belichick is a tremendous coach, has guts, knows his team, or some other such nonsense.

Instead, his call didn't work out, and he's an idiot.

It pains me to say it, but I have to disagree.

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