Friday, October 3, 2008

2008 - Week 5 Shootout of the Week

Well, a persistent rumor is going around about an exciting event that is supposed to happen tonight in Arkansas high school football. Perhaps, you have heard it. The rumor is that NFL films is sending a crew to Little Rock to film Pulaski Academy's home game against Camden Fairview. While this game is likely to be a great football game, that is not the reason for the national attention. The network is rumored to be interested in documenting the "No Punt" philosophy of PA's head coach, Kevin Kelley.

For those of you who don't know, Coach Kelley despises the idea of giving up the football by punting, so it is my opinion that he went looking for an excuse not to do it. He found it in research produced in an unlikely place, the economics department at the University of California-Berkeley. Professor David Romer started looking at whether or not "managers" at business firms optimize by examining the behavior of NFL head coach decisions on 4th down. He published his results in the Journal of Political Economy in August 2006. For those of you who don't want to read the entire paper, here's a summary:
  • Unless your defense is as good at stopping the opponents as the Baltimore Ravens during the best years, then you score more points by going for it on "almost" all 4th down plays.
  • The opposing team does NOT score any more points by going for it on those 4th down plays.
  • Coaches punt for the short term goal of shifting the responsibility for the opposing score from his decision to go for it to the defense's inability to stop the offense. This is a shell game to avoid those annoying post-game questions about the 4th down "failures".
  • You INCREASE your chance of winning by going for it on "almost" all 4th down especially if you have a prolific offense and an average to less than average defense.
I am sold on Coach Kelley's philosophy, but all 4th downs are not equivalent. I think that this is a small flaw in his approach. However, he is getting paid for to make those decisions, not me. In any case, we feel that the rumor itself makes this game our Shootout of the Week for Week 5. Can anyone out there confirm or deny the validity?

One of us will be there at the PA-Camden Fairview match-up while the other gets the pleasure of watching the 3-time defending state champion Nashville Scrappers travel to Mena (a "homecoming" of sorts). We anticipate a big win by Scrappers in Bearcat Stadium tonight. Have a great weekend! Hopefully, football will be part of it.

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