While Belichick's decision is certainly controversial, especially in hindsight, I would not be surprised if objective statistical analysis showed that in general teams punt too often on 4th and short yardage.

Taking the usual kick and runback, perhaps the defensive team takes over an average of 30 yards down the field. If the offensive team can make the short yardage, say, 75% of the time, in general that seems a worthwhile tradeoff. Of course, Belichick was ahead, with two minutes to go, on his own 29 yard line, so not the most favorable case for it.

I recently heard of a small college team where the coach nearly always goes for it on 4th down, and nearly always on kickoffs kicks an offside kick to try to recover the ball. I bet he comes out ahead, although his tradeoffs are more favorable than in the NFL where kickers kick much farther, less chance of a kick's being blocked, etc.

I know nothing about football, but sounds a strategy worth trying more, especially if gives the defensive team a lot more uncertainty.

Bill Egan comments:

Belicheck's decision is a lovely example of bad risk control. He risked everything on one play.There are those who might argue that risk management should of course be a matter of necessary discipline. And even though it may behoove one's survival interests to never wager everything on one unknowable outcome, ratcheting up the risk parameters when one clearly has the upper hand, should never be ruled out. That said, even though one may steadfastly never risk anymore than x percent on any one outcome, it would hardly be unduly irresponsible to risk somewhat more than x to wager that Belicheck will not do that again anytime soon.

Why, because there's a considerable qualitative element at work here.

He wasn't the inevitable victim of the inevitable 100-year flood, some of which will inevitably if soggily cluster. No, he was the victim of not having any faith in his defensive employees.

And he knows full-well that the flesh-eaters in the media would reduce him to dry bones but quick if he did it that egregiously again, and it didn't work again.

Therefore, it would be relatively safe to dutifully wager that it won't happen under those same circumstances anytime soon, and it would hardly be imprudent to risk more than the ordinary x.

(Provided that's in the prospectus. Never mess with the lawyers, they're a lot cagier than football coaches. And the odds are always in their favor.)


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