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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tom Coughlin is a genius

The Giants were up 17-14 on the San Diego 4 yard line with 2:10 left. Tom Coughlin chose to kick a field goal to go up by 6 points instead of going for the end zone and attempting to, you know, win the game. The line of thinking, of course, is that you want to force the other team to have to score a touchdown so that they cannot tie the game on a field goal.

Only one problem: if the Giants give up a touchdown up 6, they have a zero percent chance of winning the game. If they give up a field goal up 3, they have a 50% chance of winning the game, at the very least. Touchdown drives occur in the NFL on 20% of all possessions. Field goals occur 12% of the time. Since the hypothetical situation occurs on their own 4-yard line, these numbers are generous for Coach Goblin. The Giants have a 20% chance of losing, and a 12% chance of tying. Tying means 50%, so that 12 becomes 6. Add it to the TD percentage, and the Chargers have a 26% chance of winning the game when they get the ball on their own 4. Since 20% of possessions end in TDs, the Chargers have a 20% chance of winning if the Giants go up by 6. Seems that Coughlin made the right choice, right? Obviously not.

Aside from the fact that the above numbers are far in favor of the Giants, we're ignoring a key component. The Giants can win the game by scoring a touchdown on 4th down. 43% of 4th downs on the 2-yard line are converted, so let's be very generous and say 25% of 4th and fours are converted. This means there is an 75% chance that the Chargers get the ball on their own 4 (which in turn gives them a 26% chance of winning). 75% of 26% = 19.5%. I have put every single statistic in favor of the Giants, and the decision is still wrong.

Let's see if I'm right. Using the win probability database, the Chargers have a 12% chance of winning down by 3 on their own 4 with 2:05 left. They have a 21% chance of winning down by 6 on their own 20.

Tom Coughlin is praised by the media for being a genius. He almost doubled the Chargers' chances of winning by kicking that field goal. Thanks Coach!

[NOTE: The Chargers won.]


Uncle Frank said...

Maybe he should give that shit up and concentrate on golf.

Anonymous said...

I bet your neighbor the accountant can't run on the field pass the numbers and throw a challenge flag.

ps how does this never drawn a penalty?