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11.08.2005

Lies, damn lies, and... 

I used to be a fairly faithful reader of Tuesday Morning Quarterback, but it's definitely been slipping over the last couple years. He continually repeats the same football "theories", some of which misuse or misunderstand statistics and others of which completely collapse under scrutiny.

He starts off his latest column with a real howler:


Hooray for the Kansas City Chiefs! Trailing by three, ball on the Oakland 1 with five seconds remaining, the Chiefs went for the touchdown and victory rather than take the easy way out, kick a field goal and accept overtime. As Kansas City approached the line, yours truly said aloud, "Verily, the football gods will smile upon this show of courage." And yea, verily, they did. And, bless him, Dick Vermeil resisted the pass-wacky urge, telling offensive coordinator Al Saunders to call whatever was the team's best short-yardage run; blocking was fabulous.

For years, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has been contending that teams at the goal line on the last play should go for the win, not kick and proceed to a fifth quarter. A ticket to overtime is a 50/50 chance of victory, whereas there's maybe a 90 percent chance of scoring from the 1 and an 80 percent chance of scoring from the 2. Vermeil understood these percentages. Yet in almost every instance when an NFL coach must choose between likely victory on a last-second try from the goal line, and a kick that forces overtime, coaches choose overtime. The reason? Avoiding criticism. If the team goes for victory and the attempt fails, the coach is denounced; if the team plays it safe, proceeds to overtime and loses in the extra session, players get the blame. Avoiding criticism should not be an NFL coach's first concern. Victory should -- and fortune favors the bold.


For years, TMQ has also declared that going for two after a touchdown is a losing proposition on average, claiming that taking the extra point at 99% is better than taking the two-point conversion (an untimed play starting at the 2-yard line) at 40%. But here he claims that the success rate on final plays of games from the 2 is 80%. Surely there are statistics on these situations available, and I would be very surprised if there indeed was such a difference in conversion rates on identical plays. More to the point, it's supposed to be TMQ's job to dig up these statistics instead of making them up.

The other item that really annoys me is when TMQ declares that blitzing on 3rd and more than 6 is always a bad idea, given that the average NFL play nets less than 6 yards. While I agree that it should be done sparingly, there are a couple problems with his statement:

There are probably other examples of TMQ preaching that could be shot down, but these are a couple glaring examples.

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