Better Strategy for NFL Teams

3 02 2009

Too many teams make horrendous strategic decisions during football games, including the Superbowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who on their first possession kicked a field goal on 4th and goal from the one inch line, and on their last possession used a timeout to maximize the amount of time left on the clock when their opponents got the ball back.

Teams using bad strategy isn’t news.  Gregg Easterbrook publishes the exact same column every week, which notes these strategic errors, right before the creepy ogling of a cheerleader and crappy analysis of outer space.  But how to fix the problem?  First, note some causes of these errors:

  • Head-coaches rely on conventional wisdom, which often contradicts optimal strategy.
  • The number of games head-coaches have been involved with is fairly small, so they haven’t had sufficient sample size to determine optimal strategy.
  • In the heat of a game, it’s easy for head-coaches to overlook strategic subtleties; it’s like being on tilt in a poker game.
  • Head-coaches fear the blame that comes from with taking a risk and failing and tend to make decisions that are overly conservative.

Here’s my solution: forces all NFL teams to hire a level-headed strategy guy.  The LHSG would address these issues head-on by providing level-headed advice to head-coaches, and by providing cover when things go horribly wrong.

I envision a post-game conference going something like this:

Obnoxious reporter: Hey coach, trailing by three points in the fourth quarter, you went for it on fourth and two at the five yard line.  Why not kick the field goal?

Coach: Actually, I’m gonna refer that question to our level-headed strategy guy.

Obnoxious reporter: Hey level-headed strategy guy, trailing by three points in the fourth quarter, you went for it on fourth and two at the five yard line.  Why not kick the field goal?

LHSG: Well we built a regression model and determined that if we kicked the field goal, our probability of winning the game was 0.38, but if we went for it, that probability would be 0.43.

Coach: You’re fired, level-headed strategy guy.

LHSG: Okay.

Note that the level-headed strategy guy is so level-headed, he doesn’t even care when he gets fired.  Even in this economy!

Anyway, the qualifications for LHSG would be as follows:

  • Bachelor’s degree from a decent school in statistics, economics, math, or similar field.
  • Read this paper.
  • Familiar with NFL personnel. (i.e. 5 years of fantasy football)
  • Log at least 500 hours of Madden, or similar football video game, and experiment with different strategies.
  • Be level-headed.

There’s my two cents.  Gotta run…I think Easterbrook’s about to publish his column again.


Super Bowl Summary

2 02 2009

Congratulations to the Arizona Cardinals, who defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday in the Super Bowl.  The Cardinals were led by Kurt Warner (377Yds-3TD-1INT) and Larry Fitzgerald (127Yds-2TD) who outperformed Steelers stars Ben Roethlisberger (256-1-1) and Santonio Holmes (131-1) by a total of 20 fantasy points.

Wait, what you say?  The Super Bowl isn’t determined by fantasy points?  The Steelers won the game?  Huh.

Other interesting notes:

  • In case you didn’t hear, the game was reported on by Larry Fitzgerald’s father, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who decided to write an article on The Great Dansby.
  • My vote for Steelers’ MVP is Mike Gandy, who successfully ended three Cardinals drives.
  • My vote for overall MVP is…wait for it…this guy.

Football fantasy too fantastic for football fantasy league

29 01 2009

Lingerie Bowl CancelledVia Football Outsiders, I find this story, This the funniest thing I’ve read in a while, on a number of levels:

The organizers of a football game played by women in bras and panties were worried that the integrity and wholesome family atmosphere of their game would be ruined by having naked men and women in the stands.

I won’t elaborate too much here, but let me pose these questions:

  • Is a nudist colony really more offensive to family values than a lingerie football game?
  • Is a lingerie football game really more offensive to family values than the NFL’s use of cheerleaders?

The cancellation deals a serious blow to the Caliente Resorts fantasy Lingerie Football league.  And I had the first pick!

We’re not experts

23 09 2008

I play in a 12-team fantasy football league with my co-blogger.  We’re currently both 0-3, good for 11th and 12th place.  We also play together in a 14-team fantasy baseball league.  We’re currently in 13th and 14th place.  So when our tagline reads, “special insights into fantasy sports”, we mean Special Olympics special.

In defense of my football team, during my week 2 loss, I put up the second most points by any team in any week so far this season.  It just happened that I played against the guy who had the highest point total through three weeks.  In week 3, I lost 76.41-72.84, not exactly a drubbing.  In defense of my baseball team, I got hit pretty hard by injuries.  Also, my team dropped Jason Bay early on, due to miscommunication with my co-manager.  (Not my co-blogger mind you, totally different dude.  Well, they’re both Asian.  But that shouldn’t even matter…they’re from different Asian countries, so they’re totally different.  Also, my co-manager’s pretty little, while my co-blogger’s a fairly big dude…not this big, definitely not this big.

This upcoming weekend will be very exciting, as my co-blogger and I square off to see who remains winless.  There can be only one.  This matchup will take place while I’m attending my co-blogger’s wedding, putting me at a severe disadvantage, since I’ll be busy all weekend with wedding festivities.

Fantasy Sports as a Hedging Instrument

15 09 2008

One of the main reasons I enjoy fantasy sports is that it allows me a certain amount of control over the emotional impact of a game.  The result of a Bears game affects me emotionally, but I have no control over whether the Bears win or lose.  Following a tough loss, I can’t say “yeah, I guess it’s my fault.  I should have tried to upgrade at quarterback in the offseason.”  Fantasy wins and losses also affect me, but in those cases, I have some, but not complete, control over my team’s performance.  This makes my fantasy team feal more real than my real team.  It’s a fantasy to think that the Bears are mine in any real sense, but it’s a reality to think that my fantasy teams are mine.

Nonetheless, I do have favorite sports teams and I am emotionally affected by their performance, which is annoying, since it’s completely beyond my control.  One way to reduce this effect, or to hedge my emotional sports risk, is to deliberately avoid drafting players on my favorite teams and seek out players from my least favorite teams.  It’s not a strong factor in my decision-making process, but when a marginal decision arises, it can come in to play.

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The all-Sherwood fantasy football team

14 09 2008

Here’s what I have so far:

  • DB: Roderick Hood
  • DL: Justin Tuck, Leonard Little
  • RB: Marion Barber, alLen-a-Dale White
  • TE: Heath, the Miller’s Son

Any suggestions for other positions?