Tipping Pitches: Sports: Fourth Down Decision Strangely Sensitive


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sports: Fourth Down Decision Strangely Sensitive

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I've spent two articles trying to make the case for why Bill Belichick went for it on fourth and two from his own 28 yard line with a six point lead and just over two minutes to go. That's not what this blog entry is all about.

I'm done. No more. It's pointless.

I've read countless articles bashing the decision. They all basically say the same thing. Stupid move. Dumbest coaching decision of the year. If any other coach does that, they'd get fired. You don't give Peyton Manning a short field. Arrogant. Not showing confidence in the defense.

There's nothing new out there. It's all a regurgitation.

The radio is no better. Since last Monday's game, I've listened to ESPN Radio all day every day. For the most part, these meat heads say the same thing. Dumb move. No excuse. No stats can make it a good move.

I don't even want these people to admit it was the right decision. Just acknowledge it had some merit. But they don't, which is the most frustrating part. And it's why this debate is going nowhere.

For whatever reason, it took Bill Simmons nearly a week to respond to the game and Belichick's move. The article is titled Belichick's fourth-and-reckless.

Yeah, we know where he stands on the issue.

As a regular Simmons reader, the article was disappointing, to say the least, but I wasn't surprised. Partly because I don't think a fan of the Patriots can view that decision clearly. You either hate it or you defend whatever Belichick does.

Still, it was a painful article to read. I typically thoroughly enjoy every word he writes. But this. This was trash.

After reading that article, I was going to respond with a blog entry of my own, dissecting his every misguided word. Nearly two days passed.

I can't do it.

Not that I can't make the arguments, but I've made them before. Others have as well. But those who want to believe that it was a stupid move will continue to believe that way.

It's like religion. Or politics.

Stat heads believe in the stats. Meat heads believe in unwritten football laws, no matter what the stats say.

You tell a stat head that the move made no sense, no matter what the stats say, we think you're stupid.

A stat head tells a meat head that the move had merit, no matter what is typically done in football, and the meat head laughs hysterically.

Heels are dug in. People aren't changing their minds. Let's just move on.

In the end, there's a very good reason why this issue is so difficult to debate. There is no precedence. Coaches don't do this. I don't care if you have other fourth down stats. This fourth down was different in every way imaginable.

We need more coaches who are willing to do things that aren't typically done. Now, don't do completely irrational things. But if you at least have the stats saying to do it, do it.

Until then, we're just debating about something that has no clear right or wrong answer. We're arguing about something that has only happened once.

So, coaches, buck up. The best candidates for this experiment are those who are going to lose their jobs anyway. They have nothing to lose.

Worst case, they look stupid and get fired. They were going to get fired anyway.

Best case, they are "the next Belichick." Assuming the meat heads don't ruin his reputation with this one decision, that's a good thing.


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