Category: decision making

The Colts Decision

January 5th, 2012 — 10:25pm

As a Colts fan since the Harbaugh days, I remember the last time the Colts had the number 1 pick. The decision then, however, was much different. Indianapolis was definitely drafting and keeping a QB, it was just a matter of who: Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. Bill Polian made the right choice and the Colts have benefited with one of the best sustained runs of excellence in NFL history.

Now, the Polian era has ended and his replacement will decide if the Manning era has ended as well. It’s a much different decision than the one 14 years ago. Let’s lay out the particulars of this Colts decision:

  1. Peyton Manning–arguably the best QB in NFL history–has missed the season after his 2nd and 3rd neck surgeries in 2 years and will be 36 next season.
  2. Manning is due a large bonus before next season, so the Colts have a decision to make this offseason about cutting or keeping him.
  3. The Colts have the #1 pick, and this year’s draft features Andrew Luck who many consider the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning himself or John Elway.
  4. The NFL instituted a slotting system for the draft starting last year. Cam Newton, the 2011 top overall pick, made less than half of 2010 #1 pick Sam Bradford. This makes the #1 pick even more valuable.

As I see it, the Colts have three choices: (1) keep Peyton Manning and trade the pick, (2) draft Andrew Luck and trade or cut Peyton Manning, or (3) keep both Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Let’s start with #3: Continue reading »

4 comments » | decision making, Football, player evaluation, team evaluation

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September 24th, 2011 — 4:02pm

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that the NFL moved the kickoff line forward 5 yards to the 35 yard line. The hope is that this will result in more touchbacks and, therefore, fewer injuries due to fewer returns.

With more kickoffs going into the end zone, returners are faced with many more decisions. With apologies for the poor title of this post, the question still remains for returners: Should I take it out, or take a knee? I’m going to try to shed some light on the returners’ decision. Continue reading »

8 comments » | decision making, Football, strategy

Expected Points – College Football

September 1st, 2011 — 12:20am

Football is finally back as college football kicks off its season tomorrow. As an early present, I’m unveiling an expected points model for the collegiate game.

First, due respects need to be paid. This is heavily influenced by the work over at, where Brian Burke has done the same thing for the NFL. Many others have done similar work in football as well. And most of the football work is based off work done in baseball, where, while not the first, tangotiger at The Book Blog is arguably the most well-known for his run and win expectancy work (for those familiar with baseball, run expectancy by base-out state is essentially equivalent to the expected points concept in football).

What Expected Points (EP) does is provide a baseline for a given situation based on what we’d expect the average team to do. My EP system, like Brian Burke’s, is based on Down, Distance, and Yardline, but other things like time remaining in the half, timeouts remaining, etc. can be included. By putting everything on same scale we have an easy way to compare any type of situation, and by using points as that scale, we have something that is both intuitive and informative. When I say that that 1st and 10 on your opponents’ 20-yard line is worth 3.9 points, you immediately have a sense of what that means.

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7 comments » | College Football, decision making, Football, strategy

The Anatomy of a Decision

August 30th, 2011 — 11:04pm

4th and 2. Up 6. 2:08 remaining. Ball on your own 28. As a head coach, what do you do? More importantly, what process do you go through in order to make a decision.

Many of you will recognize the above situation: it is the famous 4th and 2 play from the 2009 game between the Patriots and Colts. I am not interested in discussing the validity of this particular decision as it has been dissected more than any other play of the past few years. Instead, I am simply going to use it as a lens to discuss how decisions should be made.

As a Colts fan, I debated the decision countless times (defending it). Many times, people would deride my use of “numbers” when I would lay out my argument. What they were really criticizing, however, were two very different things that many people often lump together and dismiss as “numbers”.

In decision-making, there are really two dimensions: (1) the first is defining the question you want answered and identifying the parameters that you’ll need in order to answer it and (2) the other is using statistics to estimate the unknown variables in that resulting equation. As I’ll show, criticism of the latter can be valid and depends heavily on the situation, but the former is not debatable but an indisputable truth.

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2 comments » | decision making, Football

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