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Going for it on 4th down
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I Am Rodgers


Joined: 19 Jan 2009
Posts: 7137
Location: New Jersey
PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:01 am    Post subject: Going for it on 4th down Reply with quote

I've often heard from stat guys who are much more knowledgeable than I, that going for it on 4th down is a higher percentage play than not going for it. With our kicker struggles, I'm going to go through the last few games and analyze the percentages for kicking a field goal, punting, and going for it.

First example: Detroit 12/9/12
Packers trailing 14-0
4th and 6 from DET 31
11:00 2nd QTR
Field goal attempt distance: 49 yards

Expected % of converting 4th down: 45%
Expected % of kicking field goal: 60%
Expected win % from going for it and converting: 16%
Expected win % from going for it and not converting: 12%
Expected win % from making field goal: 15%
Expecting win % from missing field goal: 12%
Expected win % from punting: 12%
WP% regardless of outcome going for it: 14%
WP% regardless of outcome punt: 12%
WP% regardless of outcome field goal attempt: 14%


We had a 15% higher chance making the field goal than converting 4th and six. If we expect the best possible outcome from both going for it or kicking the field goal the difference is only 1% in expected win percentage. With both outcomes factored in and % of converting, the win% is even. McCarthy made the right call in going with the higher percentage play.


Second example: Detroit 12/9/12
Packers tied 17-17
4th and 17 from DET 33
3:28 3rd QTR
Field goal attempt distance: 51 yards

Expected % of converting 4th down: 10%
Expected % of kicking field goal: 55%
Expected win % from going for it and converting: 66%
Expected win % from going for it and not converting: 46%
Expected win % from making field goal: 62%
Expecting win % from missing field goal: 44%
Expected win % from punting: 50%
WP% regardless of outcome going for it: 48%
WP% regardless of outcome punt: 50%
WP% regardless of outcome field goal attempt: 54%

This is a situation where going for it is a low percentage play so our two options are punt which leaves us with a 50% chance at winning or attempting the field goal. If Crosby were to make the field goal our win % climbs to 62%. Missing it leaves our win % at 44%. There was more to gain by kicking the field goal than there was to lose if we missed. Punting kept our win% stagnant. The difference in expected win% from not converting 4th down and kicking the field goal comes from the yardage lost in the field goal hold.


Third example: Detroit 12/9/12
Packers lead 24-17
4th and 7 from DET 23
4:10 4th QTR
Field goal attempt distance: 41 yards

Expected % of converting 4th down: 42%
Expected % of kicking field goal: 76%
Expected win % from going for it and converting: 97%
Expected win % from going for it and not converting: 84%
Expected win % from making field goal: 92%
Expecting win % from missing field goal: 84%
Expected win % from punting: 82%
WP% regardless of outcome going for it: 89%
WP% regardless of outcome punt: 82%
WP% regardless of outcome field goal attempt: 90%

As we can see here the game is in good shape for us and we have a makable 41 yard field goal. Down and distance isn't extremely favorable for going for it as our expected % of converting it is 42%. We make it though and we essentially lock the game up. Don't get it and our odds drop to slightly higher than 4/5 chance in winning. Kicking the field goal isn't as much of a lock to get us the win but with a higher % of making it, our WP% is slightly higher if we kick the field goal.


Fourth example: Chicago 12/16/12
Packers tied 0-0
4th and 6 from CHI 25
11:26 2nd QTR
Field goal attempt distance: 43 yards

Expected % of converting 4th down: 45%
Expected % of kicking field goal: 72%
Expected win % from going for it and converting: 63%
Expected win % from going for it and not converting: 47%
Expected win % from making field goal: 60%
Expecting win % from missing field goal: 46%
Expected win % from punting: 50%
WP% regardless of outcome going for it: 54%
WP% regardless of outcome punt: 50%
WP% regardless of outcome field goal attempt: 56%

This one looks like a no brainer. Higher % of making the field goal and our expected win % regardless of outcome is 2% better if we try the field goal. We kick, Crosby misses. Can't blame McCarthy here. The percentages clearly say kick and it just didn't work out.


Fourth example: Chicago 12/16/12
Packers lead 13-7
4th and 6 from CHI 25
9:44 3rd QTR
Field goal attempt distance: 44 yards

Expected % of converting 4th down: 45%
Expected % of kicking field goal: 70%
Expected win % from going for it and converting: 85%
Expected win % from going for it and not converting: 74%
Expected win % from making field goal: 81%
Expecting win % from missing field goal: 73%
Expected win % from punting: 78%
WP% regardless of outcome going for it: 79%
WP% regardless of outcome punt: 78%
WP% regardless of outcome field goal attempt: 79%

This is the first non-field goal I'm analyzing. This is the 4th and 6 that we went for and converted with a pass to Cobb. People took this call to say that McCarthy lost confidence in Crosby. Not true. If you look at the percentages our WP% is the same regardless of outcome if we try for it or kick the field goal. Our chances of converting 4th down were only 45%, however our WP% if we convert vs making the field goal is 4% higher. By going for it, McCarthy is rewarded in converting for 1st down and going on to score a TD, giving us a two TD lead.

Fourth example: Chicago 12/16/12
Packers lead 21-10
4th and 1 from CHI 24
10:16 4th QTR
Field goal attempt distance: 42 yards

Expected % of converting 4th down: 74%
Expected % of kicking field goal: 74%
Expected win % from going for it and converting: 97%
Expected win % from going for it and not converting: 92%
Expected win % from making field goal: 97%
Expecting win % from missing field goal: 90%
Expected win % from punting: 94%
WP% regardless of outcome going for it: 96%
WP% regardless of outcome punt: 94%
WP% regardless of outcome field goal attempt: 95%

This is the first situation where McCarthy didn't go with the percentages, but not for lack in faith in Crosby. The field goal is the lower percentage play here with equal chance in converting 4th and kicking, but a higher WP% regardless of outcome. McCarthy decided here that trying to kick was the best move. Crosby missed the field goal and McCarthy is scolded for kicking.



As we can see, in most instances McCarthy has played the percentages. The one where he did not, he was punished by the football gods with a field goal miss. It'll be interesting to watch from here on out how this all plays out.

Sources: wp.advancednflstats.com/4thdncalc1.php
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Good thing for talky-talk Harbaugh he has an outstanding citizen/player like Aldon Smith on his team and not a classless hooligan like Clay Matthews.
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blankman0021


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

These crazy detailed stat posts are one of the reasons this site and forum are the best I've found. Thanks for putting in the work. It will be interesting to see how the game is played today.
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xDD80x


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are dozens of MIT Sloan Conference studies (statistics-and-sport conference) that conclude "NFL teams would be better served to punt far less".

It's speculated that the reason coaches don't do is not because they're not interested in a probabilistically sound strategy.

The downside to failing is blame, backlash, and a reduction of job security.
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aj hawk #50


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Posts: 9600
PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xDD80x wrote:
It's speculated that the reason coaches don't do is not because they're not interested in a probabilistically sound strategy.
It's important to remember that in probability there are two major components: expected value and variance (standard deviation). While a team, on average, may improve their chances of winning by going for it on 4th down, I would imagine that the variance involved in doing so is much higher than punting it away. This unpredictability is probably why it's difficult for coaches to go for it on 4th down. While there is a high upside to going for it, there's also a big downside if you fail. It's the same reason why they recommend you pull investments out of stocks and put them into safer investments as you get older. While stocks earn way more on average, they also have a high chance of losing you money and that's not something you can afford 10 years before retirement.
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justo


Joined: 05 Aug 2012
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chip Kelly goes for it on 4th a lot and gets it at a pretty high clip. Part of his game. I know SDSU's coach has spent years researching it and this year they announced they will go for it on 4th down past the 50 unless it's over 15 yards or something. He's done pretty well if you consider the talent at SDSU.
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GBPackers79


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

justo wrote:
Chip Kelly


Stop this.
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justo


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

GBPackers79 wrote:
justo wrote:
Chip Kelly


Stop this.
Gonna win more rings than anyone in history. Might never lose a game in the NFL TBH
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DannyB


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xDD80x wrote:
There are dozens of MIT Sloan Conference studies (statistics-and-sport conference) that conclude "NFL teams would be better served to punt far less".

It's speculated that the reason coaches don't do is not because they're not interested in a probabilistically sound strategy.

The downside to failing is blame, backlash, and a reduction of job security.


Yyyyup.

Despite Herm Edwards's insistence, virtually all NFL coaches play not to lose the game, rather than win the game.

There are numerous examples of coaches going for sure field goals late in the game to make the gap of the loss smaller (single digits, or maybe just within one score) rather than going for a TD which would be the only hope of them actually winning the game.
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I Am Rodgers


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Should I even bother going through yesterdays 4th downs?
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Good thing for talky-talk Harbaugh he has an outstanding citizen/player like Aldon Smith on his team and not a classless hooligan like Clay Matthews.
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svp


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Field goals are the new punt.
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I Am Rodgers


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not going to bother posting all the percentages and such. I will say McCarthy made the correct call in each instance as to the percentages. Only one was a push where the FG and going for it were both 93% chance for WP%. Late in the game it didn't matter since our win expectancy was 99%.
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Good thing for talky-talk Harbaugh he has an outstanding citizen/player like Aldon Smith on his team and not a classless hooligan like Clay Matthews.
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IrishGreen


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is very interesting. Think of the strategies if you knew you were using all 4 downs past the 50. Comments in here are right, football had gotten so cliche with some of the "punting situations" and "gotta take the points". Bs I say! When it's 4th and 1 on the 30, go for that ish!
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blueswedeshoes


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great thread topic and the stats are a fun read.

I think that others observe correctly that fossilized, traditional coaching behavior regarding obvious punting downs fails to acknowledge important differences from team to team and from one game situation to another.

Mason Crosby's struggles may have caused MM to reach a conclusion more painful than passing a kidney stone: 4th and short from the 45 to the 25 is now go time, and if that is the case I like it.

The defense is developing a new tougher attitude that will accept the challenge of granting the opposition a short field two or three times a game.

Wouldn't it be great if everyone had to deal with the Packers offense getting four downs multiple times in game?
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CentralFC


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Always appreciate a mathematical representation of a very critical yet unnoticed trend in football. I started getting into this a few years back when a high school was chronicled for going for it every chance they got.

The math and logic says yes. The human side says no. It's an interesting tradeoff because we haven't seen the former strategy used in this league. With a few more years, however, I foresee it being a trend that a quarter of the league uses. In this case, the numbers do not lie. With that being said, is that enough to counteract the coaches desire to not lose as opposed to play aggressively and coach to win?
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I'd argue Jordy is probably around the 30th-40th best receiver in the NFL, maybe 50th.
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tabbaker


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It needs to become like sabermetrics in baseball, originally scoffed at by the old timers but now almost universally accepted. Fans play a major part in this, everyone needs to know what the right decision should be in the situation and probably the more important part is not being results oriented.

Coaches are afraid of losing their jobs and they don't want to fans booing them for going for 4th and 2 from the 30. It's a shame if they don't get the 1st but it's even more of a shame to kick the field goal.
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