NFL Coaches Are Getting Away With Crimes Against Middle-School Math
Look, “advanced” stats can be opaque. In midfield situations, whether to punt or go for it on fourth down, for example, takes some confidence in expected points and expected win models that are statistically somewhat complicated and can sometimes get things a little wrong. Although I think those models are pretty good (or are at least good enough for most of the types of decisions they’re used to analyze), I can see how someone might find them foreign or overly abstracted. And yes, the statsy crowd can be preachy and overconfident. We probably don’t know as much as we think we do, and we often aren’t very good at explaining ourselves to skeptics.1
But some decisions — like the ones faced by Green Bay and Kansas City — aren’t that complicated. Analyzing them requires no advanced statistical techniques, and solving them requires no more than grade-school-level math and an eye on win maximization.