Another football question: as 1st half is ending, why not try to score every time?

The second string QB still tries to win because that’s what you are supposed to do when you are behind. If a team is within 3 scores, it will usually give it a good effort.

If it’s behind by more than that, it will probably just run a regular offense and pack it in.

Another factor: fans boo a lot if you give up at the end. Not nearly as many boo if you decide not to run plays at the end of the first half.

However, not all fans like it when teams fail to run a play at the end of the first half. There are a significant number of fans like Stuyguy.

Another factor with having the second string QB still trying hard is to give him practice. Especially in the NFL, it’s almost a given that he is going to be needed at a future date.


I have seen losing teams take a knee in similar situations at the end of a game, and teams that were down at the half doing this is almost a given under the circumstances we are talking about.

Yer pal,

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Then there was the time the Eagles were beating the Cowboys pretty badly, Cunningham takes a knee or two at the end of the game, then Buddy Ryan has him throw for a TD. Good old sportsman Ryan. On the other hand, not much risk of an injury there, was there?

stuyguy -

I can see your frustration with this. Keep in mind, the NFL is a follow-the-leader kind of lot. It is much more oriented to risk-management than it is to innovation and flash.

For the reasons outlined earlier, the likelihood of something bad happening (the defense scoring on a turnover) is higher than the likelihood of something good happening, so it almost always isn’t done. That’s really the end of it.

The NFL can’t afford to have an attitude of, “OK. We gave it a try and it turned out bad. We’ll get 'em next time.” Unlike a 162-game baseball season, the margin of error is magnified in a 16-game season, and condensed even further when you begin to look at divisional games, protecting your homefield advantage and playoff tie-breakers.

For example, the Bucs loss to Detroit Thursday was almost crippling to them. They now are not only at a big deficit in their division, they will have a hard time jumping the teams ahead of them unless they win out or lose only like one more game. And it’s only week seven for them.

cough Joe Pisarcik cough

I feel really bad for the guy. Anyone who’s seen the play knows what it means when a football fan uses the term “pulling a Pisarcik”

In fact, as I understood it, it’s not like Pisarcik called for the play.

In a book called Football Clock Management, the infamous play was recounted, and the story goes that the Giants offensive coordinator was angry at one of the linebackers for hitting Pisarcik on a previous play, when Pisarcik took a knee. So he called a play to run the ball right at the linebacker in question.

Several offensive players in the game urged Pisarcik to change the play and simply take a knee. Pisarcik refused to do so, having previously been criticized by coaches for changing the plays too much.

The story goes that one of the Giants told an Eagle player, “You’re not going to believe this, but we’re going to run a play.” Other Eagle players later said they heard Giant players arguing, and that some were heard telling Pisarcik, “Christ, Joe, just fall on the damned ball”.

The rest, as they say, is history. It changed the momentum of both teams–the Eagles went on a winning streak, the Giants into a slump.

The day after the season ended, the Giants head coach was fired. The offensive coordinator? Not so lucky. He was fired ** the day after the game**.

For masochistic Giant fans, or reminiscing Eagle fans, here’s a link (be forewarned that the linked article differs in some respects with other accounts):

You don’t understand. This was the Eagles playing Dallas. And beating them. It’s very much a take-no-prisoners, let’s-embarrass-Dallas situation.

I was happy after week 1 this year. The Eagles could’ve finished 1-15, but knowing that the one win was a rout of Dallas, in Dallas, was better than winning a Super Bowl.

(Well, maybe not…)

Anyway, everytime the Eagles play the Giants, the Pisarchik Play is brought up. I’m sure it’ll be mentioned on Sunday.

stuyguy, you didn’t by any chance watch tonight’s game? (Titans at 'Skins)

This is why you don’t go for broke at the end of the half or at least why it is at least a good idea to play conservatively.

The long version: Skins driving at the end of the first half. They’re on the Titans 35 or 40. 10 seconds left. Brad Johnson drops back, and throws a pass that is picked off on the Titans twenty. It was run all the way back for and 80 yard TD.

My reaction?
Oh my god I can’t believe Brad threw that, ok guys, just tackle him, c’mon, you can get him, f***, s***,

Final score: 27-21. Need I say more?

I know I’m straying a little away from the op, but do NFL coaches, when they make these “risk-reward” decisions, go with their guts, or do they have statistians analyze past games and help them?

even more telling that the 83 yard runback was the shot of Johnson laying flat on the ground only lifting his head up to watch and then dropping it to the ground in disgust at himself for ever throwing that pass… it wasnt there… he said what the heck theres only 10 secs… then he said “uh oh… somebody stop him… come guys… this aint funny… sigh… im so gonna hear about this after the game…”

A head coach probably has a built-in tendency to be either more conservative in his play calling or more risky. In situations described in the OP, they’re probably aren’t analyses available for the coaches to use.

Sometimes the coach gets it in his head that he might be able to score. Other times, he says, “Time to head to the locker room and figure stuff out.”

Aside from their plays, the only other chart I’ve seen a football coach carry around is one listing the leads or deficits in points and which situations merit going for two. This enables the coach to make up his mind quickly about whether or not to go for two and not take the chance of screwing up the math.

I wonder if football strategy could be improved by having a guy with a computer help make the decisions.

I mean, the hunches and instincts of someone with experience are pretty good, but often a computer can do better.

As an example, I would compare football to the game of “rock paper scissors.” What I mean is, (and I’m speculating a little here) that in many respects, the coach is trying to out-guess the opposing coach, and vice-versa. If you know what play the other side will make, you can often come up with a play that will beat it.

Anyway, believe it or not, there are computer programs that are unbelievably good at rock paper scissors. (There is one known as “iocaine powder” that’s very devious). Obviously, if you play completely randomly, you won’t fall far behind, but otherwise, these programs are very good at figuring humans out.

I wonder if a program like this could help in football.

Very off-topic, but lucwarm, could you please post a link saying where one might find a copy of one of those RPS programs? I’ve put a little work into writing one of my own, and I’d be interested in seeing it put into practice.

This is just pure speculation, but it seems to me that on a Hail Mary play where the defense is playing Prevent, the defense has a higher chance of scoring than the offense.

Say the offensive team has very poor position (their own 30 yard line, for instance) and the majority of the defensive players are lined up near the endzone. The ball is snapped, the QB runs around for a while (not too much of a problem, since there won’t be many rushers), and heaves one. The defenders on pass coverage now outnumber the receivers so the defense has a better chance of catching the lob than the offense.

If one of the offensive receivers do manage to catch the hail mary anyway, or if the pass is incomplete, no problem. But now assume that the defense intercepts. The team that intercepted now has more players downfield than the team that was on offense. Four defenders throw blocks at four offensive receivers, and the remaining defensive players rush down the field for the return. This leaves the linemen and the quarterback to stop the return. Linemen aren’t exactly noted for their speed, and you really don’t want your QB trying to tackle a charging safety if you can help it.

All in all, it seems better just to kneel and wait for the second half.

Caldazar: Maybe (and that’s a big maybe), but the fact is that defensive players are taught to knock the ball down, and if they do catch a ball 100 yards from paydirt and surrounded by players on both sides, the natural thing to do is take a knee.

Yer pal,

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Satan: That’s certainly true; like I said it was speculation. I would have to think that not all four receivers would converge on the same point though, since you wouldn’t want all the defenders bunched up in the same area either; the offensive is outnumbered downfield. In a man-on-man (or two men-on-man) coverage situation where the player making the interception has a superior position (i.e. between the receiver and the incoming ball), I’d have to imagine he’d try to the big return.

Regardless, the halftime Hail Mary strikes me as not being worth the risk.

off-topic – rock scissors paper

Is it legal here to link to other discussion boards?
There was a discussion of a rock-scissors-paper programming competition on slashdot a few months ago.

You can find it by going to slashdot and searching for “roshambo”

The competition site is:

Most interestingly, one of the most devious and successful programs, named “iocaine powder” after the famous scene in “The Princess Bride” is described here:

The iocaine powder algorithm is so clever, I have nothing but respect for Dan Egnor who programmed it.

Finally, IIRC, Perry “I only wear socks on Tuesday” Friedman’s program, “roshambot,” can be played online. It is frightening to be outplayed by a computer.

I’m not sure if the source code is available.

In a “Hail Mary” pass situation, the receivers usually are all bunched on one side of the field so they are more likely to catch a deflected ball. Very few of these desperation passes are caught cleanly, although fans of the U of Miami may remember differently.