Great Article on Haley's Aggressive Playcalling

I love it when reporters "get it." This article is one great example. I spoke with Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star about Todd Haley's unorthodox fourth down doctrine earlier this week. Haley, who already earned one Advanced NFL Stats Coach of the Week Award (and a cool sweatshirt) for his aggressiveness, went for it two more times this past Sunday. He was one for two on those, but the way most people would look at it, he "passed up points" by not attempting field goals in a game that ultimately went into overtime.

Kent wrote me Sunday to ask if going for it on 4th and 2 from the 19 was a good idea today. One of my points in response was that sometimes kickers miss 36-yard field goals. As I typed that, Ryan Succop missed a potentially game-winning 36-yard field goal into swirling Arrowhead winds.

By the way, the WP graph for the KC-BUF game is absolutely insane. Each team missed FGs in OT, and KC pulled out the win with a FG as time expired. It ties the week 3 OAK-ARI game for the most exciting of the year.

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17 Responses to “Great Article on Haley's Aggressive Playcalling”

  1. DCThrowback says:

    I know it must be nice to get quoted in an article, and its a well written piece. But watching Haley's inconsistency on Sunday was maddening. Punting on 4th and 6 from the Bills 30? How about passing on going for it on a 4th and 1 from midfield against the NFL's worst run defense? Bullsh*t. He coached his team out of a sure win (outgained Buffalo by > 80 yards) and made a game much closer than it had to be, all because he wanted to appear "out of the box". I get the probability and win value stuff. Makes sense. But in a game where it appeared points would be at a premium, sometimes you have to make adjustments. We are not automatons. And Haley looked to me like someone who wanted to appear more like a "wild card" than a head coach. Good thing for him he was playing the Bills and Chan Gailey's stupidity in the last 2 minutes.

  2. Brian Burke says:

    Here's another thought. If I'm a Bills fan, I'm wondering why Gailey kicked the ball 11 times Sunday, including 3 punts on 4th and 1. Their one TD came on a 4th down pass, which was a no-brainer as regulation was expiring.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Interesting article, but the author didn't bother to back it up with stats. FOA showed that Haley isn't any more likely to go for it on 4th down than an average NFL coach.

  4. Brian Burke says:

    I take it that doesn't include this season.

    Keep in mind it's not about total number of 4th down attempts. It's about situations. Coaches regularly go for it on 4th down when they have no other choice. Some will do it in no-man's-land. Haley has done it early in games as a matter of doctrine.

  5. DA Baracus says:

    I'm with DCThrowback, the Buffalo game is an odd time to praise Haley for his aggressiveness. The punt on 4th and 8 from the 33 and the midfield 4th and 1 punt were as conservative as it gets.

    "Interesting article, but the author didn't bother to back it up with stats."

    Haley won. Stats are for losers. (That was sarcasm.)

  6. Brian Burke says:

    In case anyone is wondering, so far in 2010, Haley leads all teams with 7 4th down conversion attempts in the 1st 3 quarters (a quick and dirty estimate of non-desperation attempts).

    The league avg is 2.5 attempts.

    ATL is 2nd with 6. Next are ARI and OAK with 5.

    SD has zero, which might tell us something...

  7. Ian Simcox says:

    And while we're on quick and dirty checks, KC, ATL, ARI and OAK are all in the bottom half of the 'luck' table on "The Weekly League: Notes and Ideas for Week Eight". That means these teams win more often than we'd expect based solely on efficiency stats. NE, famous for going for it on 4th down when they don't NEED to, are also comfortably in the 'win more often' group.

    SD, with zero non-desperation 4th down att, is right at the other end, losing more often than you'd expect.

    Could just be a coincidence, but (in the spirit of the season) it's spooky.

  8. Jonathan says:

    Agreed that Haley was conservative on the 4th & 8 call from the 33, but very few coaches actually go for it from there. That frankly leaves plenty of room for him to be one of the most aggressive coaches in the league.

  9. DA Baracus says:

    I can't speak for the other teams, that is the case for Atlanta, who have gone for it on 4th down in non-obvious situations a few times this year and turned those conversions into possessions that ended with points. Against New Orleans they went for it twice on one drive (the 2nd time instead of a FG) and wound up scoring a TD. Haley's aggressiveness seems to be inconsistent, Mike Smith likes to keep his foot on the gas.

  10. DCThrowback says:

    I am a Bills fan, and I hate my head coach's decision making. (How you don't at least get a tie in the game with the ball at your own 40, first down in OT and with the opposition have no timeouts left is beyond me.) But the Buffalo News didn't interview me on how I think Gailey is a moron, they interviewed you as to why Haley is an "out of the box" forward thinker. And in this game, there was little rhyme or reason to his decision making.

  11. Brett says:

    How much has Charlie Weis influenced Haley's 4th down philosophy? At Notre Dame, Weis developed a reputation for going for it on 4th down early in games, including several 4th-and-long situations that no one would dream of attempting in the NFL.

  12. sudarshan says:

    i would love to know the confidence intervals around the win probabilities during the games. your graphs should show the intervals for accuracy.

    in addition, the field goal early in the game would have prevented the large swing in the win probability at the end of the game. so while passing on the field goal may the right decision numerically, failing to convert the first down creates volatility in the win probability.

    haley should not be rewarded for his decisions this week. punting from the buffalo 33 with fourth and 8 was definitely the wrong move. the punt went into the end zone and resulted only in 13 yds.

    in addition, with third and short, the decision to go empty is also a wrong move. the probability of getting a first down by running the ball is much greater than passing it. he did that in the houston game and again in the buffalo game. the decision in the houston game cost the chiefs the game.

  13. Jeff Clarke says:

    During the Lions Redskins game, the Lions were down 5 with 3:00 to go on 4th and 1 from the Skins 10. Needless to say, the announcers said they could kick the field goal and give the ball back still behind. When the Lions scored the game winning touchdown on fourth down, nobody ever mentioned that the "gamble" was directly linked to the win.

  14. Jonathan says:

    Gailey managed that overtime perfectly, as he did everything possible to maximize his team's "Number one pick in the draft probability." :P

  15. Anonymous says:

    When did this site become Advanced NFL Speculation? If you're going to make such an assertion, the burden should be on you to show that Haley's 4th down playcalling is indeed aggressive, adjusted for situation and opportunity, especially when previous research suggests otherwise. Did Haley suddenly get a clue, or did he just have a bunch of 4th-and-1's at the 35-yard line?

  16. Anonymous says:

    It seems as all of the Haley-bashers are ignoring the game conditions. The wind was absolutely wicked, one of the reasons Fitzpatrick struggled and the Chiefs offense was held in check. (The Chiefs had scored A LOT of points in three of their last four games.)

    Calling Haley's 4th down decisions inconsistent is just a smokescreen for criticizing going for it in general. The 4th-and-8 is not a high percentage conversion. It's unfortunate that it was at the 33, because a punt there is not optimal, but neither is a FG (Succop's first FG in OT was right down the middle before being blown way left, and he aimed about 5 yards OUTSIDE the goal posts to the right on the game-winner).

    The Expected Points for the opposition on the next possession for a punt inside the 10 (one potential result from the punt) is much better than that of a punt into the endzone (the actual result) which is much better than a failed 4th down attempt (another option) or a failed FG. Based on the game conditions, all 3 options - punting, going-for-it, kicking FG - had approximately the same expected outcome in terms of potential gain times likelihood of achieving desired outcome.

    Meanwhile, the decision to go-for-it on 4th and 2 at the 19 was very clear, and Haley made the right choice.

    While the Babb article quoting Brian was excellent, the coverage in the KC Star after the Buffalo game was strongly negative by both Babb and columnist Sam Mellinger. They essentially blamed Haley for the near-loss in what they termed an easy game. (As if Bills-Ravens game hadn't offered a preview of exactly how well the Bills were now playing.)

    Aside: the last anonymous post is moronic and the FO troll could have at least have signed as such if they didn't want to give their name.

    Shawn Siegele

  17. Mel Gibson says:

    Can this stuff be applied to dating techniques? Ie, when to go for it, versus whether to settle for a field goal?

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