Advanced NFL Stats Coach of the Week

This week's COW is none other than Raiders coach Tom Cable. The Raiders beat the heavily favored Chargers on the road yesterday, mostly by virtue of two unconventional but statistically favorable decisions. Oakland built a 14-0 lead by the end of the 1st quarter, and both scores came courtesy of 4th down conversion attempts.

On 4th and 1 from the SD 9, Jason Campbell ran a play fake naked bootleg in for a TD. Later, on 4th and 1 from the SD 21, Cable made no hesitation. As soon as the measurement came in, he just gestured 'go' at Campbell. No timeout. No challenge. No try-to-sucker-the-defense-into-off-sides-then-call-timeout-and-kick nonsense. Just a QB plunge for 3 yards. The Raiders went on to score their second TD of the day, putting SD into a hole from which they never could dig out.

Cable understands that underdogs need to take chances to win. Congratulations, Tom. I assume you take a XXXL.

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10 Responses to “Advanced NFL Stats Coach of the Week”

  1. Scott says:

    Thanks Brian - love the work.

    I'm curious to know what you think of the Ravens going for it on 4th and 2 in the 4th quarter of the PIT/BAL game? I don't have all the access to the stats on field position that you do, but it seemed to be the right call: If the Ravens kick, at best they had a 50% chance of making the FG (may be generous b/c kicking into the wind) , then they have a 50% chance of winning in OT - this gives them a 25% chance of winning.

    My guess is that they would also have ~50% chance of making the 2 yards, which would put them at the PIT 29. Then they have the opportunity to move down the field to either i) kick a closer, higher % FG, or ii) score a TD for the win.

    Seems to me that the expected points and the potential win from the TD opportunity would make going for it the optimal play--despite what the Baltimore writers are saying.

  2. weinsteinium says:

    You might need to add a couple more 'x's there for his shirt size.

    Despite his many failings, Cable has been going for 4th and 1 a lot this season.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good for Cable, but since NFL coaches go for it on 4th-and-1 more than 2/3 of the time anyway, I don't know if this is really award-worthy.

  4. Miles Libbey says:

    Hey Brian-
    Would you consider putting a link to the mobile live WP on
    Yesterday was having trouble finding the link on my iphone, but was easy to find the flash version links.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Brian, can you do an analysis of the Saints decision to go for it on 4td down vs. the Bengals?

  6. Jeff Clarke says:


    Do you have a link to where you got that coaches go for it on 4th-and-1 more than 2/3 of the time?

    This seems extremely high to me and I could swear that it doesn't seem right to me, but I haven't looked up the numbers and my memory might be playing games with me.

  7. Anonymous says:


    With less then a minute and no timeouts how high of a chance of scouring a touchdown do you think they had?

    I can tell you exactly what they would have done. Try to gain a few yards on conversation plays and they kick a slightly short kick.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, I wonder about the Saints game as well since it was so near the end of the game, and a FG ties. I mean, I assume they would have just taken the field goal after taking a timeout/delay of game if there were no offsides. (I know these 4th down questions must get annoying, is there some sort of calculator where we can plug in time left, score, yards-to-go, and yard line? It seems that would give us the percentage, right?)

  9. Anonymous says:

    @Jeff Clarke, I couldn't find a link, but it's pretty easy to check using the play-by-play data on this site.

    In 2009, out of 502 4th-and-1 plays, NFL teams went for it on 235 of them, or 47%. However, in your opponent's territory (which is probably more relevant here) it is 196 out of 289, or 68%.

    The point is that calling Cable's decisions on these two plays "unconventional" is simply inaccurate.

  10. Anonymous says:

    68% might sound like coaches are being more aggressive, but that still says that about 1/3 of the time coaches are opting for the kick on the opponents side of the 50 on 4th-and-1. That 68% number should be much higher. What are the percentages if you included 4th-and-2 in opp territory?


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