I bow to none in my hatred of Boston sports teams, Boston sports fans, and generally any phrase that involves both “Boston” and “sports.” That said, I’ve always admired Bill Belichick’s willingness to be more aggressive than the average coach in terms of going for it on fourth down. The evidence is pretty overwhelming that most coaches are too conservative about this, and the rest of the NFL ought to take a clue from the fact that it’s the most successful organization in recent NFL history that’s most eager to push the envelop on this.
Last night, however, provided a great example of why most coaches do the wrong thing. New England went for it in a situation when most teams would have punted. And it didn’t work out. If they’d punted, people would be criticizing their defense. But since they went for it, it’s the coach who’s getting criticized. In coaching, like in banking, the safe bet is to make the same mistake as everyone else. But just because a call doesn’t work out 100 percent of the time doesn’t make it the wrong thing. The numbers show pretty clearly that going for it is the smart play. See Nick Beaudrot, Brian Burke, or this post at Advanced NFL Stats.