Jason Garrett turning into a stat geek?
As you know, the backbone of DC Times is stat analysis and film study. In the “About Me” section of the site, I write:
As a self-proclaimed “numbers guy,” I have always been fascinated by the way mathematics and statistics, if used properly, can thoroughly explain seemingly complex phenomena. Like the motion of the planets or the path of an ant, I truly believe football can be perfectly represented by numbers (the difficult part is determining which numbers are significant and why).
In my opinion, every NFL team should employ at least one statistician to track specific trends, analyze football game theory, and so on. Well, it appears the Cowboys have done just that. Last year, they hired a stat guy name Kenneth Kovash who co-authored “PROFESSIONALS DO NOT PLAY MINIMAX: EVIDENCE FROM MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL AND THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.” (Awesome read if you’re a stat guy and have extra time on your hands–and I’m not a statistician but I’d suppose the chances of both of those traits being true are rather low).
Now I can’t imagine Kovash advised Jason Garrett to punt so often in opponent’s territory (or at all, really) in 2010, so the key to the Cowboys success will be Garrett’s willingness to listen to Kovash. There is some evidence that Garrett is buying into the mathematical approach just a bit, though. Last season, the Cowboys gained a higher “win probability” with their punt/go for it decisions in opponent’s territory than all but four teams (Atlanta, Jacksonville, Oakland, and New England). They also went for it on all fourth downs 35 percent of the time–third-highest in the league behind Green Bay and Detroit. The complete list of fourth down stats is here. The fact that Dallas was near the league-lead in these categories is a commentary on the ineptitude of many NFL head coaches today, not necessary an endorsement of Garrett’s decisions.
I know a lot of old-school coaches think running a team in such a “robotic” way is poor coaching, but us math geeks know any time a coach disregards the numbers, he’s making a mistake. Great coaches put their teams in highest-percentage situations, and the easiest way to do that nowadays is mathematics.