Playing the Odds….


Progress in sports often comes slowly. It’s a tradition bound world, in which the “old ways” are cherished and romanticized. Throw in notions of “toughness” and “character” when it comes to football, and you find many coaches very reluctant to radically change how they think about odds, strategy, risk and reward.

Why Big Ben Rothlisberger was in the game up 30-12 against the Dolphins Sunday is beyond rational comprehension. Not only has Big Ben gotten broken before, and everybody knows the chances of the Steelers winning the SuperBowl without him are approaching dead-flat-ZERO.

Three teams in this weekend’s games had QB injuries that in the final weeks of the season that effectively crippled their chances in the post-season. These injuries are real. They can happen anytime. They have nothing to do with “toughness.” The only goal is to win the game at hand, and move forward. Only a fool would refuse to minimize the risks to his QB when a game is clearly “won” and there are more ahead.

Only a fool, and most NFL coaches.

Mike Tomlin is no fool. And he’s no mere “cheerleader” coach as Terry Bradshaw said last month. But his stubbornness and stupidity here is beyond belief. This was the first time all-3 of his dynamic chess pieces were together in the post-season. All three are highly breakable. All three were out there way too long.

In today’s league, if you lose a single All-Pro player on defense you can make up for it in many ways. While there are surely difference making defensive superstars, none of them tilt the playing field of advantage like a good or great QB. You lose your QB in the modern NFL, you are basically done.

I don’t care about all of the anecdotal stories of Tom Brady, or Jeff Hostetler, or Doug Williams, etc. The last backup QB playoff cinderella miracle was Brady. That was 15 years ago, and is more like an exception that proves the rule.

Coaches punting at the plus-35 on 4th and 5 or less is also one of those “what is wrong you” plays! You can only score when you have the football. Conversions on 3rd down range from 33-48% leaguewide. On 5 yards or less, I will assume your odds are approaching 50/50. So why punt?

Because coaches are mortally afraid of “looking bad” and having to face criticism. Nobody (well, mostly nobody) criticizes a punt. A punt is safe, smart, and worships the false god of “field position.”

You get no points in the NFL for “field position.”

Early Sunday against the Packers, the Giants’ Ben McAdoo punted on 4th and 5 from the plus-35. They downed it at the 5 yard line. A ┬áPacker three-and-out later, and Fox announcer Joe Buck patted McAdoo on the head by saying: “And McAdoo’s decision PAYS OFF. (my emphasis).”

It did nothing of the sort.

The Giants ended up getting the ball back some 20 yards further back from the spot where they punted. The game continued. The Giants got no points for it. There was no “payment” for that punt. It was just a bad decision that squandered a chance to keep the football (important) and possbly score a TD (more important).

But the old school thinking reinforces itself, from the sideline to the broadcast booth. The same kind of thinking that wastes precious 2nd half timeouts (:40 “extended play” coupons) to avoid 5 yard penalties in the early stages of the 3rd quarter. (Adam Gase).

It’s enough to drive a football fan with a brain crazy. Play the odds, you dummies. Why so scared?

Don’t even get me started on the whole “let’s go sleeveless in 10 degree weather, to show how tough we are.” YEAH! MIND OVER MATTER! Oh, really? If going sleeveless is good, wouldn’t going without any long sleeve underwear be better? Why not gloveless?

Odell Beckham and his wideouts went out and practiced in shorts and NO shirts prior to the Packer game. Of course, they made sure to have their cell phones recording it for their teenage-obsession: social media. How did it HELP them get ready for the game? It didn’t. It made them cold for about 20 minutes. Probably no big deal, but it had no benefit whatsoever. You might even catch a chill, or something else with your body – which was not designed to be shirtless in 15 degree weather – that negatively affects performance.

It’s not rocket science. Loss of body heat, negatively impacts athletic performance. In all areas. Period. Your exposed skin leaks body heat. Unless it affects your tactile preferences with the football (i.e. QB’s passing, RB’s inner-arm area) or flexibility, then covering that skin is an ADVANTAGE. Period.

Nobody cares how tough you think you look.



  1. Do people not wonder why Wrestlers and Boxers “warm up” Is so your body is up and running ready to move, ready to react. During wrestling season you could not keep enough layers on to keep a good sweat up in those big cold gyms ( schools were cheap heat was not a thing the payed out for)

  2. Agree entirely on the shirtless warmup. I live in Wisconsin. I laugh every time I see those shirtless wonders out there. It proves nothing. Scores zero in-game points, and if anyone reading this watched the game, did not help them at all in this game. Sorry OBJ, you need more than some good tacky gloves to succeed in the cold and natural(ish) turf of Green Bay. Get a little dirt on that tacky palm, throw in the cold, and now YOU need to catch the ball.


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