FanPost

So You Think Our Play-Calling Sucks?

If I had a way to turn comments criticizing our play-calling into nickels, I'd never have to work again. 

My glib comment that folks who believe that should send in their resumes is a soundbite version of this:

Insomuch as those comments are just venting frustration, fine, but I'm starting to think that some of you actually believe you've discovered the secret to our problems this year, and it's that the coaches just aren't calling the right plays. If you're in that camp, take a moment to consider how patently stupid that is. 

First: Understand that even with a perfectly called game, and every player executing to the best of their ability, we will not (and cannot) win every game. "No shit," you're saying, "of course we can't, every idiot knows that." Good -- we're on the same page. The natural result of this axiom is that losing does not mean something is wrong with execution or coaching. Sometimes we're just not the better team.

Second: The coaches are human. They make mistakes. So do the players. That's going to happen. Odds are that our coaches realize when they've made a mistake. That doesn't mean that every play that has a negative outcome is a mistake. Outcome bias plays in here prominently. For example, if it's 3rd and 8, and a team runs a draw for a first down, we certainly could have stopped that by putting eight in the box and throwing run blitzes at them... and if the quarterback doesn't see what's going on, it might even work. That doesn't mean that's the best decision. In situations like this, outcome bias goes hand-in-hand with hindsight bias -- you KNEW they were going to run up the middle on us, right? Wrong. Odds are you had no idea what they were going to do, and you assumed they'd run some sort of pass.

Third: The game is infinitely more complicated than "lol runs up the middle don't work, we should run outside." Our coordinators have to consider a huge number of factors. Confidence in each of our players. The per-player match-ups that a prospective play would produce. The down and distance, the time left in the game, the timeout situation, and the score. How running the play will impact the meta-game that the coaches play against each other. How well have we setup the play we're thinking about -- is it going to be completely transparent when we run it? Have the other team's players been out of position? Do we think we see a hole or gap somewhere?

Coaches do make mistakes, but in the final calculus, we just don't have enough information to say with any degree of certainty whether a play call was a good one or not. If you really understand how complex the game is, your first reaction is probably going to be "I wonder why they ran that play?" not "What effing idiots, we should have run a different play!" 

"But Pete," I'm sure some of you are starting to think, "this isn't about one play, it's about the crappy play-calling all season!"

To which I respond: that's even less likely than one play being bad. 

Consider this: we pay Coach Saban more than four million dollars a year because he's a damn football genius. He chose coordinators that won us a national championship and are, in their own right, football geniuses. You think it's obvious that we should be doing more of one thing and less of another? And your suggestion is that this group of geniuses is missing something that obvious? Do you really think that's more likely than you, Joe Schmoe Internet Quarterback, missing something? No, of course not. In fact, when it comes to things you don't have much experience with, the more simple and obvious you think the thing is that the pros are missing, the more likely it is that you're just out of your depth. It's an obvious instance of the Dunning-Kruger effect, as a lay-person you interpret it to be more simple than it really is.

So, if you're in this camp -- that the play-calling is so obviously broken and easy to fix -- well . . . you know the type of environut who says things like "Obviously all we need to do is just stop using oil and use solar power instead! Simple!" You know the type?

Yeah... you're that guy. Congrats.

FanPosts are just that; posts created by the fans. They are in no way indicative of the opinions of SBN and the authors of Roll Bama Roll.

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