Belichick Gets No Respect, Except from Economists
1. "Bill Belichick Is Great" by Steven Levitt
I respect Bill Belichick more today than I ever have. This decision may have hurt his chances for the Football Hall of Fame, but it guarantees his induction into the Freakonomics Hall of Fame.
2. "Bill Belichick as Frederic Bastiat"
It's pretty evident that the degree of opposition to Belichick's decision amongst the sports public and even so-called football experts is disproportionately high compared to the true probability that Belichick's decision would fail. In fact, a few statistical geeks have even suggested that Belichick made the correct decision under the criterion that head coaches are supposed to use: maximize the probability of your team winning.
The type of response we see to Coach Belichick's decision is too often what we also see in public policy debates: there is a bias for what is seen versus what is not seen.
Update (Wall Street Journal): Somehow in American football, the punt—a clear and unambiguous symbol of surrender and retreat—has become the hallmark of sensible coaching.
Brian Burke, a statistician who has studied the results of fourth-down situations in the NFL, says a team in the Patriots' situation had a 79% chance of winning by going for it (either by converting the fourth-and-two or stopping the opponent thereafter). That compares favorably to a 70% probability of preventing a foe from driving down the field for a touchdown following a punt.