It was early in the 2015 NFC championship football game last Sunday when Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy was twice confronted with a tough decision: should the Packers, having put the Seattle Seahawks — owners of the National Football League’s best defense — on its heels in front of its raucous home crowd, go for a touchdown on fourth-and-short from near the goal line? Or should they settle for the easy field goal attempt?
McCarthy chose to take the three points on two separate occasions, despite the agonized screams of Structure Data event lead (and Wisconsin native) Derrick Harris into his television thousands of miles away, urging McCarthy to roll the dice. That decision did not work out for the Packers, who eventually succumbed to Seattle in overtime after the defending Super Bowl champs mounted a furious comeback in the last three minutes of the game.
Criticizing coaches with the benefit of hindsight is a time-honored sports media tradition. But we’re finally getting to the point where gut instinct is starting to look foolish given the reams of data available to coaches of all sports; especially in the NFL, contractually obligated to show off Microsoft’s Surface 3 tablets in as many ways as possible. I’m talking about stuff way beyond the New York Times’ Fourth-Down Bot.