Analytics if not already dominating the sport of football is soon to completely take over the sport.
After Mike Zimmer‘s failed 4th-and-1 attempt from Seattle’s 6-yard-line instead of kicking the field goal to go up 8, many folks criticized his decision, citing an example like this for why analytics should be used less. While it is good to use context as well as analytics everyone saying that they should take the points here is simply wrong even with the context of the game factored in. First let’s look at from the perspective of if the Vikings do get it which keep in mind looked like the more likely scenario. If they get the first down the game is pretty much over. If they score a touchdown it’s a two possession game and the game is decided. If not they go up 8 and drain the clock to about 30 seconds while also leaving Seattle with no timeouts. This also pretty much ends it. Keep in mind that with the way they were gashing the Seahawks run defense and with the options they had on that 4th-and-1 play there was more than a 50% chance of the Vikings winning the game on the spot.
That should have already been enough for the Vikings to go for it.
Let’s consider what happens if they don’t get the first down. The kick still has to go in for this situation to be the worse in any way. Assuming the kick does go in it’s almost 20 yards of field position in favor of the Vikings if they go for it. If Seattle is able to march down the field and score from the 6-yard-line they would’ve easily done the same from the 25-yard-line. This brings us to the two point conversion. Yes, Seattle failed their two point conversion but they probably weren’t using their best playing since it wasn’t likely to decide the game. In the estimated 40% chance they didn’t get the first down the 20 yards of field positioning and required two point conversion likely even out. And if the game does go to OT because of a successful two point try Seattle has all the momentum and likely has a good shot of winning it there.
Many media members including the likes of guys like Colin Cowherd, Max Kellerman, and even former head coaches like Rex Ryan condemned the analytical decision.
This was the smart decision however, and taking the opportunity to win the game right then and there was easily the smartest play for Zimmer. Even in the chance they didn’t get the first the winning odds are still not far apart enough to justify not taking the immediate win opportunity. Analytics is the new wave and we can’t denounce just because a loss happened after an analytical decision was made.
Analytics is the future and win or loss it will be vital to the success of teams in the future.