Huge Decisions

Exploring each week's biggest or most controversial call by Josh McDaniels.

Jet lag and being your own man

If the Broncos lose to the 49ers, Josh McDaniels will be facing more than just an angry fan base.

I think the media—even those who are well respected—will turn on him.

I realized this on Thursday (10/28) of this week when I tuned into the 2nd hour of the MIke and Scott Show on The Fan here in Denver. 

As the conversation drifted from the Colorado Rapids to the Denver Broncos, the discussion centered not on the game itself, but on McDaniels’ preparation for the game and the jet lag the Broncos could be facing.  Specifically, there was this criticism from Drew Goodman, respected play-by-play TV announcer for the Colorado Rockies:

“He’s going over there on 48 hours of…time to acclimate, based on, you know, the fact that last year New England went on…basically 48 hours out.  They’re [New England] going from two time zones, that’s closer, but that still doesn’t make it right…but now you’re [McDaniels] seven times zones away…and I think it’s absolutely the wrong thing to do, and I think he’s basing every decision he makes, or it seems that way, at least…based on how…and he’s going to be heavily influenced by Belichick, I understand that, but the people around him that he will listen to….you’ve got to make a stand for yourself.”

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Huge Decision of the past year-and-a-half: Denver Broncos

At this time each week we usually analyze a coaching decision from the previous game—from a statistical point of view.  After a blowout like this however, stats simply won’t do much good.  There were no critical 4th-down calls, no punt vs. field goal options to weigh over in one’s mind. 

So I won’t bore you with more probability equations.  You’re off the hook this week—let’s call it an early Halloween treat.

Instead, we’ll look at the alternatives to Josh McDaniels.  No, not going forward, but looking back.

You’ve heard—as we predicted immediately after last week’s game in our Gut Reactions—that thousands would jump on the fact that since opening 6-0, Josh McDaniels is 4-13.  That’s fine.  It’s an easy stat to jump on; it trends nicely; it makes a great sound bite.  It’s almost as good as saying, “he traded our Pro Bowl quarterback and receiver.” 

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Huge Decision of the Week: Broncos-Jets, Week 6

Note: Each Wednesday,  we take a look at a critical coaching decision from the prior week’s game that had an impact on the final score—from a statistical point.

There are decisions in an NFL game that are obviously huge.  Whether to go for it on 4th-and-short is a good example.

Other decisions seem rather banal; in the end, however, they are just as meaningful.

The Broncos—and coach Josh McDaniels—faced such a decision last week against the Jets.  Leading the game 17-10, and with 0:36 left in the 3rd-quarter, the Broncos were fortunate to recover a fumble by Santonio Holmes at their own 19-yard line.  It was a momentum killer for the Jets; another opportunity for the Broncos to take control of the game.

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Huge Decision of the Week: Broncos-Ravens, Week 5

Note: Each Wednesday,  we take a look at a critical coaching decision from the prior week’s game that had an impact on the final score—from a statistical point.

It is rumored that during the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon yelled to his generals, “We get the ball to start the 2nd half!”  Of course, we all know how that ended.  I don’t have the stats from that game, but I think the French missed a late field goal and turned the ball over 3 times, while committing stupid penalty after stupid penalty.

Fans also love talking about getting the ball to begin the 2nd half—thousands of times in front of thousands of televisions across America.  It’s uttered so much, in fact, that one might assume that getting the ball to start the 3rd quarter was worth actual points.

Unfortunately, opportunity just isn’t enough in the NFL.  You still have to score.

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Huge Decision of the Week: Broncos-Titans, Week 4

Note: Each Wednesday,  we take a look at a critical coaching decision from the prior week’s game that had an impact on the final score—from a statistical point.

Josh McDaniels is known for having a playbook a mile high, each week throwing multiple formations, personnel packages, and looks at the defense.

Against the Titans, he thinned the playbook out real fast.  Unable to run for much (all) of the game, the Broncos were forced into an aerial attack.

McDaniels himself is quoted as saying that at about the midway point of the 4th quarter, he essentially abandoned the running attack:

“We’re not going to go into any game and try to be one dimensional.  I think, though, at some point in a game, and for today it was 9:27 to go in the fourth quarter, we were, ‘That’s it. That’s enough.’”

Certainly, the Broncos never intended to throw the ball as many times as they did last Sunday,  but I do believe that the Broncos were heavily skewed towards the pass from the kickoff.  In fact, I think it was the focus of their game plan.  And that choice to attack the Titans, who came into the league as a highly-ranked passing defense—is our huge decision of the week.

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Huge Decision of the Week: Broncos-Colts, Week 3

Note: Each Wednesday,  we take a look at a critical coaching decision from the prior week’s game that had an impact on the final score—from a statistical point.

Most coaches play it safe.  Too safe.  They’d rather make a decision that likely won’t be criticized versus making a decision that has even the slightest potential for criticism from media, fans, and bloggers who still listen to Whitesnake and write from their parents’ basement.

Josh McDaniels does not—nor will he ever—play it safe.  A graduate of the Belichick School of Take-This-And-Shove-It, he’s never met a 4th-and-short that he wouldn’t spit on.

I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Last week against the Colts, McDaniels once again provided us with ample opportunities to second guess his decisions.  And once again he provided us with a textbook example of why going for it on 4th down, deep in your opponent’s territory, is usually the right move. 

In order to analyze McDaniels’ decision, as always, we’ll split wide our two diva receivers, probability and Expected Points Value (EPV).  So let’s get right to it.

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Huge Decision of the Week - Seattle, Week 2

Note: Each Wednesday,  we take a look at a critical coaching decision from the prior week’s game that had an impact in the final score—from a statistical point. 

As we’ll find out throughout this year, it’s not always Josh McDaniels who has to make the tough decisions.  Sometimes it’s the other team’s head coach.  This was the case against Seattle last week when Pete Carroll, down 7-24, faced a 4th-and-2 late in the 3rd quarter.  The Seahawks were at the Denver 20-yard line and had just moved the ball quickly down the field from their own 20.  Carroll had the following options:

1) Go for the 1st-down
2) Kick the field goal

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Huge Decision of the Week - Jacksonville, Week 1

Football, like just about anything in life (work, travel, choosing between a Vixen and Ratt concert), presents us with tough decisions.  Often these decisions are complicated by different risks and rewards that we must evaluate side-by-side.  Even more often, and without the necessary time to weigh all of our options, we simply go with what feels right at the time.  If we are lucky, we try to have our cake and eat it too (Vixen opening for Ratt?).  Usually, however, these decisions are mutually exclusive.  In other words, it’s one option or the other.

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