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Kick it or go for it? A robot analyzes every 4th down decision in the NFL


As if NFL head coaches weren't already judged enough by every arm-chair quarterback in the entire world, there's a new critic on the scene and it's not even human. The New York Times has unveiled 4th Down Bot, an algorithm analyzing the merits of every single fourth down decision each in NFL Sunday.

4th Down Bot has studied every NFL game since 2000 and found that, on average, NFL coaches are far too conservative. According to the chart below, 4th Down Bot shows coaches should go for it on 4th and 2 or shorter no matter where they are on the field.

If you wish to follow and interact with the 4th Down Bot on Twitter, you can do so. If not, you can read the full article here.

From a statistical perspective, they say, going for it will lead to a maximization of points (their term) more often than not.

"The difference is stark: coaches are much more conservative than they should be if they are truly trying to score as many points as possible. Too often, coaches forfeit the ball through a punt, for instance, when they have a solid chance to make a first down. The field position they gain from the punt is often not worth the missed opportunity to keep a drive going."

Obviously, this is all much easier typed than done.

The site analyzes every fourth down decision from each NFL game. Here's an example from last night's Bears win over the Cowboys. Trailing 27-14 with 10:37 to play in the third quarter, Dallas elected to punt on a 4th and 4 from the Chicago 41. The 4th Down Bot disagreed with the decision, essentially because going for it would have increased the Cowboys' odds of winning by three percent. 

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You can read the full article, complete with all the analysis of every fourth down decision you would ever need, here. Or you can follow and interact with the Bot on Twitter.