The AFC West’s Obsession With Analytics Is A Fascinating Disaster
Can someone take the calculators and spreadsheets away from these psychopaths?
Andy Reid left his offense on the field up 7. An extra point would have put the Chiefs up 8 and left the Raiders with a daunting task in the games final 6 minutes: score a touchdown and successfully convert a two-point conversion. Instead, Reid went for it — the Chiefs failed.
Not to be outdone, Josh McDaniels — after the Raiders pulled within 1 on a 48 yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Davante Adams — left his offense on the field, too. With just under 5 minutes remaining, he went for the win. It was McDaniels’ way of telling the world “our defense is atrocious, and we’re going to lose regardless, so why not get a lead I guess?”
The spreadsheet mafia will say it gave Vegas the best chance to win: Kansas City would take the lead anyway or worst case they’d have to kick a field goal to win. They have a backup kicker, perhaps he’d miss? Perhaps the Chiefs would turn the ball over by some miracle of Christ and Vegas could run out the clock?
This, of course, assumes Vegas converted the two-point conversion. Since 1994, when the NFL reintroduced the possibility of going for two, the league has converted at a 48.8% rate. Basically, flip a coin.
McDaniels called heads. Josh Jacobs carried up the gut and got stuffed. It was tails, and the Raiders remained down.
To make matters worse, Vegas’ defense did something no one expected: they forced Kansas City to punt on the ensuing possession. With two and a half minutes left, Vegas had to march 55 yards to get into field goal range. There was no overtime to fall back on. They needed a field goal.
Analytics is a wonderful tool. Time and time again, though, it’s used to tell the whole story. The data will tell the story. Analytics exists in a vacuum, but it’s presented as though it exists in reality. That reality is routinely played out in the AFC West, where riverboat gambling and analytical tomfoolery and rosters assembled with a Madden-like approach reign supreme.
The Raiders final possession came to a crashing halt after failing to convert on 4th and 1 from the Kansas City 46 yard line. Under pressure, Carr heaved a desperate prayer downfield, where Hunter Renfrow and Adams were no where to be found. The duo had collided some 20 yards in front of the where the ball landed.
In a sense, a fitting end. They needed a yard, so they ran a play with their top two receivers full-speed ahead, stretching the Chiefs downfield. Brilliant.
That play doesn’t occur in a game headed to overtime, wherein each team heads to midfield for a coin flip. Vegas, the visiting team, would call heads or tails in order to receive the ball first.
Their odds in this scenario? 50%.
A day before, in Cleveland, Brandon Staley almost found himself in a similar situation. Staley approaches 4th downs as if a ghost were holding a gun to his head and threatened to burn his house down were he to punt.
From his own 46-yard-line, with 1:14 remaining in the game, Staley rolled the dice on 4th and 1. Cleveland deflected a Justin Herbert pass and took over on downs.
Unless his punter had continuously kicked the ball backwards, or suddenly found himself in an iron lung, there is no reason on earth Staley shouldn’t have sent him onto the field in hopes of pinning Cleveland deep in their own territory. The conversion rate on 4th and 1’s is 77%. The amount of punts that move forward at least 30 yards has to be, what, like minimum 99%?
Cleveland took over needing 10 yards to make it a comfortable kick for Cade York. They had over a minute to move the ball 10 yards. Consider this part somewhat of a Cleveland miracle: they did get that 10 yards.
They’re the Cleveland Browns, though. The god damn Cleveland Browns. They don’t benefit from other teams poor decisions, they just use them to find new ways in which they can embarrass themselves and lose in agonizing fashion yet again. Regardless of the coach, quarterback, kicker or water boy, they’re a glutton for punishment.
When York trotted out to kick the potential game-winner from 53 yards — with Staley hanging his head on the sideline — no one in that stadium or watching at home thought it would actually fly through the goal posts. It certainly should have. But it didn’t. It never does. Not in the dog pound. Not in a stadium with an elf (yes, an elf) painted at midfield.
Staley’s gambled several times before — sometimes its worked, and other times it hasn’t. He won’t learn. He’ll continue to put his team at risk. It’s a new age of Chargers football, baby! Hop on, the trains usually moving forward but it does run out of gas some times and also one time it crashed into a ditch!
Maybe the risk-taking is seen as a marketing goldmine. Maybe, just maybe, people will flock to watch Brandon Staley vomit all over himself under the guise of “well, the numbers said…” The move from San Diego to Los Angeles has depleted a once proud fan base. Lord knows the on-field production isn’t bringing people in. Mainly because there hasn’t been much. A generational quarterback surrounded by two all-pro receivers, a pro bowl defensive stalwart wrecking havoc on opposing offenses and a secondary filled with ballhawks usually equates to some pretty good football. Under Staley, Los Angeles is just 12–10 (9–8 in ’21, 3–2 in ‘22).
Staley has largely dodged criticism. He’s truly a trendsetter: both in his penchant for going for it and his inability to be evaluated under a critical lens.
Though, were McDaniels not vomiting louder and more violently in Vegas, and Denver’s hiring of village idiot Nathaniel Hackett, perhaps Staley would be in the spotlight. Maybe he’s not even vomiting. Maybe he just quietly pissed himself and left the party before anyone except for like one kid noticed. No one believes that kid, either. He said he made out with Jessica at Tristan’s party and that totally never happened.
Anyway, his time will come. Staley will piss himself at a party again. He can’t help himself. None of them can. McDaniels will lean on analytics again. And again. And again. It may even work. But it usually won’t, and it’ll cause more harm than good.
Tonight wasn’t the exception.
It was the bitter reality.