November 17, 2011

Going for it on 4th Down vs. Fear of Being Fired

This past week, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith decided to go for it on 4th down and a foot, deep in his own territory, rather than punting the ball away to Drew Brees and the Saints.

They didn't make it. The Saints kicked a field goal to win the game. And ever since, Mike Smith has been widely ridiculed for "not playing the odds"... even though he absolutely did.

It wasn't the odds he went against. It was public opinion. And this public opinion has been shaped by coaches trying to avoid what Mike Smith is going through right now.

You see, if Smith had punted the ball, and still lost, he wouldn't have been blamed.

You don't get fired for getting beaten. You get fired for losing. You get fired for going for it, even when it makes complete objective sense, and you fail.

And so most coaches play by those rules. More than that, most of us play by those rules, thinking our job description is "try not to get fired." We never go for it on 4th down, to ensure we'll never get in trouble for failing.

But fear is a sucky motivator. And it's time for the wusses to get fired.