Analytics has its place in pro football, but it always must yield to a sense of intuition based on wisdom and experience.
When it comes to a decision to go for two after a touchdown under circumstances where the chart would suggest going for one, the gut feeling a coach develops based on years of being in the same or similar situations emerges. On Sunday, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio eschewed analytics and did what he thought was right, given his many years of coaching and playing.
After Del Rio trusted his gut and emerged with the win, ESPN second-guessed him, pointing to statistics based on the chances of winning if they’d gone for two or if they’d opted for the tie.
It’s a Poindexterish look at a dilemma that has less to do with calculators and more to do with cajones. Del Rio let ESPN know about it with this gem: “Good thing ESPN isn’t coaching the Raiders.”
Del Rio knew he had momentum. Del Rio knew there was a chance the one-point try from 33 yards could miss. Del Rio knew there was a chance the Saints would win the toss and drive right down the field for a winning touchdown.
He also knew there was a chance the Raiders would fail to convert on the two-point try. But he also knew that, if he could get receiver Michael Crabtree on an island against an overmatched corner, there was a very good chance Crabtree could catch the ball.
And that’s why statistics can only take a coach so far. Del Rio believed his team was more likely to get the win by going for it. He did. And it worked. And the Raiders are 1-0.