I just watched the Denver Broncos get beaten by the Baltimore Ravens in Double Overtime, 38-35.
As a lifelong Broncos fan, it was a sickening display of ultra-conservative, piss-poor decision making and irresponsible coaching by their head coach John Fox.
Risk vs. reward
The Broncos played like a conservative, risk-averse Fortune 500 company that worries about its stock price on a daily basis.
The Ravens played like a startup that had nothing to lose.
With 0:37 left in the first half and 3 timeouts, Fox decided to kneel on the ball.
Hey Fox – you know you have Peyton Manning on your team, right?
Fox’s only rationale for this decision can only be: “The chances are greater that the Ravens will score more points before the end of the half than the Broncos if we try to score here.”
If that sounds insane, it’s because it is.
With 2:38 left in the game and ahead by 7, Fox decides to run the ball three straight times. In particular, on 3rd and 7, Fox chooses to run the ball. It was ridiculously predictable and the Ravens stuffed the play.
Fox’s only rationale for this decision can be that an extra 40 seconds off the clock gives the Broncos a better chance to win than letting Peyton Manning try to get a first down and sealing the game.
What do the stats say?
Statistically, Fox was out of his mind. Peyton leads the league with a 52% 3rd down conversion rate. Whether it’s 1:15 left or 1:55 left in the game, the marginal probablistic difference of a Broncos victory given those two scenarios is MUCH MUCH less than 52%.
The stats say: go for the first down. Broncos history does too.
Hey Fox: Remember that famous 3rd and 6 in 1998 when John Elway hit Shannon Sharpe in Pittsburgh to clinch the AFC Championship? Didn’t think so.
Due to Fox’s poor decision making, the Ravens got the ball back and miraculously score to tie it up. Manning then gets the ball back with 0:31 on the clock and 2 timeouts at his own 20 yard line.
Fox instructs Manning to kneel on the ball.
Fox: if 40 seconds is so important to the other side, why did you TWICE during the game take the ball out of the hands of your best player with about 40 seconds left?
Statistically, Fox made the incorrect decision in each of these instances.
Startups play to win
NFL Head Coaches worry about downside of a bad call more than they do upside of a good call.
It’s Fortune 500 type thinking – constantly mitigating risk and worrying about losing one’s job instead of trying to win the game.
I’m glad I’m at a Startup.
Because our job is to go for it when others won’t.