Monday, October 6, 2014

Coaching To Win

The Texans were down seven to the Cowboys with about a minute left, and former Harvard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was guiding them towards the end zone.

Fitzpatrick, by the way, did more damage against Princeton when he handed the ball to Clifton Dawson than he did when he threw it in his career. As a senior in 2004, for instance, Fitzpatrick was 14 for 31 for 172 yards, while Dawson ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

Anyway, Fitzpatrick brought the Texans close and then Arian Foster ran it in from the one with 41 seconds left, making it 17-16. So what did Houston do? Kicked the extra point. Tie game.

Then it went to overtime. Houston got the ball. Punted. Dallas drove and kicked the game-winning field goal.

What's TigerBlog's point? Houston should have gone for two and the win with 41 seconds left.

What are the odds that Foster gets the two yards for the two points there? He had 157 yards in the game and is as reliable as back as there is in the league now. What are the chances? About 75-80 percent?

What are the odds you win in OT? 50-50?

TigerBlog thinks that NFL (and big-time college football) coaches don't always coach to win; they often coach not to get second-guessed and ridiculed when non-traditional decisions don't work. And that's ridiculous.

Nobody is putting the loss on Houston coach Bill O'Brien today. Had he gone for two and not gotten it, then he would have been second-guessed to no end. But guess what? In either case, his team would still have lost.

It takes guts to go for two there. But hey, in the end, Houston is just as 3-2 right now as it would have been if had gone for two and not gotten it.

TigerBlog looked at the Houston Chronicle website this morning and saw 11 stories about the game. None suggested that Houston should have gone for two.

It would appear nobody asked O'Brien about it after the game. Here was a typical coach-quote:
“The one thing I do like about this team is that they never give up,” he said, referring to the Texans rallying for 10 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime. “They’re a good bunch of guys, but we have to stop making mistakes. We can’t jump offsides. We can’t throw interceptions. We’ve got to call better plays.”

Hey, at least nobody put it on him, even as he pointed the finger mostly at his "good bunch of guys," though he did mention the need to call better plays.

TigerBlog's two favorite current football coaches are Tom Coughlin, who has won two Super Bowls with the Giants and has the team pointed in the right direction this year, with a big game against the Eagles Sunday.

The other is Bob Surace. He's Princeton's coach, and the only current head NFL or college football coach who routinely stops into TigerBlog's office just to hang out.

Surace had a big decision to make Saturday against Columbia just before the half of what became a 38-6 win.

To that point, though, Princeton hadn't played a great first half and trailed 6-3. The ball was at the Columbia one with time for one more first half play. The question: to kick the field goal or go for the touchdown?

Princeton was getting the ball to start the second half, which might have influenced the decision. So did having Quinn Epperly, who is about the best short-yardage back TigerBlog has seen here.

Surace went for the touchdown. Epperly got the ball and got, well, either just to the goal line or just short of it, depending on which team you were rooting for in this one.

Either way, the refs signaled touchdown. TigerBlog saw the replay a billion times on the Ivy League Digital Network but couldn't tell.

Anyway, it made it 10-6 Princeton at the half. The final was 38-6 after four more touchdowns, with one more rushing and a touchdown pass from Epperly.

Would Princeton have won had it kicked a field goal to make it 6-6? Yes.

Would Princeton have won had Epperly not gotten in? Almost surely, but not definitely That was the risk. Giving Columbia the momentum and letting the Lions believe they could win.

Surace took it. His team won.

So where does it all stand here after Week 3?

Well, the Ivy League looks like it's a four-team race between Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard, who are, by the way, all 1-0 in the league.

Yale and Dartmouth have looked particularly impressive to this point. Yale beat Cornell 51-13 Saturday and is now 3-0 with 154 points in three games. Dartmouth throttled TigerBlog's alma mater 31-13 Saturday.

Harvard and Princeton were the preseason No. 1 and 2 teams in the league. The Crimson have been coldly efficient to date and are 3-0.

Princeton? The Tigers are victims of unrealistic expectations after last year. What? Princeton hasn't scored 70 points in every game? What's up with that?

In truth, the Tigers are right where they need to be.

The biggest game in the league this week is in New Haven, where Yale hosts Dartmouth. Princeton and Harvard both have their final non-league games, with Princeton at Colgate.

After that, it's home against Brown (who played Harvard tough and wants to get back into the league race) and then Harvard.

The Tigers finish at Yale and home with Dartmouth. Yale and Harvard play the final week of the season, obviously.

In other words, there's a long way to go here.

TigerBlog will say that this is shaping up as one of the best Ivy League football seasons he can remember. And, he's pretty sure, Princeton will be in the thick of it all the way.

And least he hopes so.

After all, the Tigers' coach is one of his two favorites. 


Unknown said...

Successful 2 pt conversions in the NFL are about 50%. Where do u get 75-80%?

Princeton OAC said...

In that situation, with Arian Foster? TB guesses 75-80%.