Win Probability Forfeited 2012

by Matt Meiselman

Matt has been helping me crunch some 4th down numbers this off-season. He is a senior at the University of Maryland studying broadcast journalism. He's originally from New Jersey, but loves New York sports. Matt aspires to work in sports media and has a passion for sports statistics. -BB

Fourth down decision making is one of the most controversial aspects of coaching in the NFL. Act too aggressively and miss? You get blamed for a loss. Act too timid? The fans will be calling for your head. Most NFL coaches are operating with the mindset that whatever puts their team (and their job) at the least amount of risk is the right choice to make. This has been, and will always be, the wrong way to try to win a football game.

In last year's article on this subject, Brian talked about how coaches aren’t just saving wins if they’re more aggressive; they are simultaneously forfeiting wins by being too meek. In 2011, the average team forfeited .65 wins for the year on 4th down decisions alone. The NFL has started to become more risk-friendly instead of risk-averse, and you’d expect that with more innovative minds in the game, like Bill Belicheck and Jim Harbaugh, the league would be trending towards more optimum game management. This was not the case in 2012.

During the 2012 season, the average team forfeited .73 wins, a significant increase from the year before. The average win probability forfeited per opportunity also rose, jumping from 1.6% of a win to 1.9% of a win. Below are the calculations for each team:

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What is Ed Reed's Going Value?

Last year I looked at the salaries of free agent safeties to estimate the going rate based on production stats.  FA safety salary correlated fairly well with production, specifically +EPA (positive Expected Points Added). With Ed Reed, one of my favorite safeties, on the FA market at moment, I thought I'd take a look at what would be a fair market price for his services in 2013.

Here, price is defined by salary cap hit. NFL salaries are notoriously complex with bonuses and guarantees. But these are boiled down into a single cap number, which is the cost to his team's overall salary cap, the most precious resource it has in acquiring and keeping players.

The analysis here produced the chart below. In short, top FA safeties are valued at about $2.0 million for every +EPA per game, minus $170k.

For example, for a guy who produces 2.1 EPA/G, his going rate would be about $4M per year. So where would Ed Reed stand in this context?

Reed is a future Hall of Famer, but he is now 34 and headed into his twelfth season. Here is how his total production and per-game production have tracked over the course of his career. (Note that all stats  are for regular seasons only. +EPA stats can be found here.)