Podcast Episode 10 - David Romer

David Romer, professor of economics at UC Berkeley, is on the podcast this week to discuss why coaches should be more aggressive on fourth down. David is the author of "Do Firms Maximize? Evidence From Professional Football" and in this interview, he explains his novel approach to analyzing fourth down decision-making. He outlines reasons why coaches are incentivized to make sub-optimal choices and how they can improve their team’s chances of winning by following his advice.

Professor Romer explains why "critical probabilities" are important, and why the "dead zone" on the field presents unique choices for an offense stalled on fourth down. He also tells the story of how after hearing Bill Belichick's critique that his paper didn’t account for the existence of momentum, he amended the writing to include an examination of why momentum in the NFL does not have a measurable effect on game results. For more on the professor's paper, check out the following links:

- Brian Burke’s review. In his response, Brian explains why the professor’s research may actually underestimate the effects of his proposed offensive strategy. [Edit: Prof. Romer set me straight a few yrs back. I overlooked that the paper makes the same point I made. -Brian]

- New York Times coverage

- ESPN the Magazine essay by Michael Lewis

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3 Responses to “Podcast Episode 10 - David Romer”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Another fantastic podcast, thanks again for all the hard work. The tidbit about Belichick's belief in momentum was great and I am wondering how much it will effect his 'street credentials' around here...

    I thought it was interesting how Romer brought up the Massey-Thaler draft study especially when taken in conjunction with his observation that the NFL is set up to incentivize winning. With top draft picks being overvalued and late 1st-mid 2nd round draft picks having the most surplus value, does this explain why good teams tend to stay good? It would seem that playoff teams are the ones who are getting the lion's share of the best picks in the draft while the worst teams tend to get the less valuable picks. Perhaps there is another incentive inadvertently built into the draft that makes it worthwhile to NOT tank a bad season and keep trying to win in order to LOWER your pick in the draft.


  2. NateTG says:

    Finally, someone pointing out that the players are professionals, and that we should their performance to be good under the extra marginal pressure of a close game.

    Romer's paper is probably the single most well-known work in NFL analytics. All of the guests so far have been amazing.

  3. madsci64 says:

    About momentum; teams could make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Coaches who think that momentum is against them would get more conservative, wouldn't they, and since coaches usually err on the side of caution, thinking momentum is against you would make those errors worse.

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