Kyle Shanahan: Defense made decision to kick field goal easier – NBC Sports





Early in the fourth quarter of last night’s game against the Rams, the 49ers faced fourth and goal just inside the L.A. two, while leading 14-9. ESPN’s Joe Buck pointed out that the analytics would advocate going for the touchdown.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan opted to kick the field goal after taking (apparently on purpose) a five-yard delay-of-game penalty. Following the game, Shanahan provided reporters with a brief explanation of the decision.
“We were close, we discussed it,” Shanahan said. “If we were on the one, it might have been a little more tempting, but I thought our defense was playing well and stuff and felt, it wasn’t that tough.”
Here’s why it wasn’t that tough. His defense had been suffocating the Rams. So he took the three, went up by eight, and trusted the defense to keep doing what it had been doing all night.
And it worked. On the next drive, the 49ers generated a defensive touchdown after an interception of quarterback Matthew Stafford, and 17-9 became 24-9 became game over.
That’s why the percentages that routinely are espoused in such situations (X win percentage if you kick the field goal, Y win percentage if you go for it) must be considered in concert with a broad range of other factors that influence the final decision the coach must make. For example:
How do I feel about my available menu of plays for fourth and goal from just inside the two?
How have similar plays worked so far tonight?
Is there a play I’ve already used in a situation like this that I should actually use again?
Are there aspects of the opponent’s defense that are working differently than expected?
Are certain offensive players performing better or worse than expected?
Have any injuries impacted the expected effectiveness of the play that may be called?
Veteran defensive coach Dean Pees added more basic wrinkles to the broader analysis earlier this year.
“The computer told you that,” Pees said of decisions made during games. “When did the computer know what the weather was? Whether it was raining, whether the wind was blowing. Whether you were playing good on defense. OK, they say, ‘Well, it’s a two-point game. Should you go for it on fourth down?’ Well, I don’t know. Is the score 42-40 or 6-3? It makes a difference. . . . If they’re playing great defense, don’t. If they’re playing lousy defense, yes. The computer doesn’t tell you that.”
He’s right. Analytics takes football decisions and tries to make them quantitative and automatic and ideally devoid of discretion. They’re not, and they can never be. There will always be a qualitative element, no matter how loudly anyone claims that the “model” takes certain factors into account. At the end of the day, it remains a human being’s decision regarding the manner in which 11 human beings will, or won’t, successfully impose their will on 11 other human beings who have a vastly different agenda.
That’s not to say the quantitative aspect of the situation should be ignored. However, it never, ever should supplant the decision made by the coach, based on every relevant factor and honed by his full lifetime of football knowledge and experience.
For more thoughts on the right way to think about analytics, have a listen to the segment from PFT Live that accompanies this thing you’ve just read.
Kyle Shanahan is as good as any coach in the league. The 49ers have been very successful since hiring him, and he’s done it all without an elite QB. He’s gotten two teams to super bowls, and neither had an elite QB. Coaches who win with elite QB’s are still good coaches, but the ones who win without elite QB’s are the elite coaches.
Being an NFL HC is one of the harder jobs in the world. There are six reasonable and effective questions listed above. The coach has to consider all of this in under 30 seconds (or less) within the confines of the play clock. Kyle made the right call, but if SF ended up losing he would have been lambasted. Not an easy gig!
Shanny had reasons to believe in his defense. Harbaugh had none.
People who think the analytics are black and white know nothing about analytics. The league might have a certain percentage of success in this scenario but that doesn’t mean the two teams playing that night would have that same percentage. The players on the field do matter no matter what the video game generations wants to think. They pay them the big bucks because their talent matters and will influence a situation beyond the numbers.
As long as the defense plays like it does then Jimmy Hair is effective as a QB. He won’t be able to bring the team from behind, but if he can manage things like last night, he’ll be highly effective. It was refreshing to see Stafford resume his Detroit Lions’ level of play.
Not true. Google (and other tech companies) are creating machine learning models that are getting better and better in predicting scenarios in far more complex issues (such as cancer detection) than things like whether the wind direction will impact a game, etc. It’s a different argument whether the computer models that NFL is using are complex/good enough.
Never have I seen a computer win a football game
charliecharger says:
October 4, 2022 at 4:56 pm
Kyle Shanahan is as good as any coach in the league. The 49ers have been very successful since hiring him, and he’s done it all without an elite QB. He’s gotten two teams to super bowls, and neither had an elite QB. Coaches who win with elite QB’s are still good coaches, but the ones who win without elite QB’s are the elite coaches.
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Clearly you’ re still riding high from your win last night. Winning is a good deodorant but keep in perspective that your “elite” coach STILL has a sub-500 winning record and no deodorant can hide that smell.
wearitclara says:
October 4, 2022 at 7:04 pm
charliecharger says:
October 4, 2022 at 4:56 pm
Kyle Shanahan is as good as any coach in the league. The 49ers have been very successful since hiring him, and he’s done it all without an elite QB. He’s gotten two teams to super bowls, and neither had an elite QB. Coaches who win with elite QB’s are still good coaches, but the ones who win without elite QB’s are the elite coaches.
———————————————————————–
Clearly you’ re still riding high from your win last night. Winning is a good deodorant but keep in perspective that your “elite” coach STILL has a sub-500 winning record and no deodorant can hide that smell.
———————————————————————–
Your short memory must not include the coaching performances against the Bears and the Broncos. Hilarious! BTW.. Jeff Fisher also got to a SB and had a better record.
wearitclara says:
October 4, 2022 at 7:04 pm
charliecharger says:
October 4, 2022 at 4:56 pm
Kyle Shanahan is as good as any coach in the league. The 49ers have been very successful since hiring him, and he’s done it all without an elite QB. He’s gotten two teams to super bowls, and neither had an elite QB. Coaches who win with elite QB’s are still good coaches, but the ones who win without elite QB’s are the elite coaches.
———————————————————————–
Clearly you’ re still riding high from your win last night. Winning is a good deodorant but keep in perspective that your “elite” coach STILL has a sub-500 winning record and no deodorant can hide that smell.
****************************************
So you’re saying Bill Walsh was a crappy coach his first two seasons because he had a record of 8-24? Lucky for 49ers fans, you weren’t advising Eddie DeBartolo. The 3rd season they put in a QB named Montana and won the super bowl. Same coaching staff. Different QB.
charliecharger says:
October 4, 2022 at 7:35 pm
wearitclara says:
October 4, 2022 at 7:04 pm
charliecharger says:
October 4, 2022 at 4:56 pm
Kyle Shanahan is as good as any coach in the league. The 49ers have been very successful since hiring him, and he’s done it all without an elite QB. He’s gotten two teams to super bowls, and neither had an elite QB. Coaches who win with elite QB’s are still good coaches, but the ones who win without elite QB’s are the elite coaches.
———————————————————————–
Clearly you’ re still riding high from your win last night. Winning is a good deodorant but keep in perspective that your “elite” coach STILL has a sub-500 winning record and no deodorant can hide that smell.
****************************************
So you’re saying Bill Walsh was a crappy coach his first two seasons because he had a record of 8-24? Lucky for 49ers fans, you weren’t advising Eddie DeBartolo. The 3rd season they put in a QB named Montana and won the super bowl. Same coaching staff. Different QB.
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Nope. Walsh was an all time great but “Shanny” is going into his sixth year as a HC and his record is sub-500, finishing only one season with a winning record. That season he went on to lose in epic fashion to the Chef’s. He’s done just enough to hold onto his job and would have been fired long ago based on results.
@charliecharger
My mistake..two winning seasons..
2017: 6-10
2018: 4-12
2019: 13-3 Lost in SB epically
2020: 6-10
2021: 10-7 3rd in NFC West…Got some luck vs GB. Lost to Rams.
Not what I would call “elite”….
You could see they were going to take a deliberate penalty from how Gould was lined up. I don;t think there was any question that was deliberate.
It’s also important to remember that the “X win percentage if you kick the field goal, Y win percentage if you go for it” numbers are not hard and fast indisputable facts, but rather APPROXIMATIONS calculated by models that also fail to consider context.
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