Thesis Defense (3. Previous Lit)

    Of the previous literature I read that focused on fourth down decision-making in the NFL, all of the researchers came to the same conclusion: that coaches make suboptimal decisions by acting too conservatively and opting to kick on fourth down more often than they should.

    They speculate that coaches could be profit-maximizing rather than win-maximizing, or that they might just be systematically imperfect maximizers, or that they might prefer to lose as a result of playing it safe rather than lose from the result of taking a gamble.

    The problem was that none of them were able to figure out why coaches were making suboptimal decisions. Instead, the researchers had to make inferences from the contexts they analyzed rather than being able to directly test for specific causes. This is key, because this is where my research will make the largest contribution to the realm of academia and future research.

    The portion of my research used to determine if coaches are making suboptimal decisions is simply the means to the end. These previous researchers esetablished that coaches make suboptimal decisions, so the purpose of my research is to introduce a methodology that allows us to directly test for why coaches are making suboptimal decisions, because that's something that none of the other researchers were able to do.

    • I included a few quotes that I thought best captured this point. The first is from David Romer when he stated:
    • “there is little evidence about whether conservative behaviors arise because individuals have nonstandard objective functions or because they are imperfect maximizers.”
    • He's saying they act conservatively but there's little evidence as to WHY this is happening.

    • Carter & Machol wrote:
    • “We believe the reason for this paradox is that coaches do not have sufficient intuitive feel for the negative value imposed on the opposition.”
    • Notice that they say that they "BELIEVE" this is the reason, but they weren't able to directly test for it.

    • These two quotes are both from Soham Patel, who wrote:
    • “individuals are more sensitive to losses than to gains. In football terms, a coach might find the disutility of a play allowing the opponent to score points surpasses the utility of a play that allows his own team to score.”

    • He later states:
    • “coaches might value losses of a play higher than they would the corresponding gains of a play and so they might be calling conservative plays.”
    • Again, he says they "MIGHT" be doing this. Patel actually mentions Prospect Theory specifically in his paper, but he states it as a quote-“potential” reason for the suboptimal decisions.

    All of the previous researchers were handcuffed by their methodologies, which they were able to use to determine if coaches were making optimal decisions, but limited them to only make guesses as to why coaches were making suboptimal decisions. They were, of course, educated guesses and well-informed guesses, but guesses nonetheless.

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Thesis Defense (3. Previous Lit)