Friday, September 23, 2016

That Which Does not Kill You

Taking a break from meta-politics. Let's talk about football. Well, football strategy.
In my pool of mostly Pats fans, I can count on the others to pick the Pats week after week out of loyalty. Last night I outsmarted myself with game theory tactics to try to take advantage of that perceived weakness of the opposition. They would pick the Pats whether or not the Pats were more likely to win, so if I picked against my own interests, I might improve my chances in the pool. Unfortunately, my focus on the vulnerabilities of the pool participants made me forgot about the strength of the Pats - they find a way to win games, especially with home field advantage, and find new ways to win. This is the dynamic of Belichick, Billy Bean and all the rest. You employ new game strategy and by the time opponents catch on and employ it themselves, you are on to the next strategy. Success comes only with the willingness to take chances  and to recognize its a matter of luck + skill. When a tactic fails, you look foolish to the uninitiated. So what, who cares?

Warriors discusses tactical examples - punching out the ball on defense, use of massive tight ends and the short low pass to agile receivers. Belichick era punters are left-footed, producing an unsettling reverse spin on the ball for the punt receiver. One of the most effective adaptations is that Pats players take on multiple roles more than other teams. So they can fill gaps in this game with frequent injuries and confuse other teams with different looks on offense and defense. But throughout this era, the offense has been built around Tom Brady's arm and other skills which come with the inability to turn a broken pass play into much of a run. Using a different quarterback or different role for Brady was limited to trick plays -- Brady calls the signals but the ball is snapped to a different player, Amendola pass to Brady, or even the Flutie drop kick. Even with Belichick's willingness to take big risks, mixing up the quarterbacks during a game to confuse the opposition was just too risky.

Until now. Imagine the new offense when Brady returns if Garoppolo recovers from his injury. Three battle tested quarterbacks to choose from. How does an opposing team prepare for the possibility that Garoppolo or Brissett may be inserted at any time? If Brissett suddenly goes in, does that mean it may be a pass, but not a long bomb? Is it a quarterback draw? Or has Brissett been practicing the long bomb all week and we need to anticipate that? If Garoppolo goes in for Brady, what in the world does that mean now? Will he run? Short pass? The mind boggles.

What does this say about some other teams willing to sign extravagant multi-year contracts, but still struggle to find one good enough quarterback. Like the Texans.

The extreme penalty of the 4-game Brady suspension together with the bad luck of the Garoppolo injury, forced playing time for both Brissett and Garoppolo. The Gift from Goodell, forced Belichick to build and have the team execute around an offense with both backup QBs that will be a threat for the remainder of the season. Thank you Roger. All is forgiven.

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