Jack Uldrich
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An Unlearning Hero: Bill Belichick

Posted in Business, Games, Quiz, Sports, Unlearn Strategy

PJ-AS444_SP_RIS_G_20091116171343 Almost two years ago now, after his team's stunning upset loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, I applauded Bill Belichick for his willingness to make an unconventional — but statistically correct — decision in a high stake situation. After his latest controversial decision on Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts, where he decided to go for it on fourth-and-two from his own 30-yard line with his team leading by six points and two minutes to go in the game, I again applaud him. This time, however, I am going to go a step further and name Bill Belichick my first ever "Unlearning" hero for his willingness to stand up proudly against incorrect conventional wisdom.

Just because his New England Patroits didn't convert the play, Belichick's decision has been roundly criticized by thousands of "Monday morning" quarterbacks and scores of professional analysts who felt that Belichick should have punted the ball in the situation. 

Well, as is so often the case, the Monday Morning quarterbacks and the pundits are wrong! Just because a decision doesn't work out, does not mean that it was the incorrect decision. According to this article in today's Wall Street Journal, Belichick's decision gave his team a 79% chance of winning the game. This compares with a 70% chance of winning had he decided to go for the "safe" (or conventional) option of punting the ball. 

In other words, Belichick gave his team the best chance of winning. Isn't that what a coach is suppose to do? Of course it is, but the reality is that a surprisingly high number of coaches play it "safe" and end up hurting their teams prospects for victory. (See this old post: Ohio State Needs to Unlearn).

In situations such as this, where the masses are screaming for Belichick's head, I am reminded of the old quote by John Maynard Keynes: "Worldly wisdom teaches us that it is better for the reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally."

Well, I say screw "worldly wisdom." I would rather have a coach that succeeds unconventionally. Bottom-line: Bill Belichick should be applauded — not criticized — for his decision. Standing up against the power of conventional wisdom isn't easy but it is the correct thing to do when the numbers are in your favor — and, in Belichick's case — they were!



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