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The Passing Premium Puzzle Revisited


  • Rockerbie Duane W.

    (University of Lethbridge)


The passing premium puzzle states that NFL teams do not call enough passing plays, despite rule changes since the late 1970's that have increased the expected return to passing. This paper develops a simple portfolio model to determine how a coach could determine an optimal share of running and passing plays to maximize the expected yardage return from the portfolio. Coaches are assumed to be risk-averse so that they perceive a tradeoff between a higher expected return to passing and running, and a higher variance of yardage to each. The model is tested by computing the optimal share of running plays and comparing to the actual share of running plays for the 2006 NFL season. It is also demonstrated that a tradeoff does exist between expected yardage return and risk which is the basis for the portfolio model. Finally, portfolio selection is shown to, at least partly, determine winning percentage.

Suggested Citation

  • Rockerbie Duane W., 2008. "The Passing Premium Puzzle Revisited," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 4(2), pages 1-13, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jqsprt:v:4:y:2008:i:2:n:9

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    Cited by:

    1. Urschel John D & Zhuang Jun, 2011. "Are NFL Coaches Risk and Loss Averse? Evidence from Their Use of Kickoff Strategies," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 7(3), pages 1-17, July.
    2. Emara, Noha & Owens, David & Smith, John & Wilmer, Lisa, 2017. "Serial correlation in National Football League play calling and its effects on outcomes," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 125-132.
    3. Alamar Benjamin C, 2010. "Measuring Risk in NFL Playcalling," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 6(2), pages 1-9, April.
    4. McGough Erin & Clemons Curtis & Ferrara Michael & Norfolk Timothy & Young Gerald W, 2010. "A Game-Theoretic Approach to Personnel Decisions in American Football," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 6(4), pages 1-15, October.

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