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A Game-Theoretic Approach to Personnel Decisions in American Football


  • McGough Erin

    (The University of Akron)

  • Clemons Curtis

    (The University of Akron)

  • Ferrara Michael

    (University of Colorado Denver)

  • Norfolk Timothy

    (The University of Akron)

  • Young Gerald W

    (The University of Akron)


The aim of this paper is to develop a game-theoretic framework to study the impact of player personnel changes on offensive productivity in American football. We develop a new model, the improvement in passing model, which is used to determine the optimal proportion of run and pass plays that a team should call. The model determines the optimal run/pass balance in terms of parameters that reflect a recent change (generally, in our case, an increase) in efficacy of a team's passing offense. The model assumes a residual positive effect on the team's running game occurs as a result of the improved passing attack. Several conclusions are drawn, most surprisingly that improvements in a team's expected gains via the passing game imply that the team should, in fact, run more frequently to optimize their overall offensive productivity. We conclude with an example studying the 2009 acquisition of Jay Cutler by the Chicago Bears.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jqsprt:v:6:y:2010:i:4:n:1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rockerbie Duane W., 2008. "The Passing Premium Puzzle Revisited," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 4(2), pages 1-13, April.
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