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It's Fourth Down and What Does the Bellman Equation Say? A Dynamic Programming Analysis of Football Strategy

  • David Romer

This paper uses play-by-play accounts of virtually all regular season National Football League games for 1998-2000 to analyze teams' choices on fourth down between trying for a first down and kicking. Dynamic programming is used to estimate the values of possessing the ball at different points on the field. These estimates are combined with data on the results of kicks and conventional plays to estimate the average payoffs to kicking and going for it under different circumstances. Examination of teams' actual decisions shows systematic, overwhelmingly statistically significant, and quantitatively large departures from the decisions the dynamic-programming analysis implies are preferable.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9024.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9024.

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Date of creation: Jun 2002
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9024
Note: IO
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  1. McCormick, Robert E & Tollison, Robert D, 1984. "Crime on the Court," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(2), pages 223-35, April.
  2. Gwartney, James & Haworth, Charles, 1974. "Employer Costs and Discrimination: The Case of Baseball," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 873-81, July/Aug..
  3. Ehrenberg, Ronald G & Bognanno, Michael L, 1990. "Do Tournaments Have Incentive Effects?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1307-24, December.
  4. Nardinelli, Clark & Simon, Curtis, 1990. "Customer Racial Discrimination in the Market for Memorabilia: The Case of Baseball," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(3), pages 575-95, August.
  5. Mark Walker & John Wooders, 2001. "Minimax Play at Wimbledon," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1521-1538, December.
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