Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera received the nickname “Riverboat Ron” during his time with the Carolina Panthers. Whether he was/is truly a "gambler'' by nature is subject to debate ... but all it takes is one "go-for-it'' moment, a nickname in a headline ... and then the subject himself (Rivera) embracing it ...
And "Riverboat Ron'' it is.
The smartest coaches, of course, don't just "gamble.'' It's about "calculated gambles,'' decisions arrived at by both taking the temperature of a given situation and consulting the advanced-analytics probabilities in that situation.
Rivera's first big "Riverboat'' decision in Washington during his first season here arrived in October against the New York Giants. The WFT scored a TD with less than a minute left, cutting the New York lead to one.
Kick it to go to OT?
Or go for the win?
Washington opted for the latter. Washington was unsuccessful. Washington lost the game.
Is there a "perfect right answer''? No, because that "probability chart'' cannot possibly take into account factors like momentum, injuries, weather, confidence ... or maybe a coach and his players believing they have an ideal play for an ideal circumstance against an ideal defense.
The subject popped up again recently when Rivera guested on the “Rich Eisen Show” as the subject of analytics was broached.
And "Riverboat Ron'' seemed to not grasp the numbers.
“I have had situations where when we’ve gone for it with the analytics, and it didn’t (work) out,” Rivera said. “And I’ve been told, ‘Hey, that’s OK, you did what the analytics said.’ And, to me, I struggle with that, because if I do what analytics said and it says, 'Nine times out of 10, you are gonna complete it,' there’s that one time out of 10 you don’t.”
Ron tried again ...
"How do you know if you’re going to be that one time out of 10 that isn’t successful? There is no guarantee; you can tell me all you want, 'That’s 99 percent.' Hey, that’s good, yeah, but (what) if you’re that 1 percent? What’s that one time it doesn’t work?''
Here's hoping that Rivera - who we find to be a bright person, risk-taker or not - has a better mastery of numbers than he demonstrates here. Because, yes, factors like momentum, injuries, weather and confidence should all be considered, tossed into the same gumbo pot as analytics.
But if the analytics tell you to do something "99 percent'' of the time? That's no "gamble.'' Aboard the ol' riverboat, that's pretty much called "a sure thing.''