Study: Football coaches are conservative

February 27, 2006

A University of California-Berkeley researcher says he's discovered professional football coaches tend toward conservative decision-making behavior.

David Romer, also a National Bureau for Economic Research scientist, argues professional football coaches tend to weigh the consequences of failure more heavily than the impact of success.

Specifically, Romer shows trying for a touchdown rather than a field goal would increase a team's chances of winning a game by about 3 percentage points, which is very large for a single play. However, when faced with the decision, every NFL team in Romer's sample chose to attempt a field goal.

"Much of the previous evidence of systematically conservative behavior involves highly stylized laboratory settings with small stakes and inexperienced decision-makers devoting relatively little effort to their choices," Romer writes. "Thus, previous work provides little evidence about the strength of force pushing decision-makers toward conservatism. The results of this paper suggest that the forces may be shockingly strong."

The study appears in the April issue of the Journal of Political Economy.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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