I have a feeling this week's Kubiak Konundrum will be known as the one with the challenges-which-shall-not-be-named. So, I'm going to start with my general thoughts on challenge theory. First, I think people tend to take most challenges in a vacuum and simply look at whether or not the referees overturned the calls, rather than taking into account the game situation. All challenges are not created equal.
Furthermore, the idea that a coach should only challenge when there is indisputable evidence, just like refs need to overturn the call, is a fallacy. We've all seen calls overturned that we didn't expect would be. A coach has to weigh the chances of a play being overturned (or more evidence being provided) against the statistical improvement in a game situation that an overturned call would provide--and then decide whether those chances are worth the risk. And he has to make this decision in about 20 seconds. Just because a challenge does not get overturned does not mean it wasn't worth it!
That being said, we set out on the Konundrum to judge the results, not our own personal beliefs. The experiment clearly has its shortcomings, as sometimes a coach can be rewarded for poor decisions and punished for good ones (Bill Barnwell at Grantland had an excellent discussion about this phenomenon there this week), much like a QB can "just win" while playing horribly (Tim Tebow, that's VY looking at you). Yet I still think there's value in stripping down our biases and judging each coaching decision based on its results, even if using a crude 1-5 scoring system. I think at the least we should consider such factors when determining just how bad a failed decision was. Enough prosthelytizing. On to the good stuff:
1=terrible call, 2=negative, 3=neutral, 4=positive, and 5=outstanding.
1Q. 3:34 left. 3rd and 7. Jags' 36. Texans lead 7-0.
Challenge #1. Matt Schaub threw to the sideline to Kevin Walter, but the officials ruled Walter only got one foot in bounds. Watching the replay, I didn't think it was worth challenging. But Kubiak did. I saw what he did--that Walter stabbed his back foot at the ground just before going out of bounds--but I didn't think toe got turf. The refs agreed with me, and judging by the fallout, just about everyone else in Houston.
With the game situation and the fact that an overturn would have netted us a big play and maintained possession, I didn't think it was as outrageous as most. I think it's becoming clear to me that I just don't value timeouts the way others do. Some might wrap them up for Christmas and give them to their beloved, having no idea why she would be pissed at receiving something as valuable as a timeout. So, with possession on the line, I only gave Kubiak's decision a 2 on our scale. I have a feeling many are going to disagree, and so I will leave it up to our polling people to decide.
1Q. 3:34 left. 4th and 7. Jags' 36. Texans lead 7-0.
The rare instance where one play basically gives us two decisions for the price of one. Since Kubiak's challenge failed, he then was faced with the decision of what to do next on 4th and 7 from the Jags' 36. Kick a 53-yard field goal? Punt? Go for it? Well, this wasn't a game of Madden he was playing against Wade in McNair's attic, so he wasn't going to go for it.
Kubiak, of course, chose to punt. I'm beginning to question whether I should even include these 53-yard field goal or punt options in the Konundrum. I've documented my strong aversion to eschewing the field goal, but I seem to be a broken record. Also, Kubiak has advantages we don't--like seeing Neil Rackers kick before the game, having a better idea about the wind, etc. I'd love a discussion in the comments on whether we should address these seemingly once a game situations or only consider them if they are game-changing.
In this instance, Brett Hartmann induced a fair catch on the 11. With a 7-0 lead, putting an offensively challenged team on their own 11 isn't the worst thing in the world, so I give Kubes a neutral 3 on the decision.
4Q. 9:13 left. Jags' 36. Texans lead 21-7.
Ben Tate fumbles, Kubiak challenges, witty comments go up all over the Twitterverse about Kubiak's being challengedly challenged. However, this play represents what I was discussing in the opening comments even more than the first challenge. Are we really that concerned with timeouts at this point? Up 14? Had Tate held on to the ball, the run deep into Jags' territory would have pretty much iced the game or got us damn close. While I agree that Tate wasn't down, I had to super-slow-mo my DVR to make sure. Isn't the 3% chance that another angle would have provided the necessary proof worth sacrificing the timeout, which had a 1% chance of being needed, when sitting on a 14 point lead? These percentages were not provided by PFF or FO but NASA, by the way.
I can't crush Kubiak for this one because he was playing with house money, went for the death blow, and just didn't land the Hail Mary while mixing his metaphors. In short, who cares about a timeout when you have two remaining and are up by 14 in the fourth quarter against a QB who can't move the ball?
Alas, the decision was not overturned, so I will give Kubiak a 2 for the decision. But only a two.
A few quick notes: Last week, people chimed in heavily in the comments to change Kubiak's decision to run a draw on third and 21 to a neutral 3 no-decision. Also, they voted overwhelmingly that Kubiak's decision to go for it on 4th and inches from the Titans' 36 was a good call. Both have been adjusted in the scorecard.
2: 1 play
3: 1 play
TBD: 1 play
2: 6 plays
3: 10 plays
4: 6 plays