Monday, January 14, 2013

It’s a business not a sport

It’s a business not a sport.

If you don’t know, Robert Griffin III got injured during the 2nd quarter of this week’s wild card game. There has been some criticism whether or not he should have continued to play after what appeared to be an earlier strain on the knee. I’ll tell you something RGIII and I have in common: we both are not doctors. Accordingly to RGIII though, he knows the difference from pain and injury (thank god because that would make this whole MRI thing useless).  Now enough of my rant about injury what could be years off RGIII’s career, I’m here to bring data into the issue.

Cost benefit analysis (CBA) often involves analyzing the risk of playing and the benefit of winning a playoff game does to his salary. Let’s make it clear, RGII was hurt at sometime during that game, call it an injury or lack of performance, but RGII started to cost his team yards and points. Since his ‘run out of bounds injury’, the team had the following results: 13 yards | punt, 3 yards interception, 23 yards | punt,4 yards | Punt, 17 yards | punt, -19 yards | fumble.  RGIII simply couldn’t put a drive together to score points. For a while, his team was lucky, because the Seahawks were still trailing, so they had time to score more points. However, as they gained momentum, and RGIII kept going into the injury shed, the probability of winning shifted.

This is the win probability of the Redskins, see that reversal right after their second touchdown, that is when RGIII got ‘hurt’. As we can see, the Redskins were decreasing their probability of winning at a very high rate, something a coach should be concerned with.

The thing is when coaches, managers or doctors remove players to prevent injury there is uproar. Recall when the Washington Nationals removed Stephan Strasburg to prevent long-term damage to his arm. ESPN was yelling foul, saying that they should have kept him in to create a push. Strasburg saw something that most players do not see; the short-term incentives can limit your career.

Lets say that RGIII gets an extra $2 million dollars for winning that game, of course he is going to stay in that game. $2 million dollars is a lot of money, and for all he thought he was just in pain. However, that injury could cost him 4 years of his career in the long run, and lets say that’s $8 million dollars. But as we all know, that $2 million dollars is coming today not 4 years from now. As degreed before, you put your best players out there to give your team the biggest chance of winning.

Why this is not RGIII’s fault. A good coach would have noticed that RGIII was no longer maximizing his team’s ability to win that game. In fact (with a mixture of their spotty defense), he was hurting the team’s chances of winning the game faster than when he was helping. During the press conference, Mike Shanahan said ‘he was our best player’; but he couldn’t be more wrong. Once he couldn’t run, the quarterback became very predictable.  The NFL has the luxury of unlimited substitutions; meaning he could have taken RGIII out earlier and let his leg rest while the team was wasting away their lead.

If we could prevent injury, would we?