Archives for Football Freakonomics



The Hidden Side of the Super Bowl: A New Marketplace Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast covers the upcoming Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots. (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.)

We figured that of the 100 million-plus people who “watch” the game each year, a lot of them aren’t what you’d call rabid football fans. Does that describe you? If so, this episode is a handy cheat sheet that’ll let you converse knowingly with your football-crazed friends, and maybe even one-up them. Read More »



Football Freakonomics: Born or Made?

There are a lot of things that need to go right for any given person to succeed in the NFL. We know all the stories about bad breaks, freak injuries, and mismatched coaches. On the flipside, we know how much hard work, discipline, and even luck go into a successful career.

In this installment of Football Freakonomics, we take a step back to ask the most basic question: are great players born or are they made? In other words, how much does raw talent matter? Read More »



Football Freakonomics: The Frozen Conundrum

Well, it’s January. And even though my team stumbled into inglorious, injury-plagued defeat, the most exciting football is yet to be played — some of it in very cold weather.

So we thought it was time to take a look at the various effects, and hidden side, of cold weather. That’s the focus of our latest installment of Football Freakonomics.

It is no secret that weather, cold or hot, has a significant effect on athletic performance. I don’t want to start an argument here about what constitutes a sport and what doesn’t, but I will say that the most frustrating six hours of my life was spent on a lake in upstate New York trying to coax some walleye through a hole in the ice. Brrr!  Read More »



What Does Tim Tebow Pray For?

In a recent Football Freakonomics video about Tim Tebow, I made a connection between his faith and performance: Tebow is hardly the first NFL quarterback to be demonstrative about his religious faith. But he’s very demonstrative – and it’s worth considering how that faith may affect his play. By definition, faith often translates into a […] Read More »



Football Freakonomics: Who’s Peaking?

The preliminaries are finally over. As we head into the first weekend of NFL playoffs, the conversation shifts. No longer are we talking about the long arc of the season – about working out the kinks, getting schemes in place, or jockeying for position. Now, with every game a do-or-die game, we’re talking about which team is peaking at the right time. Because no matter how good (or bad) your record may be, the final summit is in sight and it’s time to turn on the juice.

In the latest installment of “Football Freakonomics,” we look at the art and science of peaking. What’s the best way to assess a team’s peak position? Read More »



“Football Freakonomics”: Incentives

Today’s question on “Football Freakonomics” is a tricky one. Which incentive is stronger for an NFL player: landing a big contract or winning the Super Bowl?

It can be devilishly hard to find out what truly motivates people to do what they do. There are a lot of reasons for this. Different people have different preferences; an incentive that works for a while may wear off over time; and it’s dangerous to rely on what people say about their motivation, since most of us are concerned about saying “the right thing.”

It’s better, therefore, to measure actual behavior – in this case, for instance, how players perform before and after signing a big contract. Read More »



“Football Freakonomics”: Does Firing Your Head Coach Fix Anything?

‘Tis the season – for the firing of head coaches, that is. In the space of two weeks, three teams – the Jaguars, Chiefs, and Dolphins – canned their top man.

Allow me to make two seemingly contradictory points:

  • An NFL head coach is probably the most influential, hands-on coach in the four major sports; but:
  • Firing the head coach of a bad team probably does a lot less to improve that team than most of us think.

Our latest “Football Freakonomics” segment (video below) asks whether firing a head coach really does much to improve a team’s chances – or if it’s simply the standard move for losing organizations, meant to appease critics in the media, the stands, and even the locker room. Read More »



“Football Freakonomics”: Tebow Timing

The following is a cross-post from NFL.com, where we’ve recently launched a Football Freakonomics Project. This segment aired before last Sunday’s Patriots-Broncos game.

One of the arguments both for and against Tim Tebow as a viable, long-term NFL starter is the idea that he should simply not be doing what he’s doing right now. Tebow’s critics say he’s getting far too much credit for his 7-1 record as a starter this season – that he’s benefiting from an unexplainable run of luck — while his supporters point to the exceptional performances he’s turned in immediately following those fortuitous bounces.

So how is a team that ranks second-to-last in passing yards, whose quarterback completes fewer than half his throws, pulling out miraculous victories week after week? Read More »