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Pete Carroll, Andy Reid, and the Psychology of Play Calling

NFL Offseason - Guest column by Cole Jacobson

As NFL offensive playcallers scramble to select their next play in the minimal timeframe they have to do so, there are a myriad of factors that influence which direction they go in. Down-and-distance are an obvious pair; a pass is far more likely on third-and-15 than it is on second-and-3. Game score is another one, as trailing teams have more incentive to pass than leading ones. Field position, game clock, quarterback pre-snap improvisations, and each team's timeouts remaining are also factors that even a casual football fan would acknowledge are significant influences in whether a team decides to run or pass the ball.