Vince Lombardi

No Monday Morning Quarterbacks

The 1st Commandment

The relationship between plays and players is direct.

Human capital (H) is the sum of acquired skills that make coaches and players potentially productive as a team. In the NFL, identifying human capital engaged in design (HA) and human capital engaged in production (HY) is generally straightforward. Human capital engaged in play design is coaching, for example, the combination of Bill Walsh and his staff. Human capital engaged in production is play-making, for example, the passing combination of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

QC's statistics assume that the relationship between plays and players is direct. As Bill Walsh designed better plays, those plays contributed to increased efficiency in the production process and the productivity of the players increased. Likewise, as Walsh acquired better players, those players contributed to increased efficiency in the production process and the productivity of the players increased as a result.

This difficulty in isolating the contribution of a play from the contribution of the players results in a "simultaneity problem." A perfect illustration of this problem is Joe Montana's touchdown pass to Dwight Clark that lifted the 49ers over the Dallas Cowboys, 28-27, in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. You undoubtedly have seen Montana and Clark's highlight reel contribution to "The Catch." But you may not have ever seen Walsh's design and instruction that contributed to "The Catch," known by the players as "Sprint Right Option."

Sprint Right Option

The Catch

During the week before the game, as Walsh installed Sprint Right Option, Walsh told his team, "Dwight is in here sliding back out ... this is great when they are tired and confused and want to get back to Dallas. This is when you knock their ass off."

With 4:54 to play in the game and the 49ers trailing, 27-21, the officials marked the ball at the 49ers' own 11-yard line. "This feels impossible, America's team, 89 yards, to win the game. This is win Dallas is great," Clark said. With the Cowboys expecting Montana to pass, Walsh decided to play smash-mouth football. "The play calling on that whole drive was incredible," Clark said. "It was just the greatest chess match of all-time. We still got the feeling, Wow! We still got 'em off balance. About the time they thought we were gonna run it, we would throw it."

With 58 seconds left in the game and San Francisco at the Cowboys' 6-yard line, Montana called timeout and came to the sideline for instruction from Walsh. The following exchange ensued:

"We're going to call a sprint option," Walsh said. "He's going to break up and break into the corner. You got it? Dwight will clear."

"O.K.," Montana said.

"If you don't get what you want, you will just simply throw the ball away," Walsh continued. "If it's not there, away it goes."

"O.K.," Montana said.

"Be ready to go to Dwight. Got it?" Walsh said as Montana turned and headed back to the huddle.

It is undeniable that the play-making of Montana, Clark and their teammates on "The Catch" was perfect. But Walsh's Sprint Right Option design and sideline instruction to Montana also was perfect. QC's statistics isolate the contribution of plays, like Sprint Right Option, from the contribution of players, like "The Catch." By doing so, QC's statistics solve the "simultaneity problem."

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