Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Play-Calling Computer

PostedSeptember 10, 2006

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Randy Atkins:  Football coaches’ tough decisions are made on gut instinct.  But Chuck Bower, an Indiana University physicist, hopes they’ll soon turn to a computer program he helped engineer.  Inputting situations like score, field position, and clock time—it checks play options against years of NFL statistics.

Chuck Bower:  We typically run a play a hundred thousand times in something like ten seconds.

Randy Atkins:  Sampling virtually all possible outcomes gives success percentages, and Bower’s calculated that…

Chuck Bower:  On average, we can help a team win one more game a season, which is huge.

Randy Atkins:  Problem is NFL rules don’t allow computer use on game day.  So, for now, it’s simply a tool to plan, and second-guess.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.

Professor Bower plans to check Coach Gibb’s decisions Monday night.  To see his findings, go to on Tuesday.  Click on “Innovative Engineering” under "Quick Links" at the very bottom of the page.