The real question is why this mistake was made in the first place. Could it be the economist’s well-known distinction between the seen and the unseen? If you punt, no one sees the first down you didn’t make. If you don’t punt and fail to make a first down, you feel bad and are easily blamed. For agency-related reasons, we might expect coaches to be more risk-averse than players. The coach wants to hold onto his job, whereas a superstar player captures upside returns to a greater extent. The variance of player salaries, especially if you include endorsements, is typically much higher than the variance of coach salaries. So the coach plays it safe to a greater extent, and of course a punting decision is usually in the hands of the coach.
Addendum: Here is further discussion from Nick Schulz.