Today at Slate:
While we’ve known for a long time that going for it on fourth-and-short is the wise move, NFL coaches have typically eschewed this aggressive approach. Are coaches getting any smarter? I took a shot at answering that question in August, analyzing fourth-and-1 decisions that fell within the following three constraints:
- The decision must have come in the first three quarters before end-of-game factors encourage or discourage aggressive play.
- The offense had to be between its own 40-yard line and its opponent’s 40-yard line, so kicking a field goal wasn’t an option, but the team wasn’t so close to its own end zone as to make fourth down conservativism a defensible move.
- The game needed to be competitive, defined as within 10 points, to ensure the scoreboard wasn’t the primary factor dictating those decisions.
From 1994–2004, teams went for it on these fourth-and-1 situations 28 percent of the time. From 2005–2014, that number ratcheted up, with teams going for it 35 percent of the time. And in 2015 and 2016, offenses stayed on the field for these fourth downs more than 40 percent.
That trend is still holding halfway through the 2017 season.
You can read the full article here.