In Ron Rivera’s first 34 games as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, he chose to go for it on fourth and short less than all but one other NFL coach. The man gambled so little on the field that it seemed he would likely be intimidated by my grandma’s weekly bunko game. He was not willing to risk his first head coaching job by taking chances that may make him look foolish if they were to fail. But after losing enough close games by opting to punt or kick a field goal on fourth and short when his team had a late lead, Riverboat Ron was born, and the aggressive style of play calling he adapted helped take Carolina to the playoffs for the past two seasons.
Now the Panthers are the only undefeated team in the NFL, and the man that used to pile up losses while kicking is stacking up wins by going for it. Conventional wisdom tells us that people tend to get more conservative as they age. In the NFL, the conservative approach is a good way to lose and losing is a good way to get fired. I have to respect Rivera for being willing to adapt and take chances. But then again, he was sure to be fired if he stuck to the same approach and got the same results. Self preservation can be one of the more powerful catalysts for evolution.
I think one of the fundamental reasons coaches do not go for it more on fourth down, besides not wanting to look stupid when it doesn’t work, is the antiquated notion that field position is more important than possession of the ball. Perhaps this was true before the introduction of the forward pass, but in today’s game, at every level from high-school to professional, I think possession is more important than field position.
Late in a tie game, would you rather your team be starting a...
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...ver Dwayne Bowe, and that has helped open up the field for the offense.
The Man, the Myth, the Legend
The Detroit Lions promoted Jim Bob Cooter from quarterback coach to offensive coordinator a few weeks back and since then, Detroit has actually won a few games. Were it not for a heartbreaking Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary touchdown pass on the last play of the game last week, the Lions would have won their last four games, including twice against the Green Bay Packers. Unless you are a Lions fan, this likely means little to you personally, but it should, because Jim Bob Cooter is one of the greatest names in America. In a perfect world, he would roam the country fighting crime, helping those in need and winning county fair eating competitions. Jim Bob Cooter’s name should be spoken in the same breath as other great American legends like Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan.
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