Go For It!
In the year that I have known men’s head basketball coach Paul Culpo, there are a few things that I’ve learned he believes in: Lebron James is the best player to ever play, Lonzo Ball may someday surpass him, and going for it on fourth down makes the most sense. While my opinion on the Jordan-James debate may hold less weight because I never saw MJ play, and I don’t want to believe the Ball hype, I agree completely with fourth downs, and I will tell you why.
If you’ve ever played a game of Madden, I’m sure you’ve come upon this situation. You would be facing a 4th and 10 from your own twenty-five-yard line 3 minutes into the game, when you would run a dinky screen play or throw a deep ball that was tipped and caught for a first down, leading your opponent to almost send his controller through the screen. Let me clarify by saying that this cocky, irrational, video game logic is not smart, real life 4th down management. But neither are any of the following instances.
Unranked LSU, who was at one point down 20-0 to tenth ranked Auburn, had come alive the second half and was down 23-21 with two and a half minutes left and facing a fourth and inches. INCHES! Commentators described the first down marker as being, “less than the length of a football away”. Instead of going for it, they put freshman kicker Connor Culp at the line for a 42-yard field goal. Thankfully, he nailed the field goal, Auburn turned the ball over on a 4th down the next drive and LSU came out with the upset over their SEC rival. Kicker blunders are famous even in the NFL however – if you’re a Bills fan, you might painfully know the term “wide right”. So why put a freshman kicker on the line for a long clutch field goal when you could FALL with the ball and get a first down, get closer for an attempt, burn some clock and force Auburn to use some of their three timeouts? LSU easily could have lost the game on this decision.
Want a recent example from Sunday that happens all the time? Take Chicago and Baltimore this past week. The game is scoreless four minutes into the second quarter, and Mitchell Trubisky in his second career start is driving the Bears inside the Ravens’ ten-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Chicago faced a 4th and 3 from the five-yard line. And out came the field goal unit immediately. You might think that since the game was scoreless, the Bears made the logical move taking the sure thing three points.
There are a few logical results, however, that could happen should Chicago had lined up to go for it, and none of them are particularly bad, (and one is great). A) They line up, hoping to draw Baltimore offsides for a free first down, end up taking a timeout and kick the field goal anyways. Same three points, and all you lose is a timeout. It doesn’t hurt to try. B) First down is gotten, and they end up scoring a touchdown, four more points than the field goal. C) Defense holds strong, and let’s say Chicago loses two yards and hands the Ravens the ball at the seven. This would’ve been the worst-case scenario. Make the Baltimore offense, which had gained 31 total yards on their three first drives, drive 90 plus yards down the field for a touchdown, or even 60 yards for a field goal. The reward (a highly likely touchdown) heavily outweighs the risk here.
There are too many instances like the Bears-Ravens one that occur. Head coaches need to learn to start risking it on logical fourth downs. Valuable points are being left on the board.