Doug Pederson’s aggressiveness on fourth downs has paid off for the Eagles

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No NFL coach has been as successful going for it on fourth down as Eagles coach Doug Pederson.

The Eagles’ offense gained a first down when going for it on fourth down an NFL-high 17 times in 2017. The Eagles were the only team in the NFL to average more than one successful fourth-down conversion per game.

Philadelphia’s 26 fourth-down conversion attempts were the second-most in the NFL and an extraordinary number for a good team: Usually, the teams that go for it on fourth down a lot are the teams that have to go for it on fourth down a lot because they’re trailing late in games. Of the 15 NFL teams that went for it on fourth down at least 16 times (an average of at least once per game), the Eagles were the only ones that made the playoffs.

Teams that are successful on fourth down are usually good teams overall: Of the Top 5 teams in fourth-down conversion rate, four of them — the Saints, Jaguars, Eagles and Patriots — are among the eight teams still alive in the playoffs. The fifth, the Ravens, narrowly missed the playoffs when their defense gave up a touchdown on fourth down in the final minute of the regular season.

Pederson’s aggressiveness on fourth down demonstrates that he has studied the analytics movement, which has consistently found that teams are more successful when they go for it on fourth down more often. And Pederson knows he has the backing of his boss on that front: Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in September that the Eagles have crunched the numbers and found that going for it on fourth down pays off.

When you do the math you really want to try to be more aggressive than the public would normally anticipate. I think the smarter teams do it that way,” Lurie said. “And you can fail. When you have a 42 percent to 58 and you chose the 58 and . . . you may lose it, [critics say], ‘Oh, how could you make that decision?’ Well, because it gave you the best chance to win.”

Pederson has found that real-world decision making matches the math: Going for it on fourth down pays off.

16 responses to “Doug Pederson’s aggressiveness on fourth downs has paid off for the Eagles

  1. Yet he was criticized for doing the same thing last year. You look overmatched when it doesnt work and youre a genius if it does. Football is clearly a game of inches.

  2. It’s also important to know when to go for it in order to maximize the chance of making it and minimize the risk of failing. Pederson has been pretty good at that.

  3. With the right personal AND the right players this can be accomplished more often than not. This may be a new trend that more coaches try to incorporate in their playbooks. A lot of people have questions about Doug P’s coaching abilities but he seems to be the master of 4th down plays. Looking forward to today’s game and good luck to both teams going forward.

  4. It’s all about the players and the scheme. The math is simply a historical record of who had the right players and scheme. It cannot forecast what will happen next time.

  5. With a low to the ground center, a road grader right guard and a horse at QB. The QB sneak was bread and butter.

  6. He’s quietly a very good coach, look at who was hired the same year a Doug, the bigger have all struggled- Gase, McAdoo, Hue Jackson etc.
    Doug has made the most of his opportunities and developed a very good QB in the process

  7. Not something Caldwell would do. Actually he like to be friends with the other team and share the time clock, share the ball, even share the score. He’s so passionate about not being passionate. I hope the door knocked him down on the way out. Him and CJ, bye bye

  8. Isn’t Doug Peterson a Andy Reid light? Let’s be honest here he’s from that tree of coaches.

    I fully expect a bone headed decision at some point today.

    Falcons roll!

  9. Let’s be honest, everyone bashed the hell out of Belichek when he did that 4th and 2 vs the Colts back in 2009 even though they were playing against Manning who at that point in his career seemed like he had a 90% chance to score in that situation no matter where he got the ball.

  10. I’ve never understood why teams willingly give up the single most important thing in the game, poseesion of the football, when they’re not on their own side of the 50. I guarantee if it’s 4th and 3 from the 48, the other teams DC is quite happy to see the punt unit trot on to the field. Almost never would they say “gee, I wish they would go for it so we can have a chance to stop them…”

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