Eagles coach Doug Pederson has become a trendsetter when it comes to going for it on fourth down. As more and more coaches follow Pederson’s lead by rolling the dice in key spots, Pederson spent a little time explaining to PFT after Sunday’s come-from-16-behind win over the Giants his method for deciding whether to go for it.
“I think what you’re seeing is a mix of gut feeling, a little analytics, and trusting the players,” Pederson said.
Pederson also said that he spends plenty of time rehearsing the scenarios during which a go-for-it-or-not decision is being made. He thinks about it not only when formally preparing for the next Eagles game but also when watching other games, including NFL games and college games.
“You’re watching situations and testing yourself,” Pederson said. “It’s constant study.”
Some decisions to go for it are made prior to the game, with Pederson telling the players that, if they get in a specific situation during the game, they’ll go for it. Other decisions are made in the moment.
When it’s time to make those decisions in the moment, Pederson can instantly draw upon a reservoir of research and thinking and repetition from moments when other coaches found themselves having to decide whether to take a chance, recalling his own assessment of what he would have done in those various specific circumstances.
That’s something every coach should be doing, up to and including playing Madden in the offseason (I’m not kidding) to force themselves to consider whether to go for it under as many specific scenarios as possible. No coach has admitted that he uses that type of simulation, but it seems like it’s only a matter of time before someone does.