The Kansas City Chiefs go for it on 4th down.
This has been the subject of debate all over the radio and in online forums since the beginning of the season. In his Monday press conference Haley was quoted as saying that he wasn’t a “crazy man” when it came to fourth down attempts, that there is a method or even a philosophy he followed, and that he was trying to instill that philosophy in his team to achieve the goals he has for the Chiefs. That these choices were for the long term, not based on single game situations and that he knew these decisions would be painful at times.
More talk about these painful times after the jump.
I know there is a lot of love for Haley’s aggressive style when it comes to four down territory on AA from previous comments, but the story is vastly different in much of the Chiefs kingdom. As Haley went for a fourth and three conversion on Sunday in lieu of a very makeable field goal, I did not see the surge of support and confidence from the fans next to me at the New Arrowhead that I expected. I have seen the stadium come alive with curses and boo’s for Herm, Vermeil, and Schottenheimer for not having the stones to go for it on fourth, so what’s different now? Have the squandered drives this season made the fans gun-shy? Where’s the love? Are the fans mad that they cannot have their cake and eat it too, and that a coach that’s going to go for it on fourth is going to go for it on fourth and not just when they think he should? Is he simply putting all of his chips into the center of the table too often? Certainly we have twice the attempts of everyone else in the league, right?
Surprisingly enough, there are 7 NFL teams with as many or more 4th down attempts than the Chiefs this year. We are not alone. On 11 attempts the Chiefs have succeeded 6 times for a 54% average. So basically right now they have a 1 out of 2 chance every time they go for it. Of the teams with 11 or more 4th down attempts the Chiefs rank 2nd (tied with the Dolphins) behind New Orleans with a 63.6% success rate (12 attempts). Keeping in mind some teams’ numbers are skewed by desperation attempts at the end of games, I looked at entire NFL and our beloved Chiefs rank 10th in the NFL on 4th down conversions. Not too shabby.
I think that beyond the evidence of the advantages of going for it on fourth down brought up in earlier comments this week, there is an underlying message in the Haley rhetoric. That this message is one facet of the growth and development going on within the Kansas City Chiefs that is transforming them from downtrodden and losing into a mentally tough winning organization. That message is:
GET THE FIRST DOWN
Todd coyly alluded during his meeting with the media that there were several times during the game that his team was in four down mode, but they never had to go that far. What this means is that he and the team know beforehand if they’re going to go all in, punt the ball, or take the field goal. For the most part though, this means that he will not accept a third down failure as the end of a drive unless he absolutely has to, and his team understands this. Last Sunday we saw this tough mental fortitude start to take shape in the overtime win against the Bills, and I hope that once this monster matures that ingrained sense of never giving up will catapult this team to championship status.
This mindset of four down territory does several things for the team. Let’s get the obvious out of the way and concede that it shows confidence in the offense’s ability to prolong the drive. The part we don’t see is that he is pressuring his offense every down to convert, or else turn the ball over without points and put the D on the field with crushed momentum. This pressure to perform will hopefully elevate the offensive production of the team by instilling a sense of urgency in them to not get into difficult positions. But what is seldom talked about and in my mind the most important impact of Haley going this road less traveled is the confidence he shows in his defense. Haley is not worried about turning the ball over at midfield. He knows that his improved line, secondary, and young but impressive corners are going to hold more often than not, and that the momentum swing of losing a fourth down battle is not going to crush the Chiefs Will.
Is Todd Haley a CrAzY MaN? Hell yes.
But he’s a crazy man with a plan
Time to open the gates and bring in the comments. What do you think addicts? Am I reading too far into this? Do you like Haley’s fourth down philosophy, or do you hate passing up the points?
I think if you have the downs, so you might as well use them…