During the slower months for football news we get the luxury to catch up on missed gems. Back in February, Football Outsiders released their annual Aggressiveness Index (which can be found here). The way-too-simplified version of the Aggressiveness Index is this: Football Outsiders calculates how often head coaches decide to go for it on fourth down. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course. Click through to their full article for more details or if you prefer my style of writing, I’ll dive in a bit more below. For now, let’s stick to what’s important.
Sean McDermott, who you might recall is the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, ranked seventh in the annual tabulation of aggression. An early knock on the man known for his defensive game plans was his conservative nature. Decisions such as a certain punt in a certain snowy game come to mind in the early days. For fans who remember that version of McDermott, it may come as a surprise to hear his name associated with “aggression.”
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott ranked seventh on Football Outsiders’ “Aggressiveness Index” for 2022. The index measures how much more (or less) likely each coach is to go for it on fourth down, compared with his peers. https://t.co/j4gZribrIC— The Buffalo News (@TheBuffaloNews) June 1, 2023
If you checked out the Buffalo News piece from the Tweet embedded above, you might be further surprised to learn that McDermott has typically ranked in the top half of the league in this metric. If you dive further than reading just that piece, you’ll discover that the only year McDermott was in the bottom half, was his first in Buffalo (psst...see above regarding that punt).
What does this all mean? For my two cents, it means a couple things. First and foremost that Sean McDermott has shown the ability to adapt his strategy. Sometimes quickly. There is some validity to his conservative reputation in year one — a philosophy he had abandoned by year two. Second is that the Bills are led by a man who trusts his team.
So onto that whole “better explain the metric” thing I hinted at above. Football Outsiders tends to create somewhat robust stats and Aggressiveness is not just the percentage of time a coach elects to go for it on fourth down. A major facet of the measure is that many fourth downs aren’t counted.
“Why the heck not?” you may be asking. Well if your team is down by a **** ton of points, it’s not aggressiveness to go for it. It’s necessary. Or if you’re down by a little but time is running out. Fourth downs with delay-of-game flags, and a couple other miscellaneous situations are excluded. Essentially, they try to isolate situations in which going for it is, well...aggressive.
If you’re curious about the rest of the AFC East...
- Mike McDaniel ranked second
- Bill Belichick was also second...to last
- Robert Saleh was dead last