Preparing for the league’s best team is a daunting challenge in itself, but the Philadelphia Eagles give opposing coaches one more thing to think about when devising a game plan.
Specifically, no team in the NFL is more willing to take a chance on fourth down than the Eagles, who converted a league-high 17 fourth downs on 26 attempts in last season’s championship run.
That stands in stark contrast to the Buccaneers, who were tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the second-fewest fourth-down attempts (8) in 2017.
For the record, Tampa Bay converted on half of those chances, but head coach Dirk Koetter isn’t swayed by the success of the Eagles under head coach Doug Pederson.
Koetter, in a media briefing following last week’s 48-40 victory win over New Orleans, pointed to two reasons to eschew the temptation of going for it on fourth down: A potential loss and his own job security.
“The percentages say you should go for it almost every time,” Koetter said, per the team’s website. “We’ve studied the analytics on it and the problem with looking at it like that — those are all looking at all fourth downs over the course of the season.
“You might get three in a row, but if I don’t get it in this particular game, we might be losing, and I might be out of here.”
Tampa Bay tied for the league high in points in Week 1 with its stunning upset in New Orleans, but Koetter played it safe despite the offensive eruption. The Buccaneers kicked on each fourth-down attempt. The Eagles also went the cautious route in their season opener versus Atlanta.
Will Koetter change his philosophy against Philadelphia, the only team in the league to average more than one successful fourth-down conversion per game last season. Stay tuned.
“We’ve got a plan for every game. We have a plan for the season and then we do an analytical plan based on the team we’re playing,” said Koetter. “There’s analytic number that tell you what to do on every play, but this game isn’t played by computers. It’s combination there — you’ve got to make decisions in real time and not look back.”