Just how willing was St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo on fourth downs last season? Given the conservative state of affairs on offense, you'd probably think Spags kept a pretty tight lid on the Rams' fourth down efforts. You might be surprised though, as the Rams head coach was a little more aggressive than you might think.
Football Outsiders released their "Aggressive Index" for all NFL head coaches in 2010. Spagnuolo sits right in the middle of the pack when compared to his peers, though slightly below the average mark in terms of the overall index. First, a definition:
Jim Armstrong created this metric which measures how often a team goes for a first down in various fourth down situations, compared to the league average in those situations. It was introduced in Pro Football Prospectus 2006. The NFL average is represented by 1.0. A coach over 1.0 is more aggressive, and a coach under 1.0 is less aggressive.
The situational aspect of the number is key here, as opposed to just the number of times a coach attempted a conversion. Spags' had an AI of 0.97, ranked the 13th most aggressive. Only 10 head coaches had an AI above 1.00 last season, and the overall aggressiveness of head coaches was down significantly compared to 2009.
Spagnuolo attempted to convert 6 of the Rams 57 fourth downs, just 11 percent. The highest number of attempts was, of course, Bill Belichick, who attempted to convert 30 percent of his team's fourth downs. Remember, AI factors in the situation (like distance, point in the game, etc.).
And what about the Rams new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels who was coaching the Denver Broncos last year? His AI of 0.95 was ranked 16th.
It will be interesting to see how an improved offense and the Spags-McDaniels pairing impacts the Rams aggressiveness in 2011.