In the modern NFL, having a coach that is willing to go for it on fourth down or be an aggressive play-caller can be the difference in winning or losing. This was seen first-hand several times last season, including during the Super Bowl when Nick Sirianni decided to punt on 4th-and-3 at his own 32 with 10:30 left.
As the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, Sean McVay has done better in this area, however, there is still room for improvement.
Football Outsiders as developed a stat called Aggressive Index that tracks how aggressive each head coach in the NFL is throughout the regular season. They describe “Aggressive Index as,
“Aggressiveness Index numbers were designed to center around 1.0 and generally describe how much more (or less) likely each coach is to go for it on fourth down compared to his peers; for example, a coach with 1.20 AI is roughly 20 percent more likely to go for it than an average coach in equivalent situations...Aggressiveness Index excludes obvious catch-up situations: third quarter, trailing by 15 or more points; fourth quarter, trailing by nine or more points; and in the last five minutes of the game, trailing by any amount. It also excludes the last 10 seconds of the first half, and it adjusts for when a play doesn’t actually record as fourth-and-short because of one of those bogus delay of game penalties that moves the punter back five yards.”
Last season, McVay ranked 14th in aggressiveness which was right in the middle echelon of NFL coaches. McVay finished with an Aggressive Index rating of 1.02 and ‘go’ percentage of just nine percent. Nick Sirianni, Mike McDaniel, Arthur Smith, Kliff Kingsbury, and Matt LaFleur rounded out the top-5.
McVay’s number 14 ranking was an improvement from 2021 in which he ranked 28th with an Aggressive Index score of just 0.83. Football Outsiders’ ranking of 14 for McVay is slightly lower to Ben Baldwin’s model which places McVay eighth.
McVay can tend to be too passive as a play-caller, but this is an area where he has improved over the last year. With that being said, there is still some area for improvement.