The League

Doug Farrar

Doug Farrar

A staff writer

Not Every Coach Can-Do...


It really depends where you are on the Success Curve, and how iron-clad your contract is. Shanahan's got as close to a no-cut contract as is possible in the NFL. That allows him to take risks other coaches never would. You blow a two-pointer in Oakland, Al Davis will have you deported to Estonia within two business days.

At Football Outsiders, we have a stat called "Aggressiveness Index," which tracks how often coaches go for it on fourth down in various situations compared to the league average. Over time, you'll generally find the most established and successful coaches at the top of the list. Belichick, Cowher, Parcells -- and yes, Shanahan. In 2007, Shanahan had an AI of 1.33, good for eighth in the league.

Going for two requires a similar fearlessness. In Shanahan's case, he's got a great young quarterback, an offensive system that virtually guarantees success for any running back, and a Swiss-cheese defense. San Diego outscored Denver 21-8 in the second half. Shanahan also had to know that, a malfunctioning replay booth and an Ed Hochuli blown call aside, he wouldn't have even been in that position. He was playing with house money, and he knew it.

I think the decision is generally more strategic than egocentric -- certainly in Shanahan's case. He would have been foolish to squander a hand-sown opportunity, but he had a pretty good idea that with a first overtime possession, the Chargers could have ended the game. It was the right move, and it also just happened to work!

By Doug Farrar  |  September 15, 2008; 10:26 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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