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Going for it on fourth down is a terrible idea

The Bengals offense is last in the NFL. Paul Daugherty's solution? Go for it on fourth. We shouldn't be forced to explain how bad this idea is relative to the Bengals existing offense, considering we think that Daugherty is having one of those "well we suck, so let's do stupid things" type of pieces, blowing off steam. So we will anyway.

Of the third downs the Bengals convert, they average 4.9 yards-to-go; which means they've run successful plays on first and second down creating short yardage situations on third.

Like most teams in football, the more yards required to convert third downs, the more the success rate tanks. The longest third down conversion came with a 25-yard pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh on third-and-13 late against the Dallas Cowboys. All season, they've converted seven third downs of 10-yards or more to-go out of 43 third downs with 10 yards or more to-go. Yes, 43 times they've been stuck on third-and-ten-or-more and 13 times the Bengals offense has third-and-15 or more to go. The Bengals 22nd ranking in the NFL (38% conversion on third down) notwithstanding, they've routinely put themselves in impossible situations with no-gain, sacks, and penalties on the first two downs.

Fourth downs represent more of the same. The Bengalism here is that average yards to-go on fourth down increases a full yard (8.4 yards). That shouldn't come at too much of a surprise though if one understands the basic problems this team faces, intermixed with common football understanding. When you're left with more than 10 yards to go over 40 times through nine games, there's bound to be situations where the quarterback holds onto the ball too long, allowing for deeper patterns to develop. Thirteen times Bengals quarterbacks have been sacked on third down; five against the Steelers.

The following chart represents yards to go on third and fourth downs per game. Fourth downs do not include conversions on third down.

Team 3rd Downs 4th Downs
Ravens 7.8 6.2
Titans 6.2 5.3
Giants 8.3 14.0
Browns 7.2 8.6
Cowboys 8.8 8.6
Jets 7.8 7.4
Steelers 6.6 10.3
Texans 7.4 6.2
Jaguars 7.2 9.6

University of California, Berkeley Professor David Romer conducted a study of 732 regular season games between 1998-2000 in the NFL, concluding that teams should be more aggressive by going for it, rather than kicking it on fourth down. However, only first quarter plays were downloaded and researched during that stretch. I would argue that football is not made of economic-structure statistics based totally on constants; it's made of situations that are unique to that game, atmosphere and level of importance. Furthermore, the Bengals have Ryan Fitzpatrick starting rather than Carson Palmer. How does that factor in?

Instead of doing wacky-crazy things to develop a concept that would embarrass the Bengals further with Houston Texans-like scoring deficits, or putting our defense in offensive situations being the focus of outsiders seeing the defense give up 20-30 more points because we can't convert fourth downs, let's get back to basics; running simple plays on the first two downs to set up manageable third downs. If the goal is to make our defense angry with the offense, or lose confidence all-together, then by all means, follow the logic to go for it.

The problem with this team has been basics; blocking consistency, play-calling; things that won't suddenly improve by going for it on fourth. If you want innovation relative to this offense, which was Daugherty's primary point, send Chad Johnson in motion. Line him up all over the field, including the slot to create match-up problems with his blazing speed. Have Cedric Benson carry the ball 30 times, and Fitzpatrick complete 5-yard passes to underneath routes to keep the offense going. Transform the offense from big-play threat to a manageable confidence. Keep it simple so that we can "learn" and "develop" with the same system in 2009; when God returns from the thrones of a bum elbow.