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Index Finds Jonathan Gannon Most Aggressive Fourth-Down Coach

Cardinals boss went for it more often than amalgamation of coaching decisions since 2018

The Cardinals went for it on fourth down 34 times in 2023, a number that actually wasn't the most in the league -- the Panthers, Lions and Giants had more. But a study -- based on how coaches normally choose to go for it on fourth down -- showed how Jonathan Gannon was the most aggressive coach in going for it this season.

According to (a site run by longtime NFL numbers-cruncher Aaron Schatz), Gannon had 18 such fourth-down attempts under their qualifying criteria, and based on overall NFL coaching history of the last five years, he was expected to only go for it 10.6 of those times. His 1.69 aggressiveness index nudged out Detroit's Dan Campbell (1.67, 17.3 of 29) and Philly's Nick Sirianni (1.66, 13.9 of 23).

From the article: "We compare this not to when coaches should go for it based on EPA modeling but rather when coaches actually do go for it based on NFL history. Our current AI numbers use a baseline built from coach decisions since 2018, since that was a year that going for it on fourth down jumped leaguewide."

Schatz said the index excludes any plays where a team is trailing by at least 14 in the second half or at least 9 in the fourth quarter, or any while trailing in the final five minutes or the final 10 seconds of the half. In all those cases, you figure a team is already going to go for it.

Given that Gannon was with Sirianni the last two seasons, maybe the fact both ended up in the top three make sense.

Gannon all season -- and OC Drew Petzing too -- talked about how the fourth down decisions were based on analytics and game management. The decisions were being considered as any particular drive was going on.

"I wouldn't say aggressive, it's how we decide to set up the game and those decisions that are going into winning the game and what we think is best," Gannon said during the season. "You can't look at the outcome. You got to look at how you're coming into that decision and how does that impact the rest of the game -- which I feel really good about our decision making there.

"Yes, we need to do a better job on got to have it plays in my opinion, on two-point plays, that'll never be good enough unless you're No.1 across the league. You know what I mean? But I'm not going to make the incorrect decision because I don't think we're going to create a play. I want to make sure that we're going through our process and making the correct decision for the game."

Kyler Murray scores a TD in Houston this season on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Kyler Murray scores a TD in Houston this season on fourth-and-goal from the 1.