We've long talked about the virtue of "alternate" statistical sites for football, and one of the best out there is Football Outsiders, who we've gotten a chance to talk to on a few different occasions. While looking at their site this afternoon here, I saw something that I think a lot of us suspected, but the folks at FO really managed to drive home.
The folks over at FO have something that's called an "Aggressiveness Index" that measures the tendency of NFL head coaches to go for it in specific situations. Those situations, according to the men themselves, are as follows:
Here at Football Outsiders, we created the Aggressiveness Index (originally appearing in Pro Football Prospectus 2006) to rank coaches based on how often they go for it on fourth downs. Although no NFL coach is as aggressive as the data suggests he should be, we discovered there is quite a wide range of fourth-down tendencies among coaches. To compute AI, we analyzed fourth-down decisions when the offense was in the opponent’s territory, where a coach’s tendencies were most distinguished from his peers. We also excluded obvious catch-up situations: Third quarter, trailing by 15 or more points; Fourth quarter, trailing by 9 or more points; Last five minutes of the game, trailing by any amount. AI measures how often a coach attempted a fourth-down conversion compared to the league averages in similar situations, based on the field position and the distance needed for a first down.
After the jump, we'll take a look at what the AI says about Vikings' head coach Leslie Frazier.Unless I'm misreading the numbers here, and that's entirely possible, there were only two coaches in the National Football League that were less aggressive on fourth down than Leslie Frazier was this past season. (Those two coaches were Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers and Jack Del Rio, the now former coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.) According to the folks at Football Outsiders, the Vikings found themselves in 35 situations that qualified under the parameters of the Aggressiveness Index, and the team only attempted to go for it twice in those situations.
I understand that fans of just about every team wish their coach was more aggressive on offense, and I'm sure that we as Vikings fans are no exception. However, I'm not sure that Frazier is entirely out of line with his lack of aggressiveness here. After all, the Vikings showed that, despite the strong running game that the team has, they can be absolutely appalling in short-yardage situations (see the game against the Falcons when Percy Harvin returned a kickoff 104 yards and the Vikings couldn't punch it into the end zone). A team with a bad offensive line and a couple of young quarterbacks will make a team less aggressive in a hurry, one would assume.
Hopefully, going forward, as the Vikings make moves to improve their offensive line and their quarterback (whether it's Christian Ponder or Joe Webb) gets a little more experience under their belts, this team will have the ability to get a little more aggressive on the offensive side of the football.