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Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams hung 30 points on a ferocious Dallas Cowboys defense on Saturday night Aaron Jones Jersey White , providing more evidence for the NFL’s lust to find a coach who can reinvigorate a program the way McVay has. But it should have been 50 and a romp, rather than 30 and a close, single-score win. For all the love for McVay as a play designer and playcaller — creating chunk plays and wanting to hit the home run every snap — he’s not a particularly aggressive coach. If Matt LaFleur brings anything from his time in LA, hopefully for him it’s an understanding that attacking in all facets gives his team the best chance to win, a lesson McVay hasn’t quite learned. It may seem strange to criticize a coach who punted just once against the 9th ranked defense by DVOA, but here we are. On back-to-back drives early in the game, McVay settled for field goals inside the 10-yard line, the first on 4th-and-3 from the 7, and the second on fourth-and-goal at the 5. Two impressive drives led to six points and the Rams still trailed the Cowboys 7-6 after the second one.The game’s only punt from the Rams came after the Cowboys declined a penalty that would have replayed third down, giving McVay fourth-and-2 at the Dallas 47. Fourth-and-short in plus territory should be an automatic decision, especially for an offense as efficient as the Rams with Todd Gurley. McVay punted up eight with the Cowboys having just marched down the field and making it a one-score game with a touchdown. This isn’t a small sample size problem either. The Rams were among the least aggressive teams in the league last season going on fourth down, attempting just 15 conversions , tied for 20th in the NFL. And the only two teams worse at converting those fourth downs were the hapless Cardinals and Bills, in part because two of those were actually fakes in the kicking game not traditional conversions. Meanwhile, they were second in the league in attempting field goals, underscoring McVay’s reticence to go for it on fourth down. That’s a tough look for the SoCal wunderkind. But all attempted conversions have context. So I went back and looked at all 41 field goal attempts from the Rams and found a troubling trend emerge. Considering three of those kicks ended the half, the real number we should be working with is 38 where McVay had a real decision to make. McVay settled for field goals 13 times on fourth-and-short inside the 20 and 11 times inside the 10 with eight being in goal-to-go situations. Of those 38 attempts not counting end-of-half kicks, 19 of them would have taken four yards or fewer to convert for first downs on fourth down. Making matters even worse, the Rams punted four times in plus territory, a cardinal sin of game management, including once inside their opponent’s 40. In essence, he’s making the wrong choice to kick half the time. That’s absolutely brutal. Thousands of words have been written about the flaw in most NFL coaches’ logic in those moments (I’d start here with this piece from Brian Burke who now works in ESPN’s analytics department). Particularly with a good quarterback, an excellent run game, and a creative offensive coach Womens Lane Taylor Jersey , these should be gimme decisions. You go for it. Ask Mike McCarthy in the NFC Championship Game. In fact, let’s ask McCarthy, who was at one time the most aggressive coach in the league on fourth down and two-point conversion situations. How did the Packers fare in these situations under McCarthy and his disciple Joe Philbin in 2018? Mason Crosby attempted the third-most field goals of any kicker in the league with 37, but an incredible nine of them were end-of-half or game situations, so the Packers really only had 28 decisions to make. We’re also throwing out Week 17 because ... well, DeShone Kizer. The Packers settled for a field goal attempt just four times on fourth-and-short from inside the 20, with two of those coming against the Jets under Philbin, and not a single attempt inside the 10. Green Bay kicked twice in goal-to-go situations, but one kick was from the 20 thanks to a penalty and the other from the 11.In other words, the Packers consistently made the right calls to kick or go for it, attempting 20 fourth downs in all this season. If there was one major flaw with game calling for the Packers it was the punting in plus territory, something they did nine times last year , but nearly all of them were on fourth-and-10 or more. So how does this all tie into Matt LaFleur? Simple: there are plenty of ways to want to be like McVay, but this can’t be one of them. The same is true for McCarthy, who was himself an exceedingly bright coach for a long time before his methods grew dull. LaFleur has the most skilled quarterback in the league, a top offensive line, and plenty of playmakers. Mason Crosby can provide solid reliability but the Packers have to end their ugly cycling of taking the points. Be more forward-thinking and trust what the probabilities tell us about going for it: do it more often. Play to win rather than play not to lose, especially with Aaron Rodgers under center. Listen when the quarterback gives the head signal to go for it in opponent territory and don’t be afraid to go for it in the red zone rather than settle for field goals. Fixing the red zone offense will be one of LaFleur’s top tasks, but one of the truly unique things about McVay is his ability to call his best play regardless of the situation. Apply that same idea to fourth down and stop worrying about getting six yards when it’s fourth-and-five. Call the best play and pick up the most yardage possible. Rather than take the points, trust the quarterback, trust the offense, and get touchdowns not field goals. Matt LaFleur is stepping into an interesting situation in his first gig as a head coach.The new Green Bay Packers boss (well, not official as we write this, but soon enough) Geronimo Allison Jersey , inherits one of the best quarterbacks in the game (when healthy) in Aaron Rodgers, a Pro Bowl receiver in Davante Adams and a young, up-and-coming defense.More Packers coverage from FOX Sports WisconsinGreen Bay Packers 2019 NFL draft capsulesPackers close out 2019 draft, select LB Summers in seventh roundPackers add CB Hollman, RB Williams in sixth roundPackers address defense in fifth round, select DL Kingsley KekePackers use third-round pick to select TE Jace SternbergerBut also a Packers team which has missed the postseason the past two seasons and fan base hungry for a return and not thrilled at the prospect of a third straight year without a rooting interest in the playoffs (that is, beyond rooting against Chicago or Minnesota).To do so, LaFleur will be going against Packers history.No first-year Green Bay head coach has led the team to the playoffs in his initial year at the helm. As in ever. Not Curly Lambeau. Not Vince Lombardi. Not Mike Holmgren. No one.Interestingly, only five had a better record in his first season with the Packers than the previous season, and two of those just meant getting three and four wins that initial year. However, each of the past two Green Bay head coaches did improve the team’s record in his first year.PACKERS HEAD COACHES, FIRST YEARCOACHYEARPREV1ST YROVERALLPLAYOFFSCurly Lambeau1921n/a3-2-1209-104-218*Gene Ronzani19502-103-914-31-10Lisle Blackbourn19542-9-14-817-310Ray McLean19584-81-10-11-10-10Vince Lombardi19591-10-17-589-29-46Phil Bengston19689-4-16-7-120-21-10Dan Devine19716-84-8-225-27-41Bart Starr19756-84-1052-76-31Forrest Gregg19848-88-825-37-10Lindy Infante19885-9-14-1224-400Mike Holmgren19929-79-775-376Ray Rhodes199911-58-88-80Mike Sherman20008-89-757-394Mike McCarthy20064-128-8125-77-29* – Includes championships won before there was a playoff systemOf course Kevin King Jersey White , none of this means LaFleur can’t lead the Packers to the playoffs in 2019. A look around at the current NFL coaches shows that while it’s not common for a first-year head coach to lead his team to the postseason, it isn’t like it’s never happened.Two coaches who were in their first year this season led their team to the playoffs. The same in 2017. Others have led their team to the playoffs in subsequent seasons (probably one reason they are still head coaches in the NFL; we aren’t including those fired after the 2018 season).Keep in mind that, of course, circumstances can help or hurt a first-year coach. For example, Drew Brees joined the Saints in 2006 and Andrew Luck was healthy in 2018 after missing all of the previous season, while on the flip side Jon Gruden and the Raiders dealt away some key players this year.But — and good news here, Packers fans — generally speaking teams improved in the first year under the active head coaches. OK, not Bill Belichick, but we think things have still turned out pretty well for New England.CURRENT NFL HEAD COACHES, FIRST YEAR WITH TEAMCOACHTEAMYEARPREV1ST YRBill BelichickPatriots20009-7*8-8Sean PaytonSaints20063-1310-6*Mike TomlinSteelers20078-810-6*John HarbaughRavens20085-1111-5*Pete CarrollSeahawks20105-117-9Jason Garrett**Cowboys20116-108-8Ron RiveraPanthers20112-146-10Andy ReidChiefs20132-1411-5*Bll O’BrienTexans20142-149-7Jay GrudenRedskins20143-134-12Mike ZimmerVikings20145-10-17-9Dan QuinnFalcons20156-108-8Doug PedersonEagles20167-97-9Sean McDermottBills20177-99-7*Doug Marrone***Jaguars20173-1310-6*Anthony LynnChargers20175-119-7Sean McVayRams20174-1211-5*Kyle Shanahan49ers20172-146-10Frank ReichColts20184-1210-6*Mike VrabelTitans20189-7*9-7Jon GrudenRaiders20186-104-12Pat ShurmurGiants20183-135-11Matt NagyBears20185-1112-4*Matt PatriciaLions20189-76-10* — Made playoffs** — Garrett took over as interim coach midway through the 2010 season and went 5-3. He had the interim tag taken away after the season.*** — Marrone took over in the final two games of the 2016 season and went 1-1. He had the interim tag taken away after the season.
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