If I was Head Coach…

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1) Go for it more often on 4th down – I’m not talking about when you’re playing Madden and you go for it on 4th-and-23 in your own territory. But there are instances during a game – even early, in the first quarter – when the possible reward for getting a first down outweighs the risks of going for it. How many times have you watched a team at the 33 yard line and 4th-and-2 try to pin the other team deep, only to punt the ball out of the end zone and gain a whopping 13 yards?

There have been studies done (you can find one here, and another here) that show that in certain situations, if NFL coaches went for it more often it would improve their chances of winning. However, up to this point no coach has had the stones (or job security) to try it. I would have no problem being the first.

2) Take more Delay of Game penalties – It kills me how many teams (and how many times a team) will burn through two or even all three of their time outs early in a half because the play clock was running down. Sure, if it’s a key situation and you’re facing a 3rd-and-1, then use a time out. But during the first series of the game, facing a 2nd-and-4? No. I would much rather have it be 2nd-and-9 and still have all of my timeouts. This would be especially true in the second half of games.

3) Save my challenges – As coach, I would only consider challenging change-of-possession and scoring plays*. That’s it. If the end of the game came and I didn’t challenge anything, so be it. I would hate to use my challenges on completions or spot calls and then not have one near the end of a close game when it looked like my running back was down before he fumbled.

* I consider any big play that puts a team in or out of scoring position a scoring play. If an opposing receiver caught a ball at the 50, stepped out of bounds but kept going and was tackled at the 5, I would challenge that. Moving the ball from the 5 back to the 50 takes the team from 1st-and-goal to well out of field goal range.

4) Scrap the prevent defense – I understand that real NFL coaches know more than I do. I just never understand when a team plays good-to-great defense for 59 minutes, shuts the other team down…and then totally changes strategy in the last minute. If a team is up by two or more scores, sure, make the other team use a lot of plays and a lot of clock. But if you’re only up by a touchdown – or even worse, a field goal or less – why give the other team free yards by dropping eight guys into coverage some 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage? I’m not saying you have to keep blitzing or that you can’t play nickel or dime packages, but I certainly wouldn’t bring in eight defensive backs and be happy holding my opponent to 10 and 15 yard gains.

5) Never play for a field goal – Yes, there are times when it’s prudent to not try and force things. But it drives me crazy when a team drives the ball downfield, gets to around the 25, runs three times up the middle…and misses a tying or winning field goal. Even the best field goal kickers only make about 70-75% of their kicks, why settle for that especially if you’re moving the ball well? I think it’s possible to play it somewhat safe in the confines of whatever offense you run without totally giving up on scoring a touchdown.

So what about you? What would you do as a NFL Head Coach?