Bruce Arians Wasn’t Always Aggressive Because He Didn’t Need To Be

July 22nd, 2022

Don’t be this guy.

Sometimes, the stat nerds get under Joe’s skin.

Not every fourth down is equal. It’s damn easy to be prone on the couch and scream at the TV between beer belches for an offense to go for it because the calculator on your phone says it should. Sometimes, the risks just aren’t worth it.

The very few times former Bucs Super Bowl-winning coach Bucco Bruce Arians did talk analytics, he mentioned if you blindly followed the fad of going for it on fourth down, to quote Arians, “You will get your @ss beat.” There are so many factors to consider.

Take the stat geek’s hero, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley. Sure, he’s aggressive, stupidly so. How many games did Staley cost the Chargers last year because he stubbornly would go for it on fourth down, passing up easy field goals? At least two wins including a playoff berth from what Joe can recall.

But yeah, the guys playing with their spreadsheets were happy! “Staley is aggressive, yeah!”

Remember in that Bucs playoff loss to the Rams, the Bucs were down 27-3 in the third quarter and Arians decided to kick a field goal rather than go for it on 4th-and-11? If the Bucs did go for it and failed, that game isn’t tied late. No way.

Bryon Knowles in the Football Outsiders 2022 Almanac tried to predict if Bowles will be more aggressive than Arians.

Bowles has also made it clear that the buck will stop with him when it comes to decisions on things such as play calling on third-and-short and when to go for it in two-minute situations and the like. That’s one area where the Buccaneers could stand to see some improvement as Tampa Bay ranked 30th in EdjSports’ critical call index, losing roughly -0.65 win probability on incorrect fourth-down calls. Despite having the best offense in the league, Arians ranked 22nd in Aggressiveness Index in 2021. Arians’ aggressiveness was about pushing the ball down the field; he was conservative as anyone when it came to using all four downs to move the football. And Bowles is not exactly the prime candidate to change that; he ranked 106th out of 131 head coaches from 1983 to 2020 in Aggressiveness Index. The Buccaneers should be leaning more into their offensive strengths, but there’s a real chance Bowles just continues or deepens their fourth-down phobia.

A team like the Bucs had one of the best offenses in the NFL. So converting fourth downs wasn’t as critical for them. They could afford to take safe field goals. The teams that really need to be aggressive on fourth downs are those that can’t move the ball like the Bucs.

Joe is all about being aggressive. Hell, Joe is the one who stomps his foot for the Bucs to throw more because the team is loaded in the passing game. But just putting your head down and going for it on fourth down — and damn the torpedos — is boneheaded. You have to be smart about it.

Joe believes Arians was. Just look at how many points the Bucs scored and the team’s record.

What will Bowles do on fourth downs?

19 Responses to “Bruce Arians Wasn’t Always Aggressive Because He Didn’t Need To Be”

  1. Mikejp Says:

    Perhaps Tom affected his aggressiveness! Todd is more aggressive as a coach!

  2. threadkiller Says:

    The concept of “not needing” to maximize opportunity strikes me as both egotistical and nonsensical. You either believe the analytics or you don’t. Being “aggressive” is an advantage for you or it isn’t. Did we go undefeated and cruise into back to back championships? I’d say that would be the only objective scenario where one could say taking all advantage was unnecessary in the face of our obvious domination.

  3. Lt. Dan Says:

    Dang it Joe! Have you been peaking in my window during games?

    “prone on the couch and scream at the TV between beer belches for an offense to go for it because the calculator on your phone says it should.”

  4. Listnfrmafar Says:

    Ya he wasn’t always aggressive because he was asleep at the wheel.

  5. PSL Bob Says:

    Absolutely right Joe! When you’ve got the offensive fire power the Bucs do, there is no need to be aggressive on 4th down. You know we’ll get it done next time. However, when the game is on the line and you need to keep a drive going, my recollection is that BA had no reluctance to go for it on 4th. Situational football. Hopefully, Bowles will be just as adept.

  6. Listnfrmafar Says:

    That’s because he was asleep at the wheel. Last I checked Brady’s stats on 4th downs is pretty good.

  7. Alanbucsfan Says:

    The real question is:
    Will Bowles have the Bucs disciplined to avoid costly penalties snd missed assignments?

  8. geno711 Says:

    It is funny. You would think the only thing that Bruce Arians said in all of his 45 years of coaching football is no risk-it no-biscuit.

    If you read Arian’s book, he does like arm strength and really does likes a pocket passer over a running quarterback.

    He also has said (besides no risk-it, no-biscuit):

    Throwing accuracy is the most important physical attribute. He thinks it’s easily identifiable on college tape and difficult to teach thereafter.

    and an actual quote from his book:

    “Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would never be described as fleet-of-foot speedsters,” Arians wrote. “But they can move a step or two and then be extremely accurate with their throws even if they aren’t perfectly balanced.”

    Also, somewhere in the Joe’s archives is the Brady quote since coming over to the Buc’s where the GOAT said: “…any drive ending in a kick is good…”
    Apparently, the GOAT does not believe that going for it on 4th down is always good either.

  9. Buc92’ Says:

    They’ll be more disciplined under Bowles than Arians . Another reason brady pushed Arians upstairs along with the Antonio brown fiasco it’s no secret. Glazers agreed then boom Brady unretires


  10. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    Bowles is a defensive coach; D coaches think defensively. Just because Todd was “aggressive” in blitzing and D-schemes, does not mean that aggressiveness will translate to the offense. As BA was very conservative on 4th down calls, I do not expect much change there. But I do think we will loose some of the “no risk-it, no biscuit” mentality. I do not see Todd calling a play for a Scooter TD pass vs Green Bay at the end of the half. The Bucs led the league in yards passing and chunk plays of 20+ yards. If Todd has an impact on game strategy, that is where I think change might take place. Less aggressiveness and less big plays, more running game, trusting “his” defense.

  11. Listnfrmafar Says:

    Buc92, 100% agree.

  12. Goatfarmer Says:

    I want Bowles to be able to stop the other team when they go for it on 4th down. BA was good with his 4th down calls. See 2020 playoffs. Saints. 4th and a foot – Bucs didn’t have anything going and are deep in their territory. QB sneak picks it up. Then the now famous conversion against the Packers that led to the Scotty Miller TD.

  13. Buc92’ Says:

    Listnfrmafar, right on brother


  14. Craig Says:

    The best chance for these Bucs, when behind the sticks, is to try again next series.

    The Bucs can move the chains more consistently than anyone. That is all you have to remember if you offensive coordinator got in the way.

  15. UKBuccaneer Says:

    The best time to go for it on 4th down is at midfield when a reasonable punt is likely to result in a touchback, or if you only need a yard.

    Other than those two occasions – If there’s a FG opportunity you take it.

    I hate coaches punting from midfield on makeable 4th downs.

  16. UKBuccaneer Says:

    Hey Joe, you know those chargers went for it on 4th down 22 times, leading to 11 touchdowns and 3 field goals? 4th down conversions also aided in wins at Kansas City, Cleveland and Philly.

  17. Wild Bill Says:

    Arians did some very good things to upgrade the Bucs at first. But he was kinda declining fast his last year. And he totally lost his composure in that encounter with AB. Last season I always felt that Arians was way to conservative in the first half of most games and did not let Brady open up until the Bucs fell behind. And it was too hard for him to stand on the sidelines during the games without his comfortable golf cart. I am hoping for a more aggressive game plan from the getgo this season.

  18. Buc1987 Says:

    Buc92’…you should say Go Patriots when addressing Listnfrmafar.

  19. Eddie Marz Says:

    Fourth and 11 is not when you should be aggressive unless it’s end game. The Bucs loss to The Rams wasn’t for a lack of fourth down conversions. Anyway it’s a new year and lid things have passed away. GOBUCS!