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November 12, 2008
by Ryan Hudson
The Cincinnati Bengals are 1-8, averaging under 14 points-per-game, starting a Harvard-grad at quarterback (no offense, Ryan Fitzpatrick) and in general, are in the midst of a rather embarrassing year, even by Bengals' standards. Well, Paul Daugherty, a columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, has an interesting suggestion on how to save their season.
Go for it on fourth down. Every time.
No, check that. Every time you start a possession at your 30-yard line or better.
Make every four downs four-down territory. This is nuts when you are 9-0, or 5-4 and still competing for postseason face time. It makes absolute sense when you are 1-8 and couldn’t find the postseason with Mapquest and a Sherpa guide.
What do you have to lose? Another game?
Somewhat amazingly, the Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski actually responded to this idea: “It has the potential for disaster. It has upside, but the upside isn’t worth the downside. It would put a great amount of stress on your defense. It could put you at risk, to where it would look really ugly. You could get embarrassed."
As Daugherty points out, it'd be tough to really embarrass the Bengals at this point. Interestingly enough, math has shown in the past that the going for it on fourth actually makes sense.
"Teams should be a lot more aggressive on fourth down," Romer says with the precise air of a scientist. "On average, you'd be better off going for it, essentially, in any short-yardage situation, and then there are some cases even in longer yardage when you're in that position where neither punting nor a field goal looks very attractive."
At the very least, it would certainly make things interesting in Cincinnati (and suddenly make their players relevant in fantasy football again).