Sean McVay should rethink his play calling on 4th-and-short

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

There’s no denying the success Sean McVay has had with the Rams in his four and a half years as the head coach. But at the same time, he’s also been fairly criticized for the way he manages some games and calls plays in certain situations.

His reluctance to stick with the running game when it’s working has been a point of contention among fans and media members. He likes to throw the ball and with Matthew Stafford under center, it’s easy to understand why. But at the same time, there are scenarios where he calls too many pass plays, specifically on fourth-and-short.

Sunday’s game against the Titans was a perfect example of that. The Rams were faced with fourth-and-1 three times. The first time, Sony Michel ran it up the middle for a 2-yard gain, converting on fourth down. The second time, McVay called a bootleg to Stafford’s left and when he was pressured rather quickly, he chucked it up for Van Jefferson and the pass fell incomplete. On their final fourth-and-1 attempt, Michel picked up 4 yards from the Titans’ 6-yard line.

The last attempt was inconsequential since the Titans had already secured the win, but it further emphasizes the Rams’ need to run it more on fourth-and-short instead of throwing it.

McVay even admitted after the game that the pass play he called on fourth-and-1 was bad, putting his quarterback in a tough spot.

“He got it rolled up pretty good on a bad play call, bad situation I put him in right there,” he said.

A quick bit of research shows how reliant the Rams are on throwing the ball in those situations. According to Stathead, the Rams have thrown six passes on fourth-and-1. That’s the most in the NFL, and they’re one of just three teams who have attempted more than three passes on fourth-and-1.

In total, the Rams have gone for it 10 times on fourth-and-1: six passes, four rushes. Here’s how those plays have gone this season.

  • Pass: 2-for-6, 16 total yards

  • Run: 4-for-4, 14 total yards

This isn’t to say the Rams should never throw the ball on fourth-and-1. There are times when the defense loads the box and guesses run, at which point it’s better to throw the ball. But the difference in success for the Rams so far when running and throwing it is glaringly obvious.

Hindsight is always 20-20 and past success isn’t an indicator of future results, but the numbers show that running the ball has been much more beneficial for the Rams than passing it has.

McVay is a big proponent of looking inward and self-scouting, so at least this is something he should realize when evaluating his own play calling.

List

Rams PFF grades: Best and worst performers in Week 9 loss to Titans