If you boil it down to its essence, an NFL head coach’s job is to put his team in the best position to win each week. That’s it. Give your players any edge possible, then roll the ball out there and take your shot. I think you know where I am going with this.
Marvin Lewis’s decision to kick a field goal down by four points with three minutes to go in the game was an abject failure. I don’t care that Nugent usually makes that kick. The decision-making process here is the problem, not the result.
Per Jason Lisk at The Big Lead (via Advanced NFL Stats), the decision to kick the field goal dropped the Bengals chances of winning the game from 31.6% to 18.1%. Those percentages aren’t based on Nugent missing the field goal either—those numbers are prior to the play, at 4th and 5 from the 23 yard line with three minutes left.
After the game, Lewis said those should be “automatic” points. NFL kickers the past five years have made 83% of 41 yard field goals. That’s a high percentage, but hardly automatic. What was automatic was the Bengals still trailing after the field goal attempt, whether it was successful or not.
Lest we forget, ol’ Marv was faced with a kick-or-go decision in the season-opening loss to Baltimore, and blew that one as well. The Bengals had 4th and goal from the 1, trailing by seven points in the third quarter. In came Nugent for the field goal, the Bengals still trailed and never got so close again. Oh, and the Bengals’ chances of winning while sitting at 4th and goal? Thirty-one percent. After making the field goal? Thirty-three percent.
Look, I know NFL coaches are conservative and risk-averse. But Marvin is not making in-game decisions to put the Bengals in the best position to win, plain and simple.