Sunday was a banner day for sub-optimal decision making by NFL coaches, leading to bad outcomes. It’s hard to pick our favorite, but here are some of the candidates:
TODD BOWLES: With the Jets trailing 24-13 at Pittsburgh with 7:36 remaining, Bowles opted to punt on 4th and 2 near midfield. He was the first coach in a decade to opt to punt in that situation.
He did so with a defense that has been among the worst against the pass in 2016 (and without Darrelle Revis) going against Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh scored after a nearly five minute drive, the Jets next getting the ball back inside the two-minute warning down 31-13.
JOHN HARBAUGH: Leading 10-6, Harbaugh tried a fake field goal on 4th and 12 from the Washington 17, where Justin Tucker lined up like he was going to kick with his left foot, despite not being left-footed.
MARVIN LEWIS: Lewis opted for a 50-yard field goal — basically a coin flip and no gimme — with his team down 21-0. Nugent missed. Ezekiel Elliott scored on a 60-yard touchdown run on the next play, to make it 28-0.
JEFF FISHER: Fisher kicked a field goal down by 7 on 4th and goal from 4 with 5:55 remaining, so that the Rams still needed a touchdown. But then, on the next possession, he tried a fake punt on 4th and 5 deep in his own territory.
That seems, well, backward. The reason most coaches go for it near the goal line that late is two-fold. First, rather than rely on a number of things going right with time becoming precious and possessions limited, you just need to convert to tie. And a failure leaves you with the opponent pinned deep. Instead, he felt pressure to try something like a fake punt from basically the same down/distance, failed, and the Bills sealed the game.
JACK DEL RIO: Del Rio challenged an incomplete pass ruling that would have resulted in a touchdown. However, pass interference was called on the play, so the Raiders were going to get the ball first and goal from the 1. They scored on the next play after losing the challenge.
MIKE McCOY: McCoy sent the kicking team out on 4th and inches from inside Oakland’s 20, down by 3, with just over two minutes left. Best case scenario by “taking the points,” you are tied, in a shootout, and give a team with Sebastian Janikowski the ball where you are hoping to get to overtime. I would have gone for it on 4th and inches, tried to win the game in regulation, or if I had to try a field goal, do it with far less time left to tie.
As it turns out, the Chargers bobbled the snap and did not even pull off the temporary tie. Fortune favors the bold. NFL coaches show that they do not seek fortune, and when they are bold, it is bizarre.