5 min read

Ranking NFL’s Best, Worst Coaching Decisions From Week 5

Oct 4, 2023; Ware, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson at a press conference at Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 5 was filled with some interesting coaching decisions, good and bad. Here is a closer look at two of the best and worst decisions from Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season.

4 Best, Worst Decisions of Week 5

Second Best: Pederson Stays Aggressive

The Situation: First quarter, Jaguars TD, Roughing the Passer on TD Pass

The Decision: The Jaguars accepted the penalty, took the ball at the 1-yard line and went for two.

The Result: Travis Etienne rushes to the right and gets the 2-point conversion

Our first decision takes us to London, where the Jacksonville Jaguars scored the first touchdown of the game on a Zay Jones contested catch in the back of the end zone.

On the play, the Buffalo Bills got tagged with a roughing the passer call, and coach Doug Pederson elected to enforce the penalty on the try and go for two at the 1-yard line.

Since 2015, the chance of success on a two-point conversion is 49 percent from the 2-yard line but jumps to 61 percent at the 1-yard line, a 12 percent increase. 

In this situation, the SIS team strength win probability model suggests a roughly one percent increase in expected win probability (xWP) when deciding to go for two. This means Pederson and the Jaguars made the right decision, regardless of whether they converted.

They converted and ultimately won the game. Pederson has leaned on the aggressive side of these decisions, and doing so against a team like the Bills can pay big dividends in the playoff push down the road.

Second Worst: Goal-Line Fade Can't Be Saved

The Situation: Fourth quarter, Ravens winning by 2, 3rd and goal from the Pittsburgh 5

The Decision: Fade route to Odell Beckham Jr. with 1-on-1 coverage against Joey Porter Jr.

The Result: Intercepted by Joey Porter Jr. in the end zone for a touchback

In what was already an ugly slugfest, the Baltimore Ravens dialed up the “always successful” goal line fade. It proved to be costly, as Joey Porter Jr. intercepted the ball. 

Then, the Pittsburgh Steelers marched down the field and scored the winning touchdown, allowing them to claim first place in the AFC North from the Ravens.

To continue pounding the point home (see last week’s coaching decision article about Mike McCarthy’s decision), the goal line fade is the worst play call in goal-to-go situations. 

A 32 percent completion percentage and -0.18 EPA per target rank the worst among route types, with at least 50 targets on goal-line throws into the end zone. Even in limited opportunities, Porter Jr. has made the most of them. The rookie has allowed only one catch on seven targets and has seen his snaps count increase weekly.

The Ravens offense under Todd Monken isn’t off to the best start, ranking 19th in EPA per Play, and play calls like these will not rectify the situation.

Best: Winning In No Man's Land

The Situation: Second quarter, Vikings down by 4, 4th and 2 from the Chiefs 48

The Decision: Fake punt reverse

The Result: Ty Chandler around the right side for a 15-yard gain

The Minnesota Vikings were 3.5 point home underdogs to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Typically, the path to beating them is keeping the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. The Vikings were stuck in no man’s land at the Chiefs 48 and looked to be punting the ball back to the Chiefs.

However, coach Kevin O’Connell dialed up a fake punt reverse hand-off to Ty Chandler, who took it to the Chiefs 33. 

The decision to go for it was the best option by 4.6 percent xWPA, and converting added 13 percent of WP. The Vikings would go on to score a touchdown, taking the lead.

The Vikings lost, but a recipe for success for a 1-3 team is to make aggressive decisions like these against an opponent expected to win on the road. There are a lot of questions with the Vikings, but coach O’Connell isn’t one of them.

Matt Eberflus

Worst: Bearish 4th Down Decision

The Situation: first quarter, Bears winning by 7, 4th and 1 from the Washington 4

The Decision: Field goal attempt

The Result: Cario Santos makes the 22-yd. field goal

From the jump, the Chicago Bears offense got into its best rhythm all year on Thursday night. Two long completions on the opening drive to DJ Moore resulted in a 7-0 lead, and the Bears were once again threatening on the second drive.

After an 8-yard pass to Cole Kmet on third and 9, the Bears faced a fourth and 1 from the Washington 4-yard line.

Even with one of the league's biggest, most dynamic athletes at quarterback, coach Matt Eberflus decided to kick the field goal. This decision cost the Bears 3.8 percent of xWP, the sixth-most value surrendered on a fourth-down decision this week.

The Bears would score a touchdown on their next possession and win by 20. However, having an 0-4 record and getting conservative deep in the red zone is hard to justify, especially with a big-bodied QB like Justin Fields. The “tush push” is still a legal maneuver. 

In fact, Fields has attempted 15 quarterback sneaks in his career and has gained at least a yard on 13 of them. Moving forward, they must be more aggressive to dig themselves out of this hole.

This article was authored by James Weaver.