Bruce Arians has the reputation of being a very aggressive coach offensively. He likes the deep ball and he likes taking chances. However, if you look at the numbers in 2014, it isn't so, at least when it comes to plays on fourth down.
In 2014, according to Football Outsiders, he was one of the least aggressive coaches on fourth down.
He went for it on fourth down only four times last season on 121 fourth down attempts. Arizona had 11 fourth-and-one situations. He went for it only three times.
Based on the numbers for the entire league, a coach with 121 fourth down attempts would go for it nearly seven times (as opposed to the four Arizona did) and on 11 fourth-and-one scenarios, a coach would be expected to go for it almost four times.
Where Arians was really less aggressive than expected was on fourth-and-two. Arizona did not go for it even once in six attempts.
Basically, the numbers show Arians was 40 percent less likely to go for it on fourth down than the average coach.
Can we explain this? Certainly.
In 2014, he led a team that won mostly because of its defense. If you have a strong defense, you don't go for too many risks in terms of field position. Arians knew he could count on his defense to win battles, so he would punt and play field position. He also had an ineffective short yardage rushing attack, which is a necessity on fourth and one or two.
So there is nothing wrong, per se, about how Arians approached fourth downs. It just is interesting to see how his reputation as a guy who is a gunslinger and bucks certain ideas isn't so. He is a guy who wants to take shots down the field, but when it comes to fourth down, he is not a guy to take chances, at least not now.
Perhaps with the expected improvement in the running game in 2015 we can see a change in the aggressiveness. It would be great to know on fourth-and-one the team can pick up the first down when they want to.