The final portion of the Football Outsiders five questions is a doozy, so I wanted to make sure it was a Monday article.
Football Outsiders 2016 Almanac is now available and if you've read the first four posts, you know it's worth every penny.
The last question is one that has been talked about before and that is Bruce Arians uncanny ability in close games.
Most NFL coaches end up right around or below .500 in their coaching career, but Arians is in another stratosphere.
One more time from Scott Kascmar.
Bruce Arians is one of the most successful coaches in close game situations, is there a method to his madness or will things even out given the amount of time he continues to coach?
Arians is 19-8 (.704) since 2012 when his team has a game-winning drive opportunity in the fourth quarter/overtime. No other active coach is above .500. Arians is 31-1 (.969) when holding a one-score lead in the fourth quarter, the best record in the NFL since 2012. There is definitely a method involved. I thought it was a great scene in All or Nothing when Arians showed his team some examples of late-game strategy that other teams botched last season. He definitely teaches these moments, and he is not afraid to be aggressive. Most teams like to play prevent defense with the lead, but Arians will blitz frequently. Most teams like to run the ball in four-minute offense situations with the lead, but Arians is not afraid to throw a pass on first or second down. When you get down to those moments where one play can decide the game, going against the grain can turn out to be very advantageous.
It could also backfire, which is why a lot of coaches are afraid to try these things, but Arians has had years of success. A year of regression does feel imminent, because it's really hard to keep succeeding this way. Vince Tobin and Jake Plummer had a crazy year of close wins for Arizona in 1998, but we know how things played out for the rest of that era. The 2011 Cardinals, coached by Ken Whisenhunt, went 8-8 and scored the game-winning points in the fourth quarter or overtime of all eight wins. The following year, Arizona started 4-0 with three razor-thin victories before losing 11 of the last 12 games, leading to Whisenhunt's firing. Close-game regression can be cruel at times, but if Arians keeps preaching situational football and applying aggressive methods, he has a chance to continue his success.
What do you think, is Arians just above everyone else, or is he due to come back to earth?