All you had to do was watch John Harbaugh's decision-making to know that he loves leaving the offense on the field in fourth-and-short, and all you had to do was follow me on Twitter to know how much I enjoy that.
Football Outsiders' annual Aggressiveness Rankings, which were released Tuesday, quantify just how often the Ravens go for it, and rank Harbaugh high on the list of the most aggressive coaches in the league in that sense. And perhaps more interestingly, two of the three coaches behind him are former and future Ravens offensive coordinators.
According to the rankings, Harbaugh was fourth behind New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, former Chicago Bears coach (and current Ravens offensive coordinator) Marc Trestman, and Detroit Lions coach (and former Ravens coordinator) Jim Caldwell. Harbaugh's score of 1.30 means he is 30-percent more aggressive than the average coach.
The site uses fourth-and-1, fourth-and-2, and fourth downs between the opponent's 31- and 37-yard line to calculate its ratings, with situations when a team is trailing and goes for it out of necessity not factored into the occasion. The Ravens had a total of 11 attempts in qualifying situations in 97 opportunities, an 11.3-percent attempt rate.
That rate is third-highest in the league behind Caldwell (13.1 percent) and Trestman (12.8 percent). The Ravens never went for it on fourth-and-2, but went for it a league-high ten times on fourth-and-1. Joe Flacco had four successful rushes in the regular season to lead the team, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
During the season, Harbaugh elaborated a bit on some of his fourth-down decisions. After the loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5, he said hindsight didn't factor into his decision for a second-quarter fourth down attempt.
"It wasn't the wrong thing to go for it—the wrong thing is not getting it," he said. When the Ravens were faced with a favorable fourth-down opportunity early in the game, they typically took it.
Caldwell being high on the list was somewhat interesting, and Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz said most of his aggression came in the second half of the season, so it's hard to say if there was any Harbaugh influence there. Harbaugh was also middle-of-the-pack in this sense in the last year data is available for, 2012, so that might just be a coincidence.
But what I'm assuming isn't a coincidence is that Trestman was also among the most aggressive, and will likely be a good match for Harbaugh. The article highlights Trestman's aggression in Week 11 against Minnesota, when he twice trusted running back Matt Forte to pick up a fourth-and-1 on what was a late touchdown drive.
With the Ravens' offensive line, a quarterback sneak weapon like Flacco, and whatever the Ravens end up having at running back behind Justin Forsett, I can't imagine there will be many fourth-and-shorts that won't look appetizing to Harbaugh and Trestman.