Proper Strategy on First Down
It seems to me the proper strategy, especially in the salary cap era of the NFL, is to design and run plays on first down which are meant to either get you another 1st down on that one play OR get you to 2nd and short.
If you get a 1st down, then obviously you move the chains and sustain the drive.
If you get to 2nd and short, you now have every play option available and you can attack any part of the field: you can run it or pass it--if you pass, it can be short, deep or in between; it can be to the left, right, or dare I say it EVEN THE MIDDLE!!
Which means that not only is the opposing defense unable to focus solely or mainly on stopping the pass or the run, because they have to account for either, but they also must cover the ENTIRE field. Needless to say this spreads them out, which then forces them to either try to either cover your offense with a stretched, thinned defense, or try to anticipate what you'll do and where you'll do it and try to concentrate their D against that anticipated play to that anticipated part of the field.
If they try to concentrate part of their D, then they'll have to weaken another part of their D; if your QB then makes the proper read, then the proper adjustment...it's just a matter of proper execution.
Another reason to want 2nd and long, is penalties. If you have 2nd and 4 and the opposing D commits illegal contact or encroachment or some other 5 yard penalty, that's an automatic first down. And if your O commits a false start or delay of game, then it's only 2nd and 9--even a holding penalty only sets you back to 2nd and 14 which is still makeable.
By contrast if you run plays that constantly leave you in 2nd and long, when you get those holding penalties--and you will--you're now facing 2nd and 19's and the like, and yes that 5 yard difference makes a huge difference.
Needless to say, what's applies to 2nd and long applies even more to 3rd and long.
The reason I raise this point is because, like many of you, I've noticed we are often in 2nd and longs and, even worse, 3rd and longs.
It wouldn't surprise me if we're among the league leaders in both or if we even led the league.
Now some of this is due to improper or poor execution, but a lot of it begins with play design and play calling.
And...actually I don't know what else to say beyond that. I mean isn't all this just so obvious? How can our coaches NOT see this??