A Management Lesson on 4th Down

You are the head coach of a top college football team. Many progosticators predict you and your team will play in the national championship game in January.

It is the fourth quarter of your first game. Though you are ranked #2 and your opponent is unranked, you are in a VERY dangerous place.

Your team holds a slim lead, 14-10, but ball is resting on your own 45 yard line and you face a fourth and one. There is quite of bit of time left — 3:30. One little yard and you have a first down. But if they stuff you for no gain, they get great field position and your national championship dreams will likely die right there.

Before you decide whether to punt or not, you consider two other factors. One, your defense has played a great game. Two, your opponent has one of the best athletes in the country at wide receiver. (See #21 in picture) Though your defense has bottled him up thus far, he has the freakish ability to break out at any time.

What will you decide? Play it conservative? Punt it away, pin them back and put your strong defense on the field? Or take that very risky chance. Seems obvious. PUNT you say. 99 out of 100 would do the same.

But if you are Charlie Weis, head coach of Notre Dame, you think differently.

Coach Weis asked himself an interesting question “What if we punt and then they hit their star receiver (see picture) on a crossing route and he “takes it to the house?” (runs to a touchdown.) Our defense, which has played great, will be demoralized.”

To Coach Weis, the decision was easy. He simply asked his superstar quarterback to read the defense.
“If they box the line of scrimmage, pass it. But if they do not stack the line, sneak it. ”

It worked! The sneak gained a first down. Then your QB can kneel twice and run out the clock for a 14 to 10 win.

What are the management lessons?

The psyche of your people matter.
Don’t demoralize them. Show faith in them.
Think ahead about how your people are affected.
And trust your quarterback.

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22 thoughts on “A Management Lesson on 4th Down

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