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Todd Bowles: Fourth and Bowles

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the 2011 season, Todd Bowles had a three game stint as interim Dolphins head coach. He finished out the season after the firing of Tony Sparano. Although brief, this was the only time Bowles was a head coach before joining the Jets so I wanted to take a look at how he handed some key strategic decisions.

The first strategy I wanted to take a look at is how he handled fourth down decisions. Fourth and short is one of the great battles in old school vs. new school football strategy. Conventional wisdom suggests playing things conservatively and kicking the ball in most cases. Statistics suggest teams should almost always go for it on fourth and short.

I think there is a happy medium. If you are going for it on fourth and inches from your own ten, the gain of making it is s monumentally outweighed by the loss that would come from not making it that it doesn't even matter the offense is extremely likely to pick it up.

With that in mind, I wanted to narrow the decision-making to fourth and one situations with the ball on the opponent's side of the field. More often than not, it is worth the risk here. In three games, this situation came up three times for Bowles. I don't think we are going to learn anything definitively from three decisions, but we can at least see how Bowles approached his decisions.

7:19 third quarter; MIA 20 BUF 7; 4th and 1 from BUF 34

Bowles decided to go for it here. The play resulted in a completion to Brandon Marshall for a first down, but Marshall fumbled. It is also worth noting this was a cold, windy day in Buffalo. Although this was an aggressive move to a certain degree, the fact a field goal try would have also been over 50 yards likely entered into the calculus here.

11:49 fourth quarter; MIA 20 BUF 7; 4th and 1 from BUF 9

Bowles took a decidedly conservative route in this situation, kicking the short field goal to go ahead 23-7. It put the Dolphins up by two touchdowns and two two point conversions. It did still keep the Bills within breathing distance, though. A first down following by a touchdown would have ended the game. The decision was defensible but conservative. The Bills would have needed two touchdowns either way. As things turned out, the Dolphins won the game, but Buffalo did get the ball back with under 30 seconds left with a chance to tie the game on a miracle play.

2:37 fourth quarter; MIA 16 NYJ 10; 4th and 1 from NYJ 27

Bowles kicked the field goal to go ahead 19-10. This was a sound decision. I'm a big fan of going for it on fourth and one on the defense's half of the field, but this situation is an exception. The chance to go from one score up to two scores up with under 3:00 left in the game is an obvious one. There was no need to overthink it, and Bowles didn't.