Missed 4th Downs Should Count As Turnovers

Statistics have evolved greatly over the century-plus of college and professional football. The professional and college games have added in new statistical categories to measure player and team performance over time as they have been needed to adapt to changes in the game.

Some examples are that the Passer Rating/Quarterback Rating was introduced in 1973 as a more accurate way of measuring a quarterback’s performance against that of their peers’. As is obvious now, yards, attempts, completions, touchdowns, and interceptions are not enough to determine which quarterback had the best game or season, so a stat was made to incorporate all of those attributes. The individual player tally for sacks were not kept as an official NFL statistic until 1982. It was once stated that Deacon Jones once had seventeen sacks in one game. Of course, we don’t know this for sure, but it would be interesting if this could be tallied retroactively.

One number that should be added to the basic “Team Stats” sheet should be “Missed/Unconverted 4th Down Attempts”. Last week, I was watching the Buffalo Bills play the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Thursday Night Football. The Bills defense forced four turnovers in the game, and also stopped the Jets twice on fourth down in the fourth quarter. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the same as collecting six turnovers. A missed fourth-down conversion is every bit as damaging to a team’s chances of winning as a turnover, especially if it’s in the red zone.  Those two 4th down stops were pivotal to Buffalo’s 22-17 victory on Thursday Night Football.

As far as I’m concerned, a missed 4th down conversion is representative of the offense involuntarily giving up possession to the opponent – just like a turnover. A punt is voluntary, a missed conversion is not. Adding missed conversions in as a main stat would give the reader/viewer a much better indication of the story and course of a game.

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I do appreciate other viewpoints, so please comment

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