For one 24 hour news cycle, I was a minor celebrity on ESPN thanks to a piece on Tim Tebow and how the Jets should go for two. From mentions on Mike & Mike to Colin Cowherd to an invite to talk on NFL Live about it, I bounced around ESPN platforms like Todd Graham bounces to dream jobs. So, for the literally tens of you who have asked, here is my poorly shot video of that phone interview.
I’ve also read plenty of reactions to the idea, so I thought I would lay out some follow up here (some of these numbers were quoted in my NFL Live Appearance):
IN GENERAL, TEAMS ARE UNDERUTILIZING RUNS IN TWO POINT CONVERSIONS: As it turns out, when I said the conversion rate was about 45% on average, I was wrong. Over the last decade, once we kick out the botched snaps that turn into “two point attempts” (which account for 2.7% of all attempts), the success rate is exactly 50% (301 of 602). However, teams are passing on two point plays 74.1% of the time–a large discrepancy. That might make sense if the rates of success were equal. They are not. Passing plays result in a conversion 46% of the time; rushing plays 61.5% of the time (96 of 156).
Doug Drinen asked why 3rd and 2 was a passing down six years ago. Teams were passing more than running in that situation, but converting less frequently. That difference is even more pronounced in two point situations, as are the conversion rates. This makes no sense, because at least in the open field, a “big play” from a pass can generate points even if the conversion rates are lower. At the goal line, all that matters is getting two yards.
How does this play to the Tebow situation? Well, teams should run more than they do in two point plays, and his skill is in running the ball at the goal line.
IT’S A SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, DUMMY. Sure it is, and I’m not basing my argument solely on a small sample size. I am expressing an opinion, that Tim Tebow, used in a goal line set, can convert at a rate better than the league average. He was 3 for 4 last year (3 for 3 on runs). If the league average, over 156 runs in the last decade, is 61.5%, I think guys like Tim Tebow or Cam Newton, either handing off or keeping it, can exceed that. I certainly am not saying I have proven anything based on a small number of events.
COACHES BETTER HAVE JOB SECURITY/THE FIRST TIME THIS HAPPENS AND THEY LOSE, IT WILL BLOW UP IN THE COACH’S FACE. Mike Smith, as far as I know, is still employed. Same with Bill Belichick. They had notable controversial decisions that did not work in key moments. They also, with far less fanfare, made similar decisions that worked in other games and people didn’t focus on. They also win more games than they lose.
I have no doubt that ESPN, the blogosphere, and talk radio would blow up for two days before moving on to the next TebowLinGateSanity. Coaches are fired all the time, though, who haven’t done anything controversial. The average coach lasts three years. Be exceptional. Who cares if the blogosphere blows up for a day? Coaches are fired because they lose consistently, or over time don’t “get the best out of players” not because of single decisions. If I think a strategy is a net win, I’ll do it, and then let those media members preach for one day when it backfires in one particular game. Who cares? The owners don’t fire coaches for those reasons, but if you disagree, send me the link.
IT WON’T MATTER BECAUSE YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT MAYBE 2 TOUCHDOWNS PER GAME. True, it’s not a huge factor. If you score two touchdowns and two field goals, for example, by the start of the fourth, you are talking about either having 18 points (if you missed both), 20 points (by going 50%) or 22 points (by getting both). If you thought you were going to go 50%, it would be a wash. At 60% conversion rate, though, the chances of having the 22 instead of 18 are almost doubled.
POINTS AREN’T UNIFORM, AND THE DISCRETE NATURE OF 7′s AND 3′s MAKE THIS LESS DESIRABLE. Agreed that points aren’t uniform. You are more likely to be up 3 than up 5 at a certain point because of the various point combinations (if you played it straight and kicked extra points). That doesn’t mean that there is less benefit from adding points than subtracting them. So, being up 2 or 4 instead of 3 is not more or less desirable on average, and if you can get the 4 point lead rather than the 2 point lead more often than not, it is preferable. The first three quarters should be about point accumulation. Teams go for it on 4th and goal from the 1 for the same reason–they think it gives them more points on average.
DOWNSIDE RISK IS OVERVALUED. Colin Cowherd made some inane analogy to Bungee jumping, how the reward wasn’t worth the risk. Because, you know, it’s only one extra point when you get it, but it is the end of the world when you get one less point. That point impacts the game equally in both directions. Getting one less point is not like falling to your death.