UPDATE: The following is a case for occasionally attempting 2 pt conversions earlier in the game (when current coaches don’t typically try them), NOT going for two every time. Should have made that clearer.
There’s an article up on Bleacher Report that talks about the possibility of Chip Kelly attempting 2-point conversions more often:
It’s interesting because it indirectly highlights how one of the biggest weaknesses (assumed) to Chip Kelly’s candidacy might also be one of the biggest strengths. Kelly’s lack of NFL experience is presumed to increase the risk that he won’t be successful as a coach, however, all Eagles fans should hope that this also has the side effect of freeing Kelly from some prevailing NFL wisdom. Specifically, I’m hoping Kelly takes a much more aggressive approach to both 2-point conversions.
As most fans know, the 2-point conversion gives the offense the ball at the 2-yard line, with one play to get in the end zone. Much has been written about the optimal strategy regarding 2-point tries, with mixed opinions.
However, among NFL coaches, there seems to be a general consensus that you should NOT go for two unless it is absolutely necessary. Assuming NFL coaches have actually looked at the statistics, we are led to believe that they are deferring to the historical success rate, which is in the 47%-48% range depending on which plays the data compilers include (botched kicks for instance). A 48% success rate means the expected value of an extra point is higher, and therefore the correct play.
So why do I want Kelly to go for it more often? I believe that the following three aspects, when aggregated, will lead to a higher than 50% success rate, meaning the expected value for the 2-point conversion will be higher than an extra point.
– If we assume that the league-wide success rate is 47-48%, then obviously some teams have better conversion rates. I have not pulled the statistics (unfortunately they are not as readily available as most other measures), but I think it’s reasonable to suggest that a team with an above-average offense can expect to have an above-average conversion rate as well. (If Chip Kelly does not put together a better-than-average offense, he will be a huge disappointment.)
– I’m also hypothesizing that the element of surprise via the no-huddle offense will itself add to the conversion success rate. NFL defenses have been conditioned to leave the field after allowing a TD. It’s a fairly small jump to assume that an NFL team using a hurry-up offense to attempt 2-point conversion, especially in the first half, will catch the defense off-guard. The associated confusion/lack of defensive focus will presumably add to the likelihood of offensive success. (Yes, if the Eagles always went for two, they would lose this element of the strategy. That’s why its best implemented only occasionally.)
– Lastly, currently teams do not devote a significant amount of practice time towards the 2-point conversion. Obviously, considering the rarity with which most teams attempt the play, devoting practice time to it likely isn’t worth the time spent. However, if a team decided to implement the 2-point play more often, then it would therefore make sense to practice the 2-pt playbook more often. Does anyone disagree that practicing the plays more often would make them more effective?
I apologize for the lack of data here, but we’re dealing largely with a theory that hasn’t been tested in the NFL. While the above analysis may seem a bit disjointed, the overall question is as follows:
Would the 3 factors mentioned above (strong offense, surprised defense, more practice) add more than 2%-3% to the overall 2 pt. conversion success rate?
If you believe the answer is yes, then hope that Chip Kelly’s ego is (as I suspect) big enough to give him the confidence to move strongly against prevailing NFL wisdom.
P.S. Unfortunately, the most easily predicted aspect of this plan is commentator reaction. Even if it is statistically the right play, you can bet every announcer will talk about how “bold” and “risky” the decision is, as well as how stupid it is every time it doesn’t work.