The 2-Point Coach
During the recent end-of-the-year break, we were reminded frequently that what matters most in many of our lives, the thing that rouses our deepest emotions and hottest passion, is football.
If you get heartburn talking about the Green Bay defense, consider Nick Saban an inspiring role model, or interrupt family gatherings to announce Draft King updates, you understand.
If you don’t, you may have been one of the 14 people in America busy over the holidays watching the new Hollywood movie “Concussion,” which explains why men who play football end up with brain damage. But had you been able to tear yourself away from Will Smith’s African accent and turn on the TV, you would have seen that stadiums everywhere in America, college and pro, are still packed with tens-of-thousands of screaming fans willing to sit outside in the snow to watch future dementia patients collide repeatedly.
And why not? The game, even with the National Football League “doing everything they can” to insure player safety short of eliminating tackling, is still deliciously violent, offering the best parts of hand-to-hand combat, without all the death and dismembering. (Most of the time). If the secret to keeping the populous compliant and docile has always been to provide Bread and Circuses, football is the ultimate one-ring spectacle. Until someone dies or is paralyzed in a UFC octagon, the NFL is still the leader in the gladiatorial warfare clubhouse.
The reason we know football games are a vital, possibly essential, part of being an American citizen is that we all must rise, remove our caps and sing about bombs and flags before our brave boys in Lycra get it on. Patriotism is never more obvious and inspiring than when an F-16 roars overhead to anoint a sporting event.
But this is not one of those “we’re a war-mongering nation of gun freaks” essays. This is another public service message for the community of folks whose lives will be demonstrably better when their team, their beloved team, the team that inspires them to use the editorial we (just as we do, in our Thoughts) when talking about the next game – “If we’re going to beat the Eagles, we have to contain their running game” – when their team wins more games. This is about improving lives. You’re welcome. We, the editorial we, are delighted to be of service.
Previously in this space, we outlined the role of a new team member called the Clock Manager, whose sole job was to administer timeouts near the end of halves. Subsequently, several teams have created such a role. The ones that don’t continue to bungle time management decisions, regularly costing the team points.
Today, we propose another new staff position: the 2-Point Coach. All this person does is oversee a dedicated 2-Point Team. Just as every squad has a Punt Team, a Kick Team, a Hands Team (for onside kicks) and other specialty units, the elite 11-player 2-Point unit would be comprised of the best athletes from both offense and defense, armed with 5-6 plays they’ve practiced repeatedly, a variety of perfectly executed run, pass, and “trick” plays that will regularly beat the defense, no matter what scheme they use. Teams who can raise their success rate above the league average, even a little bit, will enjoy a significant scoring edge.
As of this writing, in the NFL the success rate when “going for two” is 48%. That makes each attempt worth .96 points. (You earn zero 52% of the time and two 48%). Since extra-point kick attempts have been moved back to around 35-yards, the make rate is around 94%. So even without a 2-Point Coach, going for two every time is still worth a tiny bit more than kicking, yet most teams go for one religiously.
Imagine if an NFL touchdown was worth, on average, 6.94 net points to every other team in the league (6 + .94 for the kick), but when your team made a touchdown it was worth 7.10 net points? To achieve this kind of scoring edge, an NFL team would need to improve their two-point conversion success rate a mere 15% above the NFL average. If they were able to improve their conversions by 20-25%, which isn’t inconceivable, a touchdown’s net worth would be 7.15-7.2 points. And if the 2-Point Coach and his 2-Point Unit could achieve a kind of break-through and improve 33% over the previous season, the net value is 1.27 while the competition’s value remains at .94. It almost wouldn’t be fair.
There will be times when kicking the one-pointer has more utility than the better long-term expectation of going for two, such as when, late in the game, an extra point moves your lead from 3 to 4 (instead of 3 to 5). But in most normal circumstances, going for two — and succeeding slightly more than everyone else who doesn’t have a 2-Point Coach or a 2-Point Team – will make your offense worth more than the average, just because you execute one highly specialized play better than your opponents.
The same would be true if you could raise your PAT rate to 100%. Each of your kicks would be worth more than your opponents’. But the try can never be worth more than 1.0 points., whereas a commensurate improvement in going for two will always be more than 1.0, and could be worth as much as 2.0 if you had an unstoppable play/player/unit that always scored.
The only way that’s going to happen is with the focused attention of a full-time 2-Point Coach working on his sacred task with the same rigor the Special Teams Coach applies to blocking kicks and returning punts. The time to take the lead over the competition – i.e., win – is now. Write your local owner. Write your congressperson. Tell them to revolutionize their thinking and get ahead of the other guys. Tell them to hire a 2-Point Coach.
We hear Chip Kelly is available.