The notion of the comeback is distinctively unfamiliar to a
program that is first in all-time wins and winning percentage. But as we continue to rebuild in order to
regain that top status, we will find ourselves, unfortunately, in the
comeback position in many games this coming year. A lot of comebacks require a 2 point
conversion along the way, and that in turn requires some decision making. Various interesting decisions arise as to 2
point conversions. I want to address a
specific kind here – one that, in my opinion, just about every football coach
The Setting: It is the first game of Coach Rod’s era at
Michigan. There are about 9 minutes left
in the game, Michigan is down 25 – 10 against the Utes but marching down the
field with surprisingly crisp execution.
Then, Steven Threet hits Junior Hemingway in the corner for a 33 yd
touchdown. Michigan has cut the 15 point
deficit to 9. The score is 25 – 16. What now? Before the touchdown, everyone’s thinking we
need a 7 point conversion, an 8 point conversion, and the defense not to give
up any more points. So far, so
good. But does the order matter? Yes!
Not only does it matter, almost every coach chooses the wrong
order! In his first game, Coach Rod also
chose the wrong order, and went for the 7 point conversion before the 8 point
conversion. Ultimately, it didn’t matter
in that game, but that doesn’t mean it won’t matter in other games.
The Principle: It’s better to have a small chance to win
than no chance to win. The 8 point
conversion attempt must come first.
In Coach Rod’s first game, Michigan happened to score the
second touchdown with 6:26 left in the game.
So, Michigan had ample time to overcome Coach Rod’s mistake. As noted, choosing the right order in that
game would not have made a difference.
But suppose instead, that Michigan scored the second touchdown with 26
seconds left in the game. Now, if
Michigan fails to convert the 2 points, Michigan is out of luck. To recap, MI scored TD + the kick after with
9 mins left. Then, MI scored w/ 26
seconds left, failed the 2 point conversion, game over.
Switch up the order.
MI scored with 9 mins left, but now goes for the 2 point conversion
right away and fails. The score is 25-16
with 9 mins left. The deficit is
substantial but not insurmountable. To
compare, 25-23 with 26 seconds left is much, much more substantial (i.e.,
almost no chance to win). It is better
to have a small chance to win than no chance to win.
Essentially, in any comeback where the coach believes that a
2 point conversion is necessary to win the game, it is better to attempt it
earlier than later. Put another way, the
likelihood of converting the 7 point conversion and the 8 point conversion is
the same in the two scenarios. It is
more probable than not the 2 point conversion will fail. It is better to give the team more time to
address that likely failure than less time.
I can think of two major objections to my position. First, attempting the conversion earlier and
failing deflates the team’s momentum.
Second, delaying the conversion is better because maybe the team won’t
have to make that decision (i.e., fortuitous events such as a pick 6 make it
This post seems ridiculously long already, so I will stop
here instead of diving into further analysis.
I will note that I have thought about those two objections, and, one, I
do not think they outweigh the force of my argument, and two, I do not think
they are the rationale of coaches when they select, what I believe, is the