Philadelphia Eagles: On Chip Kelly and 2-Point Conversions

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 17, 2013

Jan. 3, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks defensive end Dion Jordan (96) scores a two point conversion against Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Nigel Malone (24) during the first half during the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

New trends don't catch on easy in the NFL, but because the league is so small in comparison to the pool of college football programs spanning the nation, when those trends do gain a little steam at the pro level, they often spread like wildfire. 

While new Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly could throw gasoline on the read-option embers that are already heating up in the NFL, there's another intriguing potential tendency which Kelly could pioneer if he chooses to pack it up and move it from Eugene to Philly.

The unconventional use of the two-point conversion.

While at Oregon, Kelly routinely had his team attempt two-point conversions after scoring in the first quarter, the second quarter and the third quarter, which deviates from the standard of only doing so when absolutely necessary in the fourth quarter. 

This Madden-style approach would be fun to see at the NFL level, simply because it doesn't exist right now. Since 2000, there's only been one instance in which a team deliberately went for two in the first quarter. And even when it has happened later in games, it has taken place when teams have been chasing points due to the margin. 

Even if Kelly doesn't go two-point crazy with the Eagles, it's very likely that he'll at least go for two more often than usual. As Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith points out, Kelly would often have his conversion unit on the field in a formation that gave them a chance to shift to a standard kick if the opposing defense stacked up well against the play they had called. No reason the Eagles can't adopt that, because it's hard to see the downside. 

Throw in that Kelly's offense will get to run conversion attempts from the 2-yard line in the NFL—rather than the 3-yard line in college—and it's hard to imagine the man wouldn't be extremely tempted to try going for two at an unprecedented rate in his first season with the Eagles.

Does the math work? Typically, the success rate for two-point conversions is between 45 and 50 percent. Although in 2012, the average was exactly 50 percent (29 of 58). When you consider that bad offenses trying to execute hastily-called plays as well as special-teams units trying to salvage points after aborted kick attempts bring that number down every year, it's safe to assume Kelly would be able to convert more two-pointers than he'd fail on, which is what's necessary to make this endeavor worthwhile.

Another caveat comes from my pal Jonathan Bales at the DC Times

Two-point conversions are only statistically inferior to extra points because coaches tend to call the wrong plays down by the goal line. Over the last 20 seasons, rushing the ball has yielded a successful two-point conversion over 60 percent of the time. Even if a team went for two points after nearly every score and rushed the ball each time, I doubt the success rate would jump below 50 percent (the break-even level at which two-point tries are statistically equivalent to extra points, assuming a 100 percent success rate on the latter). Thus, extra points should actually only be attempted in very specific situations, such as a tied game in the fourth quarter.

That's a crucial point. So long as Kelly isn't going for two in situations in which the gamble isn't worth it, he'll again bolster the value of the strategy. Even with the element of surprise out of the picture, I'd have to imagine that approaching things this way would result in more points for the Eagles offense this season. 

The major fear is that one of the instances where you don't succeed costs you a game, while other unnecessary two-pointers don't make a difference. These have to come in the right moments, but if you're good enough to score and fail once, you're probably going to score again and make up for the initial failure with a successful attempt the second time around.

Because NFL coaches are so fearful of losing their jobs, they're risk-averse. But Kelly is a numbers guy, and this strategy has worked for him in the past. Maybe he'll have the guts to introduce the common two-point attempt to this league. And if it works, look for the copycats to leap.