Jason Garrett’s reasoning for not attempting two-point conversion
According to Jason Garrett, he didn’t go for two points when down 21-19 in the third quarter of Saturday night’s game because “What happens when you start making those decisions is sometimes you get a little hasty and say, ‘OK, if we get two here that will tie us up.’ But typically, what happens when you have another quarter to play, there are a couple more scores and the whole thing kind of plays itself out a little bit.”
Although I’d wager that the majority of NFL coaches agree with Garrett’s assessment, it is the wrong one. I hate to be so blunt about it (secretly I love it), but he’s just dead wrong. Garrett points out that there will typically be more points scored after the third quarter, which is correct, but somewhat irrelevant.
First of all, as I’ve already pointed out, two-point conversions may not even yield less expected points than extra points. If that’s the case (which would be a virtual certainty if teams ran the ball more on two-point attempts), then going for two points should be the status quo, with an extra point only being attempted in specific game situations (such as tied late in the contest).
Even if extra points are generally statistically superior to two-point tries, however, Garrett still made the wrong decision. While I agree with his notion that more points were likely to be scored, that fact is far from certain. Actually, for an extra point to be the right decision in that scenario, we would have to assume that the chances of neither team scoring again was small enough that it wouldn’t account for the disparity between the expected points of an extra point (about .98) and a two-point attempt (.96 at worst).
As it turns out, Garrett would have to assume either that the chances of neither team scoring again were below one percent or that the offense’s chances of converting on their two-point try were closer to 25 percent than 50 percent. Anyone believe either scenario to be the case?