Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel said his two-point chart told him to go for two points after the Tigers took a 13-6 lead on Illinois Saturday afternoon.
I've heard of this chart. It's made so that a coach can just glance at it and know when to go for the two-point conversion instead of kicking the ball for one. The only thing about this was that I had not heard of a chart that's told a coach to go for two when he was already ahead by seven.
Later in the week, Pinkel said that his chart -- which he said he's been using for 35 years -- had an "error."
There's no perfect theory for going for two points. But there are some basic ideas;
* -- Don't Chase Points. If you miss the conversion -- whether it's for one or two -- early in the game, there's no reason to keep trying to "get it back," as long as you can still increase your lead. If you miss the kick after your first score and you're up 6-0, then just kick after the second one. Being up 13-0 keeps the pressure on the other team to decide to go for two later. Being up just 12-0 makes it easier for the other coach to just kick if his team comes back.
* -- What's the Advantage? My personal theory is to go for two points ONLY if you won't be worse off if you fail. For instance, if you're down one point, kick for the tie unless there are maybe less than two minutes left to go in the game. Tying the game means you only need a field goal to win. Missing the two-point conversion and remaining down by one point may cost you a chance to win in overtime. At the same time, why not go for two if you're down by five? If you kick the PAT, there's no difference between being behind five or behind four. You still need a touchdown to win. But if you make the two-pointer, you're down by three and you can tie with a field goal.
* -- Consider *When* You're Going for It. Going for two with 14 minutes to go may not be necessary. Going for two with six minutes to go may be the thing you need to do.
My personal chart would look like this….
Score Go for Why
Behind 10 or more Kick Prevent point chasing. Only consider going for two if you're behind by 12, 16, 19, or 23 late. (because kicking to get it down to 11, 15, 18 or 22 doesn't change anything, but going for two and making it to get it down to 10, 14, 17 or 21 does).
Behind 9 Kick Example where "point chasing" can be bad. Don't think of going for two in this situation unless it's late in the game.
Behind 8 Either Kick early to keep from "chasing points." Go for two later.
Behind 7 Kick Nothing extra to be gained by successful 2-pt. conversion. Missing 2-pt. conversion may result in "point chasing" later. An instance in which going for two should NEVER be considered.
Behind 6 Kick Nothing bad by kicking. Missing 2-pt. conversion may result in "point chasing" later. Only go for two if it's very late in game and you don't think you'll get the ball back.
Behind 5 Two Successful 2-pt. makes tie with FG possible. No difference in being behind 4 with good PAT or 5 on bad 2-pt. conversion.
Behind 4 Kick Successful kick creates chance to tie with FG. Missed 2-pt conversion means you need a TD to win.
Behind 3 Either Successful kick or made 2-pt. conversion creates chance to win with FG. Missed 2-pt. conversion still keeps tie with FG available.
Behind 2 Two Successful two ties. Failing doesn't hurt -- no difference between being behind two or one.
Behind 1 Kick Ensure tie score
Tied Kick The lead itself is more important than by how much. Don't think of going for two late. Force the other team's hand.
Ahead 1 Kick Force the other team to go for two to tie.
Ahead 2 Two, but only late in the game Missing still forces FG to win. Making forces TD to win.
Ahead 3 Kick Prevent possibility of tie with FG
Ahead 4-5 Kick Being ahead one more point (5-6) doesn't make a difference
Ahead 6 Kick Put the decision to go for two in the other team's hands.
Ahead 7 Kick Missing will hurt if the other team comes back and scores a 2-pt. conversion themselves. Don't take that chance; force them to go for two by kicking to make it an 8-point lead.
Ahead 8 Either, but kick late. Making a two makes it a 10-point game. But late in the game, take the easy point and force them to score twice to win.
Ahead 9 Kick 10 point-lead forces TD, conversion and FG to tie. Might even force them to go for two to win.
Ahead 10 or 11 Kick No advantage gained being ahead by that one extra point.
Ahead 12 Two. Risky but a successful two means they need two touchdowns.
Ahead 13 or more Kick Always. No need to "chase points."
However, if you want the closest thing to a baseball strategy -- such as "Should he hit for the pitcher?" or "Would you play the infield in here?" -- that football has, going for two is it. Look at the scrutiny Pinkel's call underwent this week.