Barnwell / Grantland bury Pat Shurmur for extra point decision

It was hot debate all day long and there were hypotheticals going all over the place. Ultimately most fans seemed to decide that even if it was the wrong decision, there were many other much larger issues in need of discussion. Brandon Weeden’s overall performance and appearance of lack of preparation come to mind. Bill Barnwell at Grantland ups the stakes a bit with his statistical breakdown indicating that you should always go for two in this scenario unless your chances of converting that two-point conversion is less than 24%. Even as badly as the Browns offense played this weekend, it’s hard to imagine their chances really, truly, without exaggeration were less than 24%.

Barnwell upped the rhetoric further in his section entitled “Thank You For Not Coaching.” A couple of small passages from it…

This isn’t an egregious decision because it came back to haunt the Browns; it’s a critical failure because Shurmur chose the option that added virtually nothing to his team’s chances of winning. Kicking the extra point gave the Browns a 16-10 lead with 14 minutes to go; the only advantage it gave them was having the ability to tie if Philadelphia kicked two field goals. That’s far less likely to occur than the Eagles scoring one touchdown. The value added by a successful two-point conversion is significantly greater, more than enough to justify the risk of going for two…

Situational play-calling tends to be overrated in terms of judging a coach’s total effectiveness, but Shurmur’s decision was so bad that it raises fundamental questions about his core competency.

I implore everyone to read it. It reads pretty matter-of-fact.

Even beyond the actual decision, my eyebrows were raised when Shurmur said they talked about the choice. Like Barnwell, I think that a coach needs to just know what they do in that situation. Even if it doesn’t jive with some other chart, it must be your reflex. I liken it to playing blackjack and pretending like you can feel the cards instead of relying on probability.

[Related: Three Plays That Changed Everything]

  • dan

    Ultimately, as long as there is enough time left for two sustained Eagles drives — and there was — the decision is defensible if nothing else on a theory that the defense, even if it bent a little, should be able to keep Philly out of the endzone. The sad thing is that, if a 24% chance of converting is needed for the two-point conversion to be profitable under the circumstances, it might be a defensible decision under the math as well….

  • Tron

    As soon as the touchdown happened I was yelling go for 2! I am not an nfl coach and even I knew this. When I saw shurmur raise his hand and signal 1 I couldn’t believe it.

  • BomberDawg

    I love that this is what we’ve become.

  • Getting your terms rught

    Bro, it’s jibe in that instance, not jive

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I would have gone for 2…but I kind of understand the “not late enough in the game” defense. You’re still looking at at least 2-3 possessions for the Eagles at that point in the game. You go for 2 and don’t get it, it’s 15-10. Now you kick a FG and it’s still a one possession game at 18-10. By kicking the extra point and going up 6, if the defense holds and we find some way to get a FG, now it’s 19-10…a 2 possession game.

    I can see it either way. Bottom line is that we have bigger problems to worry about.

  • They do have bigger problems, but I’ve got time to address them all. 🙂

  • browns

    Going for the extra point was definitely the right call. First off, our offense was atrocious so we probably weren’t going to get it. Second, Henery missed a short field goal so it should have been 16-13 as the Eagles had the ball on their final drive. If we had gone for it, it most likely would’ve been 15-13, and the eagles could’ve won it with a field goal.

  • mgbode

    thank you sir.

  • mgbode

    then you have more time than Tommy Boy with the guarantee boxes 🙂

  • It’s sound strategy for an offensive head coach to make decisions based on an inability to score from 2.5 yards out and also never answer any of his opponents points? I disagree. They have a whole goal line playbook and being up a TD is better than being up two FGs. It is. I promise.

  • porckchopexpress

    I don’t get Barnwell’s reasoning at all. I don’t have a problem with this particular Shurmur call (and I think Shurmur did a poor job yesterday, this call wasn’t part of it though).
    First lets remember that going for two didn’t “guarantee” a win, it only gave the highest probability of a TIE. So even if you get the 2 you are still going to overtime with a QB tossing a 5, thats 5, QB rating. I would like to see the statistical analysis regarding teams winning in OT when their QB is throwing less then a 20 QB rating let alone single digits.
    Second Barnwell spends 2 paragraphs explaining the statistical reasons why Shurmur obviously should have gone for it highlighted by this footnote…
    “Brian Burke’s Win Probability model estimates that Cleveland’s chances of winning went from 76 percent to 78 percent by kicking the extra point..”
    After spending two of his four paragraphs espousing the greatness of statistical analysis, he then switches course completely and decides that Shurmur is wrong for going with “gut instinct”.
    “Furthermore, it’s an awful decision because it employs exactly zero foresight. You don’t need to be thinking about win probability models or game theory to realize that going from a five-point lead to a six-point one in the fourth quarter is basically worthless.”
    According to Barnwell a coach should both rely on the charts and trust his gut, I’m not sure how thats possible. Which is correct? Should Shurmur have realized his meager 2 percent extra chance of winning or should he have disregarded said models and listened to his gut which apparently should have also said the same thing. Which begs the question how does the genius Barnwell come to the conclusion that disregarding all win probability models would lead to a universal “gut” instinct that going for 2 was correct? Is one TD more likely to occur than 2 FGs? If you polled 100 coaches with the exact same circumstances facing Shurmur would 100 coaches have the exact same “gut reaction” as Barnwell claims is so obvious? Lets look at the circumstances…
    The Browns had 24 minutes of possession and 15 possessions which equals 1.6 minutes per possession. That gave the Eagles at least an expected 4 extra potential possessions in the 4th quarter to TIE the game had the Browns gone for 2. The Eagles average possesion started on the 20 yard line, which means they would need 2 possesions getting to the 30 yard line (43 yard FG) to tie the game with FGs. That’s 100 total yards, versus the 91 they went for their go ahead TD. So what you are really trying to decide is whether a team is more likely to go 60% of the way to the endzone 2x’s or all the way once. The problem and fatal flaw in Barnwell’s analysis is that the decision to go for 2 or not dictates how the other team will go about attempting to score their other points. Once the 2 pont decision result has occurred the losing team begins choosing and eliminating plays based on the success of tieing or winning the game. To go back and say “had you done…” is foolish because it can’t account for the infinite variables involved in the particular game being played.
    Which leads us to Shurmur and his “gut instinct”. As predictable and boarderline incompetent as I find Shurmur’s playcalling, I’m certain he has an idea of these types of statistics. What really probably happened was that he saw a pathetic offense with a QB putting on a historically bad performance. At that point he made a gut call that keeping them out of the endzone was easier than keeping them stopping two field goals. Considering their only TD had come after a blown coverage long play at the end of the half, I don’t know how you can say with any certainty that one decision was more “Certain” then the other.

  • mgbode

    but it’s not that easy and you know that Craig.
    i don’t care about the inability of the offense as much there. the average is around 40-50% on 2pters vs. 98% on 1pters.
    then, add in the fact that it puts us within a FG of a 2 score game with nearly a full quarter to play. the game ended up playing out with the Eagles kicking a FG (though they missed it) which would have left us up 2 if we don’t make that kick.
    the way the game was going, we needed to play for the win. i personally think it was a better shot at getting it going for 1pt there and finding a way to get a FG. we didn’t get it done on offense and couldn’t find a way to get that stop we needed.

  • Point of contention, I don’t think he’s saying that Shurmur should go with his gut. It’s saying that a coach’s head should be ingrained with the right decision without needing the use of charts and graphs. Like something that is complex like gravity becomes common sense after you already know about it.

    Also an offensive head coach should never just assume that his historically poorly performing QB is going to continue playing that way. If that’s the case and he is using that logic to not go for two, then he also probably should not call a passing play after that or replace the player.

    I’m absolutely not saying that he should have done that, by the way. Simply taking the logic of not going for two because the offense is playing ineptly and pushing it a step further.

    I refuse to accept that making the wrong decision because it is informed by a poorly performing unit is somehow a good decision all of a sudden. Two point conversions are successful about 40% of the time and the reward of being up seven far outweighs the risk of only being up five instead of six.

  • i personally think it was a better shot at getting it going for 1pt there and finding a way to get a FG.”

    In my scenario if they’re only up five and they get a field goal they have an 8 point lead. Again, not much difference really. 9 is better, but 8 still forces them to convert an XP if they get a TD.

    Being up five just isn’t that much worse than six. The only way six can hurt you compared to five is with two unanswered field goal drives. As we saw, a TD drive is nearly equally crappy for 5 or 6 point leads.

  • mgbode

    eh, that’s where we disagree. with a full quarter left, I think there is a difference between a 5 & 6 pt lead. and, that same % you like for us to go for is the same % they need to make that tie at 8pts.
    of course, their offense is better, so their % is better than ours. it’s not the biggest factor, but it is a factor.

  • TobaccoRoad

    This is such a classic case of Monday Morning QBing. Agreed that Shurmur should already have known what he was going to do in that situation, but I have no problem with kicking the FG. There was way too much time left to start playing possession-for-possession.
    The same people bashing him for kicking the FG and losing 17-16 would be killing him if we missed the 2-point (the most likely result given our offensive play) and PHI scored 2 FGs, winning 16-15.
    The Browns lost because their offense wet the bed, not because they went for 1 instead of 2.

  • porckchopexpress

    Counterpoint. Barnwell specifically says “You don’t need to be thinking about win probability models or game theory…” If you remove statistical anaylsis then you are relying on personal knowledge/experience to make decisions. I think that Barnwell hoped to couch his hypocrisy so that people would say exactly what you are saying. Being “ingrained” with the knowledge to make the “right” decisions would still mean being steeped in win probability or game theory knowledge. Which are the things Barnwell says should be removed.
    The point I’m making is that you either go with your gut or you go with the stats, it is impossible to go with both in the way that Barnwell suggests. Hopefully you meld the two together to come to a rational decision, using stats to help guide you when deciding how your team is playing at the moment. Barnwell rejects this because he claims Shurmur ignored the stats, and had the wrong instinct (however having a wrong instinct is possible). Shurmur made a choice based (I’m guessing, if he admitted he just consulted tarot cards I wouldn’t be shocked) on how he felt the the team was playing.
    Counterpoint II. I can’t wrap my head around your second statement. Are you saying that a coach should not consider how a particular unit is playing in a particular game when making an in game decision? Yes 40% of 2 point conversions are effective. I’ll bet that if you research the topic further the number of those effective attemps drops significantly when attempted by offenses QB’ed by guys with 5 QB ratings. The “average” is 40%, our offense was playing well below average therefore we have to assume our chances of success also drop well below 40%.

  • porckchopexpress

    Careful now, for you tempt the Gods. Sysyphus and Tantalus wouldn’t trade places with a man who has that much time on his hands. (place friendly emoticon of your choice here)

  • dan

    Craig, you describe Shurmur as an “offensive head coach.” Whatever his background as a coordinator, Shurmur is now the head coach of a defense-oriented team and should approach the game that way. (Not actually an uncommon situation — see B. Billick, for example). I’m not saying he made the right decision, just that the fact that his background is as an offensive coordinator is not relevant.

  • I’m pretty sure that I’ve made it clear this isn’t simple mmqb’ing. I don’t kill the coach for silly things. This was the wrong call not because of the way it turned out but because it was the wrong call. If they won it is still the wrong call.

  • He’s not suggesting that Shurmur go with his gut. Read it again. He’s saying the charts and stats should be “ingrained in his coaching DNA.”

    Yep. Going for 2 in this situation shouldn’t be dependent on your offensive unit. It isn’t a questionable 4th and 1 near midfield with huge downside. The difference between 5 and 6 is just too small to not go for 7.

  • porckchopexpress

    He absolutely trying to have it both ways, I’m sorry but its the worst sort of argument. If stats and charts should be “ingrained in his coaching DNA”, how can he “not be thinking about win probability or game theory.” when making a decision? Because Barnwell clearly says these things should be both innate and something you don’t need to be thinking about when making a decision such as this. That is a bad argument in my opinion.

    Yes there is a one point difference between 5 and 6. However you have only supported your argument by citing the league average40% success rate. Let me know when you find something that shows that teams playing as poorly as the Browns (similar TYPA, YPR, YPP, QBR, TOP) also score at a 40% rate. Average is average for a reason, for your argument to work you would have to flesh out the stats and find the average for teams playing like the Browns were playing to have an informed statistical opinion of their chances of success. My “gut” tells me that a team averaging 2.1 ypc, with a QB posting 5 QB rating, probably would have something in the neighborhood of a 10% or less chance of success.
    Again it all boils down to whether you believe it is more successful to defend against 2 FGs or 1 TD. I think you’re just being argumentative at this point, but to be honest its better to argue over this then face the harsh reality of how bad that offensive unit was on Sunday.

  • I’m not sure who is being more argumentative, but I’ve still failed to have anyone explain to me where the real downside risk is of trying and failing.

    And I still disagree with your first point. He can stop thinking about it because he already knows it. If you know the answer to the math equation you don’t have to run through the steps it took you to get there the first time.

    I’m sure Dick Vermeil thought long and hard about his two point conversion chart back in the 1970s. Then he just learned what he would do and stopped thinking about all the stats and situational details. That’s what makes it reflexive and part of your coaching DNA.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    There is a HUGE difference between being up 8 and being up 9. Way bigger than the difference between being up 5 or 6…or 7 or 8 for that matter. Anything less than 9 is still a one possession game. If Shurmur’s thinking was, “go up 6 with the XP, trust my defense who has been kicking @$$ all day and is pumped up even more because of the pick 6, and try to get a FG next possession”, I totally get that.

    Later in games, you try to put as many possessions between you and the other team as possible. I have actually found myself doing a 180 on this…while I was watching the game and shortly after, I though it was the wrong call. The more I think about it and read this thread, the more I think it was the right call in that specific situation.

  • Toddyus

    All this analysis is a little overboard in my opinion. If you kick the extra point and the Eagles score two field goals, you tie. If they score a touchdown you lose.

    Extra point outcomes=tie or lose.

    If you go for 2 and make it and the Eagles score two field goals (which they wouldn’t even attempt, of course) you win. If they score a touchdown you tie.

    Two point conversion outcomes=win or tie.

    I’ll take win/tie over tie/lose every time.

    Now someone will argue that they might have missed the 2 point conversion, but that’s the real value in Barnwell’s piece: the odds were in favor of them making it and Shurmur should have known this.

  • steve-o

    This is irrelevant because we would likey not have converted the 2 pts. Even if we did, and it’s tied at 17, Phili still probably wins since their offense was moving the ball against our tired defense and our offense was looking like road kill.

  • Dan105

    Just because Barnwell/Grantland says it doesn’t legitimize this argument. It would still have been stupid to try for 2 in that situation. The offense couldn’t move the ball a yard on any given play all day; what could possibly make you think they would come through if they went for 2? The only difference that going for 2 would have made is that the Browns would have lost 17-15 instead of 17-16. Or maybe 16-15 after Philly kicked field goals on two of their subsequent possessions, because that’s all they would have needed.
    As a side note, the fact that Barnwell writes for Grantland does nothing to distinguish him from all the other hacks under the “worldwide leader’s” umbrella. They’re all utterly incompetent loudmouths.

  • So you’re saying in the worst case scenario the Browns would have still needed a field goal drive to win? OK. So why didn’t we go for it again?

  • If I could double like this I would…

  • mgbode

    but you act like the Eagles are the only team allowed to score after that 2pt conversion.

  • WFNYJon

    You’re a jibe-turkey.

  • Toddyus

    That has to be the assumption. If you factor in an additional score later by the Browns, it only strengthens the argument to go for two because missing it is even less impactful.

    Extra point now and additional score later are still worse odds than 2-point conversion now and additional score later.

  • mgbode

    but you have to factor in “not” getting the 2pt conversion as well. If you limit to to 1pt now or 2pt now, then yeah, 2pts > 1pt.

    anyways, from the other thread, but here is why I liked that he kicked the 1pter there:

    he was playing for the win, rather than a tie. if he goes for 2pts,
    then he is acknowledging that the Eagles are likely to score a TD and
    chasing those points ahead of time hoping to tie them. going for 1pt
    demonstrates he either expects us to stone them or that we will get
    another score, making it a 2 possession game. he was going for the win.

    (or he expected Philly to make 2 FGs and was playing for the tie anyway 🙂 )

  • Toddyus

    I’ll concede this, Your perspective takes into account one variable that is probably not factored into Barnwell’s data – the Browns’ offense was atrocious on Sunday.

    Based on that, however, I think the decision he made was the opposite of what you describe. He was not going for the win. He was defending against a scenario where the Browns would lose a tie if they missed the 2-point conversion and Philly chose the easier route of 2 field goals as opposed to 1 touchdown. I think he knew the Browns chances of scoring with the offense were limited and that the defense had a better chance of stopping a touchdown than two field goals.

    This is perhaps the one place where Shurmur’s decision is defensible because we all felt the same way watching the game. Who amongst us truly believed the offense could come back and score anything more than a field goal? In that reality, his decision to kick the extra point, if he added a field goal later would make it a two score game.

    But, this is like a chess strategy that requires 3 moves when 2 will get the job done. You expose yourself to less favorable risk.

    Besides, and maybe this is the real issue, if he doesn’t believe the offense can score, than what business does he have coaching the team?

  • I can see it both ways as well, going for the Extra Point forces the Eagles to score the touchdown for the win, which was not an easy task with the way the Browns D was playing. But on the other hand… OUR touchdown was a gift from Mr. VIck, and going for 2 there was a win/win, either way you come away with points because Vick threw a bad pass, and Jackson is a bad ass…

    Either way I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, as I had picked us losing by 8, and some of the yahoos on nfl.com had us losing by 20… GO BROWNS!!

  • mgbode

    “I’ll concede this”
    I stopped there. Looks like alot of words to say I won 🙂

    just kidding: I was trying to not factor the atrociousness of the offense into the discussion as the defense had shown the ability to set the offense up for points (2 FGs and the defensive TD).

    anyways, good for banter, but we just don’t agree. I think the proper chess move is to go for the easiest way to force the opponent to HAVE to score twice. And the easiest way is to score a FG later. At that point, whether you go for 1pt or 2pts is inconsequential. Scoring 2pts there and you are still in a 1 score game.

  • Steve

    Sorry, but you’ve way oversimplified this. You just easily assume that the Browns will make the two, and, as mgbode says, only the Eagles can score again. As typical with Grantland, we just ignore a lot of the variables that we don’t really like.

    Barnwell’s chart is a nice place to start, but you have to then adjust for the fact that its a hypothetical game played between two average teams. A coach should not be ingrained with the game theory, some intern should have that info right by his side just as the Browns score. The coach should be ingrained with an ability to adjust for the feel of the game and what things will bear out that the stats may miss on.

  • Steve

    But the thinking that says it’s the wrong call is the same as the mmqb-ing. Saying ‘we cant do X because Y may not work out for us’ is not that different from ‘we shouldn’t have done X because Y didn’t work out for us’. Especially when all we’re taking into account in the former is Y, and not Z or any other possibilities.

  • porckchopexpress

    You still haven’t provided any information regarding the likelyhood of teams converting 2 pts when they are playing as poorly (below average) as the Browns. You also haven’t provided a shred of evidence that teams in similar circumstances are more likely to score 1 TD as oppossed to 2 FGs. This is the only information that would support your claim that Shurmur handled this situation badly. Without this information you have no argument to make to me, its just blather.
    Memorizing the statistics to the point of innate nature has nothing to do with this question. If I memorize the forumla for volume, and then you tell me to set aside everything I know about said formula, it is irrelevant to discuss how well I know the forumla – you just told me to set it aside. I may be able to recite the forumla in my sleep but you just told me not to use it.

  • Toddyus

    Didn’t you (your wife) just a have a baby? What’s your secret?

  • mgbode

    webmd.com discusses the human reproductivity system well enough if you need the details of how all that works.