Regardless of who is doing the field goal kicking, the Cleveland Browns should do far less of it in 2019 and going forward.
The Cleveland Browns were in multiple situations last year where kicking lost them games or put them in position to lose games and most of those situations were due to terrible tactical decisions by Hue Jackson rather than being the fault of the kicker. In addition to the fact the Browns need to make better tactical decisions, they need to minimize the impact a kicker can have on games.
Outside of late kicks to end halves or games and occasional game situations that dictate it, the Browns should be as aggressive as any team in the league when it comes to fourth downs and two-point conversions, putting the game in the hands of the players rather than the kicker.
The vast majority of NFL teams don’t go for it on fourth down or go for two-point conversions as often as they should. As much as the numbers say to do it, it’s easier said than done to be on fourth-and-short on your own end of the field. That very decision proved costly for the Browns last year in their game against the Oakland Raiders. Two-point conversions feel far more risky than going for the perceived safe bet of kicking an extra point, but the math doesn’t really support it.
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In the same way the NBA has made a massive movement getting away from mid range jumpers in favor of three pointers, the NFL should be far more aggressive when it comes to going for two as opposed to one, especially now that the one isn’t as sure a bet as it used to be. Since the rule change moved the extra point back to the fifteen yard line, the NFL average for extra points is around 94 percent, down from 99 percent when it was at the two yard line.
The Browns scored 44 touchdowns in 2018. If they went with an extra point out of every attempt and got 94 percent of them, it’d be worth 41 points. If they went for two every single time, they’d need just a 47.5 percent success rate to break even. The higher they go, they start gaining points.
The Browns missed 17.6 percent of their extra points in 2018, which also proved costly in games and was the worst in the league. They only converted four of their 10 opportunities on two-point conversions, which also needs to improve, but had they just converted one more of those or gone for another one and made it, they’d have been better off going for those after every score as opposed to extra points.
With an offense headlined by Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and Odell Beckham Jr., getting two yards shouldn’t be a terribly difficult proposition. It should become a major staple in practice and in general. With the talent they have, they could potentially end up getting to 50, maybe as high as 55 percent or more.
The same 44 touchdowns with a 55 percent success rate on two-point conversions is worth an extra touchdown over the course of the season. Seven additional points just for playing the percentages. That might be worth an extra win in a close game.
And as they do it and keep doing it, they will not only theoretically get better at it, they should be more confident in doing it. Opponents may be nervous to stop a two-point conversion in a tight spot while the Browns have been doing it all year, so it’s not big deal.
The same logic largely applies to when the Browns find themselves in fourth down and manageable situations. Rather than potentially settling for three, they should be aggressive and try to keep drives alive, ultimately coming away with at least three, potentially five more points on the drive.
Not only is this betting on a really talented offense, but it’s also putting faith in a good defense. In the event they don’t convert, the opponent still has to beat a defense that may get the ball right back. Clearly there are a few situations where field goals matter and being able to at the end of halves and games are critical opportunities, but in general, touchdowns beat field goals, so stop settling for field goals.
The added benefit here is the players love it. And when the Browns under Gregg Williams as interim head was aggressive, the team really seemed to respond. Going for it puts the game in their hands and they get to prove it. That’s a powerful motivator and a great way to get players to buy in and really play together as a group. And the more pressure situations a team is in, the less pressure they are likely feel. Develop an aggressive, confident mindset regardless of the situation.
The Browns need to have someone who can make kicks in those choice few situations, but ultimately kickers are pretty average from year to year. The great ones make 90 percent or more of their kicks and the bad ones are under 80 percent. If the Browns can simply avoid being in the bad when do kick field goals and are aggressive as much as possible when they should be, they’ll be in good shape. And for what it’s worth, Greg Joseph was an 85 percent field goal kicker this past year.
The bottom line is the Cleveland Browns should have Baker Mayfield and one of the better offenses in the league, so they should take advantage. Nothing against Greg Joseph or any other kicker who the Browns might have on the team, but rather than putting games in positions where they can come down to the kicker, they should put as many games as possible in the hands of Mayfield. That’s why you drafted him. Trust the numbers, bet on your franchise quarterback and reap the rewards.