Second down Schotts

It wouldn’t be another blissful week in the 2018 Seahawks social media blogosphere without one of two things: a Cable Thanos video hyping us out of our damn minds or Brian Schottenheimer saying something that has people either freaking out or saying that the people freaking out are overreacting. Perhaps you are in camp A, perhaps in camp B. Either way, this is a story for you.

Brian, our friend from Hawkblogger.com, posted a short interview quote seen below that had everyone clamoring to confirm their priors. Brian, of the Schottenheimer variety, is still a polarizing figure within the discussion of Seahawks fans.

It’s been discussed at length by various analysts how running on both 3rd and short and the goal line tends to be more effective, while situations such as 2nd and long favor the pass. In general, passing is superior to rushing when attempting to gain yards and expected (and real!) points.

But this little episode got me thinking: do we really care what a coach calls on 2nd and short?

For the purposes of this little excursion, I assumed Coach Schottenheimer didn’t mean only 2nd and 1, but was speaking to 2nd and short in general. I defined “short” to mean three yards or less. So, is there anything to really freak out about?

The rationale for passing on 2nd and short goes as follows: if a pass results in an incompletion you’ve effectively not lost anything as you still have a strong chance at converting on 3rd down. The rationale for running on 2nd and short is that you should be able to reliably get a yard or two on both 2nd and 3rd down. When we first look at the chart above, it may jump out at you that teams that are running on 2nd and short and converting that attempt at a lower rate than those that tend to pass. But this relationship isn’t very strong.

And, if we isolate those downs by themselves, it’s true that passing looks clearly superior here. But plays don’t really exist in isolation, so what if we look at which teams are converting on the next two attempts when starting from 2nd and short?

If there was a stronger trend advocating for the Kansas City method of play calling on this specific down and distance set, it sure looks like it evaporates when we examine the series in its entirety. Teams like the Saints, Bears, Chargers, and Colts are all passing significantly less than the Chiefs on 2nd and short, but are still converting for a first down at a similar rate.

Looking over these numbers, it doesn’t seem as though there is anything inherently wrong with running on 2nd and short. The Seahawks aren’t better than the rest of the league when running here, but they aren’t worse either.

It’s most likely Coach Schottenheimer was making a remark about trying to avoid being overly predictable while constructing a game script for certain situations. Overanalyzing “coach speak” from interviews can lead us all to frothing at the mouth about one direction or another needlessly. In general, Seattle hasn’t been great when trying to convert these types of series.

But in our analysis of his coaching, just looking at run versus pass doesn’t really give us enough insight to praise or condemn Schottenheimer. It seems that there is nothing inherently wrong with running on second and short even though the Seahawks have been relatively unsuccessful, when compared to league average, in doing so.

I guess you’ll just have to wait until a different time for me to rant about another one of Schottenheimer’s tendencies.

I’m sure it won’t take long.

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