“Two Buck Ducks” Make the (Extra) Point

Published Friday, Sept. 21, 2007 in The Register-Guard.

I don’t know much about football, but I know a thing or two about marketing. The Oregon Ducks have used marketing as a key component to their winning strategy. So, as the team prepares to open its PAC-10 season tomorrow night at Stanford, I feel oddly compelled to offer advice. (Forgive me, Ron Bellamy.)

Point-after kicks are for losers. Stop kicking them. Go for two points after most touchdowns. Everybody’s bored with extra-point kicks. Not boring is what the Ducks are all about.

Coach Bellotti publicly insists his players “leave it all on the field.” So why go for one point when two are available? With every touchdown, bring out the Red Zone offensive unit. Extra points will become fun again. Fans will love it.

The Ducks are quietly stepping in this direction already. They line up for point-after plays with a “swinging gate” formation that cloaks their intentions. Brady Leaf is our back-up quarterback, but he’s also the holder for place-kicking, so he takes the snap. Coaches have given Leaf the green light to change the play and go for two whenever he sees the opportunity. But why be quiet?

The new Oregon Ducks are not quiet. Joey Harrington stared down Times Square as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Endless uniform combinations bespeak the nouveau riche, funded by a sports-clothier alumnus. Last year, a locker room with wi-fi; this year, a weight room with underwater treadmills.

Consider the complexity of a head coach’s job. Moving the football past the next hash mark is one third of a day’s work. Recruiting future players and packing the stadium matter too. Points, recruits, fans: two-point conversions will produce all three.

The spread offense weakens as the scrimmage line nears the goal line. There’s simply less room to spread. Misdirection and seldom-used “trick plays” help our eleven guys evade their eleven. Post-touchdown attempts will season a short-yardage squad with valuable live reps. The two-point squad may get so good they can be called upon to score six whenever it’s short yardage to the goal.

Why? Here psychology meets physiology. Two-point conversions give a unique adrenaline rush. Each player’s intensity is at its peak. But that intensity can be its own undoing. Fakes and reverses work best when the defense commits quickest and hardest.

Misdirection and trick plays also make great TV, and here having two seasoned quarterbacks starts to look smart. With Leaf under center and our starting quarterback, crazy-legged Dennis Dixon, lined up as a tailback, who gets the snap? Which offense will the defense be defending? Watch the opposing linemen scratch their heads with their helmets still on.

Keeping a second quarterback game-ready provides necessary insurance, but it also helps recruit better players. What recruit wouldn’t give an edge to a team that allows two quarterbacks to play for points in every game?

Snubbing the seven for the elusive eight cements the team’s image. Like true iconoclasts, we’ll topple the Sanctity of the Seven.

Drawn by the novelty, more games will be televised nationally. What commentator wouldn’t love something to comment on after every touchdown? Win or lose, that exposure will bring more television money, more recruit interest, more fan support, more brand equity. All for taking a chance, adopting wisdom before it becomes conventional.

The newly aggressive tone of the Ducks has already seeped into our civic conversations. We elected a woman who promised to be “a mayor for all Eugene” — no small feat. We adopted a city slogan that begins “the world’s greatest city…” We hear the adjective “world-class” and we no longer think Seattle or even Portland. We don’t yet believe our rhetoric, but we’re past being surprised at moments when it’s true.

We can thank the Ducks for teaching us to step into our own future success.

This team exemplifies “in for a dime, in for a dollar.” If you’re going to go, then go for broke. But why one dollar, when two are on the table? The Ducks can lead a national trend away from the boring extra-point kick and toward a more exciting and unpredictable football game. When everybody follows, they’ll look to Eugene and thank “the Two Buck Ducks.”

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You can read an earlier iteration of this idea, written 18 months ago, here.