Denver Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan was clearly having a Herm Edwards moment Sunday. You play to win the game, but Shanahan’s decision to go for a 2-point conversation for a victory over the Chargers instead of an extra point to tie the score should teach a few other coaches a lesson: stop being so conservative.
The Broncos’ rookie receiver Eddie Royal beat San Diego safety Clinton Hart to score a two-point conversion and give Denver a victory with 29 seconds left in the game.
NFL coaches are famously reliant on charts that prescribe when to take timeouts, when to kick extra points, sometimes even when to kick field goals or to go for it on fourth down. But Shanahan’s channeling of a riverboat gambler flew in the face of every chart and every shred of logic.
If he goes for the gimme extra point, he almost certainly sends the Broncos into overtime. Last season, N.F.L. kickers missed just 13 extra points in 1,178 attempts. Then again, he probably had little faith in a defense that had yielded three second-half touchdowns.
Just twice before had teams converted successful 2-point attempts while going for a victory since the play was added in 1994. And last season, N.F.L. teams converted just 30 of 61 attempts, a paltry .492 rate of success. Shanahan’s own career record with the Broncos before Sunday was only slightly better — 15 of 28 (.535).
“I just felt like it was a chance for us to put them away,” Shanahan said.
Ummmm . . . how tough is this to figure out? If the NFL average for converting 2-pointers is 49%, and Shanahan’s average is 53%, and you’re in a game where the teams have scored 75 points so far, and your opponent’s defense is exhausted and demoralized because for among other reasons the refs have just blown a call that should have won the game for them, and you assume that the odds of winning in overtime are 50%, then how does going for two fly in the face of “every shred of logic,” as opposed to being, say, the obviously correct decision?
My favorite aspect of this is how the writer gets the statistical analysis totally wrong, and therefore concludes that going for it is sort of crazy, but then recommends that coaches ought to make lots of similarly crazy decisions because this one happened to work. I mean how many ways can you be wrong in 200 words?
Still, props to Shanahan for going against the conventional wisdom, when failure would have gotten him excoriated by every TMAWS in America.