Why Mike Shanahan Was Dead Wrong to Go for 2

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 15, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 15:  Head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins reacts to a call during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 15, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A botched two-point conversion attempt condemned the Washington Redskins to a 27-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15. Mike Shanahan's decision to go for two instead of kicking the extra point to tie and probably push the game into overtime was wrong. Dead wrong.

Those who would rush to support this mind-numbing call all likely rely on two equally flimsy arguments. The first is defending a coach going for the win. The second is to say, why not chance a two-point conversion when you are 3-10 and out of the playoffs?

The only sane response to those views is to scratch your head in disbelief and implore the heavens for strength.

For starters, the Redskins' record should not have been part of the decision-making process late in the fourth quarter in the Georgia Dome.

If it was a factor, then Shanahan still chose wrong, big-time. When you're 3-10, the priority should be to try to finish the season with a flourish. A few wins won't do much to alter the memory of 2013 for the Redskins. But they would at least briefly lift the mood around a franchise currently mired in negativity.

Committing to staying in a game, rather than going all-in when you have nothing to lose or tangibly gain, would tell players every win matters.

That is precisely why Shanahan had to play for overtime in Atlanta. Simply put, he should have acted as if his team weren't 3-10.

The two-point call was a reckless one.
The two-point call was a reckless one.Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

That means making the choice you would make if there was still something at stake. Because that's how a coach should always want his players to approach any game.

Going for two because it doesn't make any difference to your playoff status also says it doesn't make any difference whether you win or lose. It's almost as if Shanahan was saying if his team gets the two-pointer, then good. But if it doesn't, it doesn't matter anyway.

That is hardly an appropriate mantra for an NFL team to finish a season with.

Patting Shanahan on the back for "going for the win" is a too convenient and rather lazy excuse. It is a dog that doesn't hunt.

Make no mistake, if the Redskins were still in the hunt, they would have kicked the point without hesitation. They would have kept the game alive as long as possible, because the win matters.

The win should always matter, regardless of the context of the season. Surely that is the attitude the Redskins want their players to have next season?

Some, including CSN Washington's Rich Tandler, have argued Shanahan didn't want to risk overtime because of the way his team had turned the ball over during the game.

Seven turnovers by the Redskins would seem to support that view. But if the offense isn't trusted to protect the ball in overtime, why should it be trusted to successfully convert a two-pointer with the game on the line?

Of course, many will smugly say that if the two-pointer had been successful, then the decision to go for it would be deemed a good one.

But that is hardly the case given the nature of the call.

Shanahan's decision was not a calculated gamble. Instead, it was the equivalent of a card player twisting on 19, somehow believing he will luck into 21.

It was the kind of call you make when you decide there is nothing to lose, so what difference does it make? But it should make a big difference to a team short on pride, having forgotten how to win.

Instead, this frivolous call tells the Redskins they can be reckless in the final two weeks, just because they are missing the playoffs, and it doesn't really matter what the consequences are.

That is a terrible message to send to a group of players who should be striving to finish with the best record possible ahead of a critical offseason.