For the last time, let’s take a look at the decision Pat Shurmur made in the fourth quarter of the season-opening loss to the Eagles.
At that time, D’Qwell Jackson had just returned an interception for a touchdown, and the Browns were within reach of a monumental opening day upset, an upset that could have done wonders for their confidence — even if Brandon Weeden finished with a rating of 11.
Cleveland led 15-10, and I was sitting in the press box next to two esteemed young gentlemen: Andre Knott of WTAM and Zac Jackson of this same FOX Sports Ohio.
“They should go for two here,” said young Mr. Knott, aka the mayor of Fairview Park.
Young Mr. Jackson, a future mayor of Akron, said something equally insightful: “No doubt.”
Shurmur did not agree.
He went for one.
The Browns wound up losing by one.
And the two-point decision became a topic.
The argument for going for two is pretty basic: Make it a seven-point game so a touchdown doesn’t beat you. It also sends an aggressive message to your team, the message Shurmur said he had preached, that the Browns came to win the dadgum game.
The arguments against are not without merit — and I included Shurmur’s thinking in this week’s First and 10.
Missing the two-pointer and getting nothing means two field goals beat you, and the way the Browns defense was playing field goals probably seemed more likely than touchdowns.
Too, going up by six means the Eagles had to score a touchdown to win — at least once. It’s not like they were gonna go 91 yards in the final minutes to win or anything … what? … oh really? … never mind that part.
The other argument — one that Shurmur said did not enter into his thinking — is the Browns offense was near inept and getting two yards was no sure thing.
Finally, there are many who argue that the two-point conversion should be saved until the last minute when it absolutely is needed. This is generally the way college teams do it, and it’s worked.
But the thinking on this issue is all over the board.
In the NFL, two-point tries have been converted at just below 50 percent. But the percentage is better when a team runs than passes — which makes Josh Cribbs an effective option in that situation.
In 2009, a site called advancednflstats.com opined that teams “with better personnel and/or better strategy (less passes, more runs) should be able to succeed over 50% of the time.”
But last year, Mike Lombardi wrote on NFL.com that the single point is always better than trying for two until the end of the game, saying: “The discussion to go for two should never occur until the fourth quarter, when possessions are limited.”
Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner wrote about it Sunday, offered there is no definite answer and weighed in with Shurmur: “I don’t think there’s a clear-cut right answer for the situation the Browns faced. If you go for the deuce and don’t make it, you run the risk of losing to a pair of Philadelphia field goals — and surely the Eagles will see multiple possessions with 13:59 left.”
But Grantland.com tore into Shurmur, saying it called into question his fitness for the office.
Bill Barnwell wrote: “This isn’t an egregious decision because it came back to haunt the Browns; it’s a critical failure because Shurmur chose the option that added virtually nothing to his team’s chances of winning.”
He went on to point out a convluted chart from footballcommentary.com that reveals: “The Browns should have gone for two unless their chances of converting were below 24 percent, a conversion rate that even the league’s worst rushing attack would find attainable.”
Of course the obvious question is: Did Barnwell SEE the Browns rushing attack on Sunday and did he REALLY think the chances were better than 24 percent to convert?
Too, how do folks come up with these charts?
A good friend of mine named Jeff Snook, a guy who has written several books, including a few about Ohio State you might wish to read (“Busted:The Rise and Fall of Art Schlichter,” “What It Means To Be a Buckeye” and “Then Tress said to Troy … The Best Ohio State Football Stories Ever Told”) e-mailed Monday to say that “you go for two in that situation every time.”
He knows his football, so I give him his due.
But he also said he saw the score in the airport so he wasn’t watching the game.
Had he been watching, he might not have been so confident in the Browns ability to make the two yards.
For Shurmur, it’s a matter of time, possessions and situations.
Had he gone for two and missed and lost with two field goals, there would be a lot of folks bellowing that he cost the team the game.
He doesn’t see it as cut and dried.
A case can be made for his side.
But a lot of coaching careers hinge on decisions like these, and whether they work.
When these decisions pile up and lean against the guy deciding, it’s not good for his future. Especially with a new owner waiting to take over in October who saw fit to sit in on the coach’s press conference after the game.