For Rivera - There Was No Reward for a Calculated Risk


With the ball on the Giants - 22, it was 2nd & 10 and  less than a minute remaining.

QB Kyle Allen faked a handoff to JD McKissic on his right, dropped back to pass, and looking left, watched Cam Sims make a quick out-and-up move and hit Sims in the left corner of the end zone for Cam Sims’ first-career touchdown.

Washington trailed the New York Giants 20-19, and now only 36 seconds remained in the evenly matched contest.

Ron Rivera chose to go for two (as you know by now) in a controversial decision. 

Allen’s two-point pass attempt fell to the ground in the end zone and Washington lost to the Giants 20-19.

Following the touchdown, if you were coaching, what would you have chosen for Washington to do?

90 percent of those reading this probably would have kicked the extra point, sending the game to overtime.

But why?

Why would 90 percent of us choose to kick the extra point to tie the game?

Frankly, might the answer be because at that moment you feel the WFT could lose immediately?

In front of our TV sets feeling some of the pressure of the moment, might that be a determining factor in our decision?

Thus, would we choose the “path of least resistance” which provides us some comfort that at least our decision resulted in a tie?

Now put yourself in the shoes of an NFL head coach and multiply that pressure exponentially.

Players await their decision; the coach will face relentless criticism if the decision is unsuccessful.

The sports media pundits will not miss the opening to pontificate their disapproval the coach simply didn’t settle for the tie and the “opportunity to win in overtime."

What about the opportunity to win now, at the end of regulation?

While we live in fear, hoping things will go well in an overtime period, Ron Rivera determined, rather than hope for a win later,  he only needed one play and 2 ½ yards.

Ron Rivera was willing to take on the risk of immediate defeat for the reward of immediate victory.

I marveled last night reading Twitter as fans easily pointed the finger, criticizing his decision to not settle for the tie and hope for good results in overtime.

Of course, had the two-point attempt been successful would not the same fans have been rejoicing?

“For the tie”, the brilliant young reporter tweets as he thoughtlessly used other inappropriate language.

As if Ron Rivera is duty-bound to play for the tie because fans would rather avoid present risk, placing hope in the future?

Certainly there are times to tie the game; but are there not times, to play for the win?

Only 36 seconds remained and Ron Rivera saw the chance to win.

The game could be won right then, right there; Rivera embraced the pressure of the opportunity.

Reading some more tweets, I found fans rooted in hope.

Fans were literally assuming Washington had a better chance of winning in overtime.

Oh really? You certain of that?

Because NFL teams overwhelmingly go for the tie and hope they can win in overtime, does that mean there is no other choice?

Recall what transpired in the last overtime game Washington played?

Only last season, in Washington's last meeting with the  Giants, the same QB, Daniel Jones, drove down the field, scored a touchdown and ending the game.

What about playoff games?

Recall when the Packers defeated Washington in the first round of the 2015 playoffs?

The next week they trailed the Cardinals, when suddenly Aaron Rodgers threw a Hail Mary TD, at the end of regulation, bringing the Packers to within one point of the Cardinals (20-19), the same exact score as yesterday, BTW.

Head coach Mike McCarthy chose what virtually all fans and coaches choose to do.

With the opportunity to win the game right there in front of him, he chose to avoid present risk and kicked the extra point, tying the game 20-20.

Arizona promptly scored a TD depriving Aaron Rodgers even the possibility to take a single snap.

Not one person, not a single one in the entire human race knows what would have occurred in the overtime yesterday.

So why are so many acting like the decision was a no-brainer and condemning Ron Rivera?

I’ve not agreed with each decision Rivera has made this season.

I’ve questioned his not using timeouts and his benching of Dwayne Haskins to third string.

Perhaps this time the man, Ron Rivera, staring at weekly multiple cancer treatments, possessed the courage we do not, to risk sudden defeat while pursuing victory?

Maybe the next time you want to criticize  Rivera for this decision, remember that while you most likely would have surrendered to the pressure of settling for a tie, hopeful to somehow win later, Ron Rivera possessed the courage to grasp the present and offered his players a golden occasion to seize their current opportunity. 

Ivan Lambert is a lifelong die-hard Washington Football fan, raised in Berryville, Virginia. He is married and the father of two fine young men. He is currently a sports correspondent for The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida and can be found on Twitter @IvanLambert18

Register today for free or log in to access this premium article.

Top Stories