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Should Byron Jones have taken a knee after his interception against Washington?

It didn’t matter, thankfully, but Byron Jones should have immediately gone down after his interception.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s all start by saying that the Dallas Cowboys won on the road against the Washington Redskins and we’re all in universal agreement that this is a great thing.

There is something that we may disagree on, though, and that’s what Byron Jones should have done after he intercepted Kirk Cousins in the game’s final minute.

Byron Jones intercepts Kirk Cousins at the Washington 21-yard line with 26 seconds left in the game. There’s no one around him, and he cuts to his left all the way into the endzone.

The score (and ensuing Mike Nugent extra point) gives the Cowboys a 33-19 lead. There are 22 seconds left on the clock, and the Redskins have no timeouts. Ultimately Washington runs just one play when they’re back on offense and the game ends, but that doesn’t change one simple truth.

Byron Jones should have fallen down immediately after intercepting the ball. Don’t believe me? Check out Sean Lee in the video above, he is immediately telling Jones to get down.

“Why? Byron scores and makes it a two-score game!”

At the time of interception, the clock has 26 seconds left, and the Redskins don’t have any timeouts. If Byron Jones takes a knee right where he is, or a few yards later, all the Cowboys have to do is take a knee and they win.

Sure, the Cowboys ultimately won the game anyway, but what if they hadn’t? Is it impossible to believe that Kirk Cousins and Co. could have scored twice in 22 seconds with no timeouts? It’s not likely, but it is by definition possible in terms of range of outcomes. In fact there are a lot of possibilities left possible by Byron returning it:

  • What if a Cowboy is hurt on his return?
  • What if a Cowboy is hurt on the extra point?
  • What if a Cowboy is hurt on the kickoff?
  • What if a Cowboy is hurt on the Redskins offensive possession?
  • What if the Redskins actually come back?

All of these questions and their possible outcomes, albeit infinitesimally small possible outcomes, are not at play if Byron just goes down. The only question at that point is whether Dak fumbles while taking a knee, and taking a knee is the safest possible play in the game of football.

“It doesn’t matter, we won anyway”

This is true, and ultimately this discussion as a whole is being admittedly nitpicky; however, what if this had cost the Cowboys the game or someone had gotten hurt?

It’s unlikely as we’ve agreed, but what if Kirk Cousins pulled it off? What if someone had gotten hurt? Why leave the door of possibility open at all when you could close it all the more?

The point here isn’t to chastise Byron Jones or to say that this is a flaw in any way, but it is true that victory could have been guaranteed more firmly, and injury would have been more firmly prevented, had Jones fallen down. If the intention is to maximize the likelihood of victory in all moments, this one fell short of that goal.

“It was raining, Dak could have fumbled the snap”

Is it possible that Dak could have fumbled a snap leading to a knee? Of course. All things are possible, hence the purpose of this whole discussion.

But what has a larger potential of disaster (however large it is)? Dak taking a knee, or any one of the five questions left unanswered the moment Byron decides to return it?

For Byron Jones to return the ball and score, while it does make the lead more insurmountable for Washington, allows the Redskins to maintain control over their destiny. Are they piloting a sinking ship? The answer is/was yes, but they’ve still got some influence on what happens. Falling down eliminates their control.

“It doesn’t bother me, 14 points in 22 seconds is a chance I’ll take”

It’s a cool thing for Byron Jones that he got his first career interception that went for a score, and ultimately it obviously didn’t hinder the Cowboys chances of winning. But it did keep the Redskins chances (and the chance at negative things for the Cowboys) alive all the more.

Why leave the game (or a negative Cowboys option) up to chance to a larger degree when you don’t have to? Why leave the chances larger than they should be? The purpose every play is to minimize the Redskins chances of winning and maximize your chances of success, and returning to score on that play with the given variables is not necessarily operating in that mindset.

The increase in win probability by Byron Jones scoring is obviously what makes him scoring arguably worth it, but is it worth all the ensuing risk that comes with it? It’s a matter of where you fall on that debate, because you may be more risk averse.

If you think Byron should have scored, hey it’s tough to disagree, I’m simply saying that it was a riskier play. The risk may be a fraction of a fraction, but it’s one worth considering in the grand scheme of all things football.

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