Monday, October 19, 2015

The Appropriate Time to Run This Play

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Why do NFL coaches and executives lose their damn minds whenever they deal with Bill Belichick?

Whether it's John Harbaugh forgetting what constitutes an eligible receiver, the Seahawks operating under the paranoid suspicion that Belichick was perpetually on the verge of taping their practices during last year's Super Bowl week, or GMs sending away king's ransoms to New England to move up on draft day, some of the smartest people in football seem to make the dumbest decisions around the four-time Super Bowl champion coach.

Last night was no different, as the Colts, who had played far better than anyone predicted and trailed by just a single score, ran one of the worst plays in NFL history (pictured above) on fourth down.

Not only was the play doomed to fail, it was also illegal. Indianapolis was flagged because every player away from the center (who happened to be diminutive wide receiver Griff Whalen) was off the line of scrimmage. Coach Chuck Pagano would later say the play was designed to force the Patriots into a 12-men on the field penalty (which did not happen), and that the ball never should have been snapped (it was).
Five defenders against one blocker over the ball and only one player on the line of scrimmage... What could go wrong?
So, it's pretty clear that Pagano is the latest mortal to fall apart when coaching against Belichick, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean, surely, there is a time and place where that formation/play (assuming you moved enough players on the right side up to the line to make it legal) would be appropriate, right?

Well, it turns out there are, and I've listed them below.

1. When the Game is Being Played by 10-Years Olds.

We've all seen this formation in the back yard, but there are some critical differences. A. The center is an eligible receiver and B. the rushers must count seven Mississippis before coming after the quarterback. Also, it usually helps when the game is two-hand touch. Given all those conditions, Pagano's call would be a totally reasonable, albeit uncreative, decision.

2. During a Point Shaving Scandal

It is completely possible that somebody involved in getting this play off (head coach Chuck Pagano, special teams coordinator Tom McMahon or the snapper, Whalen) just bet, like, a million bucks on the Patriots to cover the 10-point spread. It didn't work out for them in the end, as Andrew Luck threw a pointless touchdown to give Indy a backdoor cover (leading me to believe Pagano was not the culprit), but running this play, if you were attempting to shave points and make a ton of dough in Vegas, would be most appropriate.

3. In an Alternate Universe

According to Hugh Everett's Many-Worlds Theory, the universe is constantly splitting, making new, slightly different, copies of itself to account for every possible outcome of a situation. Even the universe may not be able to find a scenario where this play works, but it's possible there already existed a universe where Bill Belichick was a gigantic space lizard, incapable of properly substituting, leading to a five-yard penalty and Colts first down.

And… That's really it. I can't think of anything other than kiddie two-hand touch, intentionally giving New England points or alternate dimensions. Got any ideas?


Unknown said...

Well I'm no theoretical physicist, but I believe that in Quantum Theory, subatomic particles can randomly disappear and reappear in a different location. It's possible that Coach Pagano was hoping that a 12th Patriot defender would materialize on the field thereby drawing a penalty.

I hate to Monday morning quarterback, but the odds of that happening are at least 1 in 1x10^20. They should have at least super-cooled one of the Patriot defenders as this increases the odds that the player would undergo observable quantum fluctuations.

Joe Parello said...

So you're saying there's a chance...
Gotta agree with you there. I'm not sure exactly how good the Colts are on 4th down, but I have to believe their odds would have improved had they just gone for it.