Of course I finally came up with an election joke the week after the election. Oh well.

While watching the Saints slaughter the Bucs Sunday night there was a particular moment when all of sports twitter sighed in unison. It was 4th down. The Bucs were on the goal line. They used their last desperate chance in the game to throw a lame fade to the back corner, which was easily defended. Bruce Arians and his fancy offense came to the most important throw of the entire game and they called a goal line fade. What a waste.

Anyway I made a snarky tweet about voting for any candidate who will end goal line fades and someone pointed out that was ESPN’s Mina Kimes gimmick so now you have a comic about Mina Kimes getting my vote. Added in are two other plays that ruffle my ridges: 2nd and 10 runs, and my own personal nemesis – the 3rd and short pitch play.

Let’s start with the Fade. Since she is the star of this one, I’ll link Kimes herself shitting on the fade. The fade is an annoyingly common and irritatingly inefficient play. If you see a team get a 1st and goal inside the 5, chances are very good you’ll see one attempt at a fade. Teams know how to defend it by now. It is meant as basically a low-risk play. It takes zero time to execute and basically puts all the pressure on the QB throwing the ball so the WR can jump up and grab it, then toe tap. There’s little risk of double coverage or the play breaking down because the QB dumps it immediately. Thing is, unless you got yourselves a real tall boi receiver like Nuk or Julio, it usually just…doesn’t work. I’m far from some offensive expert but to me it feels like the most effective goal-line pass play usually involves a tight end/RB or maybe a slot receiver sneaking out parallel to the line and the QB dumping it before coverage can react. Using the Giants/TB game two weeks ago as an example, the Giants actually did this exact play on the 2pt conversion but because Daniel Jones is a bum he waited too long to throw it and it got defended instead of being an easy catch. I don’t know how to design those plays or why they work, but it always looks so easy when done right. Even when done perfectly, a fade looks like it’ll fail every time. I’ll admit I have a fondness baked in nostalgia for the fade though, it used to be Eli and Plaxico’s bread and butter. But Plax was tall as hell, and as soon as he shot himself off the team and Gilbride started calling fades to the likes of Cruz, or Steve Smith, or Nicks, or even OBJ later on, it just didn’t work. You need a big tall boy. I’m fine with the fade going away. It isn’t even that fun to watch, it feels like a low-risk waste of a down.

The 2nd play we can complain about is the 2nd and 10 run. This one has become the bane of statistical nerds as of late. Basically the team gets no yards on first down, so they decide to run it on second down, which almost inevitably gets maybe 4 yards, and then you’ve got 3rd and just long enough to be annoying. I think the stat people hate it for the same reason they hate the fade: it’s too conservative. It’s like “hey, we don’t want 3rd and long, so lets get 3rd and slightly less long”. The probability gods want you to go for it. Even a checkdown will probably land more yardage than a 2nd and 10 run. I don’t hate the 2nd and 10 run as much as most, but I can see the argument against it. Problem with this play is that it feels like it might depend on your team’s strengths. I trust Dalvin Cook on a 2nd and 10 run more than I do David Johnson. I trust Russell Wilson passing on 2nd and 10 far more than I trust whoever the Cowboys signed off the street to play QB this week.

The real play that rustles my jimmies and the secret reason I made this comic in the first place so I’d have a place to bitch about it, is the 3rd and short pitch play. I fucking hate this play. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it this year, and I can’t remember ever seeing it work. The first two plays I mentioned are hated because they are low-risk, conservative plays that aren’t fun and don’t really increase your chances that much. But they do help. The fade does give your team a low-risk chance to score. The 2nd down run does make it slightly easier on 3rd down. The 3rd down pitch play doesn’t do that at all. In fact, it makes everything worse, for no reason. It makes it so that instead of needing your RB to gain one or two yards for a first, they now have to gain roughly 5-6. Maybe more. When you are one yard from a first down, why the fuck are you pitching the ball backwards and off to the side away from your main blockers so that the runner now has to either bolt for the sideline and pray the outside WRs hold their blocks or wait patiently as the lineman get into place to open a hole. No matter what, the RB now has to gain roughly 5 yards for a first instead of 1.

Why do coaches keep calling this shit? Unless you have very athletic lineman who can get over to the side fast enough to pancake the DBs and outside linebackers or an exceptionally fast ball-carrier who can turn the corner quickly or juke like a motherfucker, this play is almost always dead in the water. If one defender sheds a block the ball carrier now has to spend precious nanoseconds dealing with that threat, giving the rest of the defense time to catch up and fill the holes. When you are that close to a first, the answer isn’t to go backwards first. The answer is to push. Most RBs can reliably gain a yard or two, even if your line sucks. You just gotta get enough push to open a slight hole and hope the RB can churn out some legwork. It can go through any of the gaps in the line. DON’T INSTEAD SEND THE BALL BACKWARDS.

The absolute worst iteration of this, that I’ve seen MULTIPLE TIMES this year, isn’t even just a pitch play on 3rd and one. It is a pitch play to the short side of the field, which practically negates the one advantage the play has: getting the ball into space. If the ball is lined up on the left hashmark, don’t call a fucking pitch play to the left side of the field you imbecile. Jason Garrett called this at one point and I almost flipped my desk. I kind of understand the pitch play as a 1st or 2nd down test that can work if used sparingly and you have the parts. But most of the time I see it get stuffed, or the guy gets shoved out of bounds at basically the line of scrimmage.

I’m not a big football brain who studies the stats because numbers are for nerds so who knows, maybe the play is actually an effective play by AdVaNcEd MeTrIcS. But like most people on the internet, I feel like I’m right about this. Fuck the 3rd and short pitch play.