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If You Run From The Shotgun On Short Yardage One More Time, I Will Murder You

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 13: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens fakes a handoff to running back Ty'Son Williams #34 against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on September 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Ravens 33-27 in overtime. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s new book, The Night The Lights Went Outthrough here.

The Miami Dolphins are shitty. They were able to mask this shittiness for a month and a half because they could credibly tell the world that they weren’t even the worst NFL team in the state of Florida. Then they went to London and handed the Jags their first win in 21 games. And when I say “handed,” I mean it. See for yourself.

That’s Tua Tagovailoa lining up out of the shotgun on fourth and a fucking foot. You already know that the QB sneak is the most effective short yardage play in football, with a success rate of nearly 90 percent. And Tagovailoa isn’t exactly a statue; he rushed for over seven yards per carry in the game. Did the Dolphins “brain"-trust note any of that before calling this play? They did not. Instead, they put Tagovailoa in the gun, made him hand the ball off to Malcolm Brown, and watched Brown get stoned at his own 46. The Jags needed all of five plays after that to get Matthew Wright in position to boot the winning field goal at the gun, kicking off an Urban Meyer redemption tour that absolutely no one wants.

For their sins, the Dolphins will now be one of four teams in league history to NOT receive a bye week after playing a London game. Instead, they’ll come back to Miami where a crowd of 10,000 bored fans will watch them get trucked by the Falcons. It’s what the Dolphins deserve. It should legal to throw produce at them from the stands.

But if you think the Dolphins were uniquely stupid to call for a shotgun formation in a vital short-yardage situation, you are sadly mistaken. NFL teams have already called shotgun runs on third or fourth down and less than a yard to go 77 times this season. According to Pro Football Focus, they've converted on 50 of those attempts, for an average success rate of 65 percent. You might think that’s tolerable, until you learn that the success rate increases by seven percent—no small amount—when those attempts come from under center.

And again, the sneak conversion rate is close to 90 percent. Line up under center and the defense has to honor the sneak, or a handoff to your most talented back. When you move the QB back into the gun, you relieve the defense of that fear. You’re doing them a favor. Never do the other team a fucking favor unless you’ve put money on them. Yet what do I see time and time again? I see head coaches and offensive coordinators desperate to reinvent the wheel and running the least necessary—not to mention least effective—play imaginable. Why not run across to the opposite sideline and ask Urban if he needs a fucking footrub and a hot towel while you’re at it? After all, he’s never been a well man. It’s only common courtesy to give him a break and let him walk all over you.

This is a scourge. Even college teams pull this shit. I saw Kentucky do it in their upset bid against Georgia on Saturday and I nearly drove down to Athens to punch them in the cock. The attempt failed. Of course it did. When I see teams line up out of the gun in short yardage now, I already know what’s about to transpire. I don’t even have to look.

I’ve hated the end zone fade route for so long that I needed a new pervasive coaching mistake to routinely rage out on. And this … this is it. You’re got a vital third or fourth down you need to convert. WHY IN THE LIVING FUCK ARE YOU HIKING THE BALL FIVE YARDS FARTHER BACK? Why are you making life for your offense that much more difficult? They needed an inch, you gave them a mile. As with the end zone fade, it’s the longest journey to the closest destination. It’s a geometric abomination, especially if you have a talented running quarterback at your disposal.

Now, can that QB also pass the ball instead of running some horrible shotgun iso play that’s doomed to fail? Yes. And, in fact, since 2000 (stats via Trumedia), the success rate passing from the gun on short yardage (anything less than two yards) is better than the success rate passing from under center in the same scenario. So you might think that since this is a passing league, making the pass your primary threat on these downs would prove to be beneficial. You are wrong. Even if you were right, you don’t need to line up out of the shotgun to force the defense to cover their asses outside of the tackle box. And even then, you should sneak the fucker.

I’m not Marty Schottenheimer. I’m not demanding you run Kevin Mack into a wall of defensive linemen over and over as your ultimate endgame strategy. But I don’t like it when teams make things harder on themselves than they need to be, and I REALLY don’t like it when they do so as a matter of routine. Stop using the gun on these downs, football coaches of the world. Or else I’ll cleat you in the fucking throat.

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

Five Throwgasms

Bengals at Ravens: What if this matchup ends up being the AFC title game? IT’S NOT OUTTA LINE TO ASK. Joe Burrow is exactly the kind of QB who can mask a shitty head coach’s mistakes for longer than that head coach deserves. I saw it happen in Green Bay. It can happen elsewhere.

Four Throwgasms

Chiefs at Titans: On Monday night the Titans got cheeky and tried to recreate the Music City Miracle, only this time it was DEFINITELY a forward pass.

The thing about this play is that if Chester Rogers actually HAD managed to throw a proper lateral (the gunner was bearing down on him, forcing him to rush it), that absolutely would have been a touchdown. I shouldn’t have to wait years at a time in between kick-ass trick return TDs. More important, there aren’t enough planned laterals in the NFL. Every coach is scared shitless of turning the ball over, so laterals are always dangerous and scary to them, especially if a player goes rogue and attempts one without authorization. The only time coaches themselves engineer a lateral is when they don’t feel like trying a Hail Mary at the end of a game. This is a tragedy. We could rugbify the NFL by at least 12 percent by calling for more gimmicky lateral plays on punt returns and first downs. Beats a fucking shotgun run.

Three Throwgasms

Bears at Bucs: As far as I’m concerned, the Bucs were the last NFL team to have a real uniform change, back in 1997 when they ditched the Creamsicle uniforms for the Marshalls men’s section palate they now currently use. The Broncos ditched their orange crush uniforms the year prior. The Eagles switched from kelly green to midnight green that same year. And the Patriots locked needlessly beloved Pat Patriot in a woodshed way back in 1992. Since that '90s upheaval, you have to look to the Dolphins in 2013, when they got rid of the dolphin wearing a helmet for whatever garbage they have now, to find any significant changes in a team’s uniform or color scheme. Even the WFT, who don’t even have their original name anymore, still wear video-game-that-failed-to-secure-licensing-rights versions of their old uniforms. I demand more total team color scheme/logo upheaval. The Jags and Panthers are still in teal, for fuck’s sake. Why? NBA and EPL teams change color schemes every WEEK.

Two Throwgasms

WFT at Packers: My son had a cold all week (non-COVID division) and passed his drippy nose onto me. Together, we’ve run through two full-size boxes of Kleenex in just the past few days alone, because our noses just keep drip drip dripping clear snot. It’s really fucking annoying. When I blow my nose, I want RESULTS. I wanna open up the tissue and see the mouth of Hades inside. Boogers that look like the product of an archaeological dig. Instead, I barely get anything, and then I have to blow my nose all over again a minute later. If I were still a bachelor, I could just sniffle 7,000 times an hour and save all that paper and effort. But I’m married, and if I sniffle one time too many, I get The Look from the missus. I should just chop my nose off. I can’t even smell anyway.

Saints at Seahawks: Even though the matchups have been shitty on paper, the primetime games have almost uniformly been excellent this season. This isn’t always the case. I remember a couple of years ago when SNF had at least 10 games in a row that ended with a double-digit margin. I’m still so scarred from that season that now I’ll see a matchup like this one, where Geno Smith is BY FAR the more sympathetic quarterback, and wave it off as a shit game that isn’t worth staying up for. Meanwhile it ends up going to overtime and then gets decided by a field goal attempt quadruple-doinking off the upright and landing in the mascot’s crotch. I should know better than to doubt a matchup like this. And yet, the idea of looking at Jameis’s stupid face for three-plus hours makes me wanna stab myself in the eye with a crab leg.

Eagles at Raiders: The Raiders are currently tied with the Jaguars for the league lead in false starts. Hard to believe the Raiders would be so undisciplined, but there you have it. Anyway, I used to play O-line and whenever I false started (it was a lot), I would catch myself right after twitching and try to pretend it never happened. Maybe if I hold perfectly still while my body slowly tips over, the ref will cut me a break! The ref never did, but I still tried to hide my shame right before the whistle anyway. It’s fucking humiliating to false start. Everyone saw it. Everyone knows it was you. Everyone wants to know why you, a guy who was informed of the snap count well in advance, couldn’t remember that snap count. It’s the worst.

And it’s no better for pro linemen either. Every false start, you can see those guys catching themselves and then wanting to die. I feel horrible for them, unless they play for my team in which case I want them dead.

Colts at Niners

One Throwgasm

Broncos at Browns: Baker Mayfield probably shouldn’t wait until the end of the season to get his shoulder operation. Opposing coaches do tend to notice when your arm is detached from the rest of your body and then they target it accordingly.

Panthers at Giants: My kids are old enough now where my wife and I don’t have to help them with their homework unless they’re really in a jam. And on the rare occasions we do, it’s almost a lock that we’ll be far more ignorant of the subject matter than our kids are at that moment. They’re always pissing and moaning about how they’ll never use any of this shit in the real world—the standard kid complaint—and I respond like a Good Dad and go, “Oh no, you’ll have to use math when tipping at a restaurant, see!” Then they ask me what homeostasis is and I freeze in place. NO idea. I haven’t heard that word since I was in school. Some words like homeostasis and mitochondria and protoplasm … those are all eternal school words to me. Ask me what they mean now and I’ll think you’re testing me on Star Wars shit.

Jets at Patriots

Texans at Cardinals

Lions at Rams

Falcons at Dolphins

Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“A Clear And Present Rager,” by Nuclear Power Trio! How can you resist that entire combination of words? You can’t. From Patrick:

These Denver based thrashers are on top of their game musician wise and timely as hell. And it's just a damn catchy song and amusing video. 

It is. I wish it had vocals, but then again a lot of thrash vocals end up being an unpleasant surprise. Also, NPT is wearing Putin/Trump/Kim Jong-un masks all throughout this video, so that makes singing difficult strictly from a logistical perspective. But they’ve got some big fat fucking riffage, and that pleases me.

Worst Quarterback In The League Of The Week

Davis Mills! While you and I watch the Texans make every last-ditch attempt they can to offload Deshaun Watson for more than just a bag of pretzel rods, you shouldn’t lose sight of what’s going on with the Texans’ offense at the present. Davis Mills was supposed to spend his rookie year on the third string. Instead, he’s now yet another 2021 rookie QB eating shit by the handful. This poor bastard is the victim of the Texans’ nincompoopery, and I feel bad for him. To a point. He also sucks.

Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!

Allied Discount Tires! Featuring immortal Orlando Man Sam Behr! From Christopher:

This guy, Sam Behr, owned a shoe store in downtown Orlando and was a local legend for his commercials for AL-EYED DISCOUN TIIAHS.

Obviously the sales pitch here is that Allied Tires offer “hand-torqued nuts,” and yes Ol’ Sam up there very much knows that’s a double entendre. He’s a charmer, as local pitchmen go. But lemme tell you something: I don’t want my lugnuts hand-torqued. I want the pit crew lugnut drill. I’m not trusting Billyjoejimbob at Allied to secure my tires by hand. That’s loony shit. I want automation. Save the hand-crafting for, like, soba noodle joints.

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2021 chopping block:

Jon Gruden – FIRED!!!!
Urban Meyer*
Dan Campbell
Matt Nagy – OWNED!
Joe Judge*
Kyle Shanahan
Pete Carroll
Brian Flores*
Robert Saleh
David Culley
Ron Rivera
Nick Sirianni
Matt Rhule
Bill Belichick
Vic Fangio

(* - potential midseason firing)

Let’s check in on how the Joe Judge Experiment is going, shall we?

One thing I like about the Giants is that they’re so obsessed with looking dignified that they’ll go right ahead and keep Sgt. Hulka cosplayers like Judge and Dave Gettleman around for YEARS rather than admit that they hired a couple of brainless shitheads. It’s a deep and lasting form of self-mortification that never fails to entertain me. I the Gettleman/Judge duo remains in place until Giants players have no choice but to murder them both.


The Night The Lights Went Out is now available everywhere books are sold. Now normally, that release would coincide with me going across the country on the publisher’s dime to hold live readings and then make merry with all of you at a nearby tavern after the fact. But the pandemic lingers, and even big shot authors have had to limit their public appearances, if not rule them out entirely. So in-person events for my new book are gonna be scant, and virtual events might be as well.

But tonight is an exception. Tonight at 7:30 ET I’m doing a live event over Zoom with Roth and writer Patrick Sauer for their ongoing Squawkin’ Sports series with Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. Anyone can come so long as they register at this link. So join us for an hour of solid diversion before you tune into Broncos-Browns and immediately regret it.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Mike sends in this story I call FANNYSHACK:

I love golf, and in 2008 my buddies and I did a Scotland golf trip. Time zone hopping usually throws me off my poop schedule; Scottish cuisine didn't help either. The morning of our big round at the Old Course at St. Andrews, I had a problem. I was in that purgatory where you know a poop is coming within the hour, but the logistics of your day are such that you don't have an hour. Either you squeeze out a preemie poop, or you roll the dice and hope your bowels and toilet access line up. We were running a little late, and the course was only 20 minutes away, so I figure I'd roll the dice.

During the drive, the steak pie from the night before rolled over and my intestines went to DEFCON-1. I announce to all that I'm in a bad way and this could be a photo finish. We arrive at the course just in time for me to run into the clubhouse, the locker room, the stall, and drop my pants. This was a major championship poop, and the toilets at St. Andrews were not equipped for it. It was unquestionably the biggest poop I'd taken in my life. The speed and volume exhausted me. After standing to survey, I decide it would be wrong (and possibly dangerous) to add toilet paper to this mix. Best to flush it down then wipe. Yet, it wouldn't go down. Flush after flush just flowed around it. Meanwhile our tee time was getting closer. I decided to solve this the American way: say nothing and leave it for somebody else to clean up. I head to another stall for a quick wipe, and then leave premises with that quick, "I just shoplifted something" walk. 

Oh wow, the vaunted “move to another stall” move. I can’t say definitively if I’ve ever done this myself, but I don’t put it past Young Drew to have that kinda gall.

Gametime Snack Of The Week

A good old fashioned passion fruit smoothie. Does this scream gameday to you? No. Have I morphed into a smoothie guy in middle age? Not as of yet. Would YOU turn down a passion fruit smoothie if offered one? Fuck no, you wouldn’t. I will consume anything with passion fruit in it: smoothies, ice cream, custards, candy, a passion fruit cheesesteak… anything. My lust for it knows no bounds. One time my wife and I went out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary and the restaurant served passion fruit crème brulee. I’ll never eat a better dessert. When I die, fuck the park bench. Bury me in passion fruit pulp instead.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Simpler Times Lager! When you need to get drunk fast but you accept only the finest Trader Joe’s private label products, Simpler Times is here to bring you back to a better, drunker period of life. From Noe:

These are found at most Trader Joe's I've visited. $3.99 for a six-pack or $6.99 for a twelve pack! They're a bit strong too at 6.2% so it's a great value. My old roommate and I used to drink these while watching the Raiders get blown out.

No better way to watch the Raiders. I live in a state that forbids the sale of alcohol in virtually all grocery stores, which remains both pointless and irritating. So I back in the 2000s would commute to my ad job in Virginia and then, as a treat, stop into the Trader Joe’s there to stock up on Two Buck Chuck to bring back home. Made me feel like a prime wheeler dealer. Virginia is a shit state, but at least it has no laws.

By the way, Trader Joe’s uses latex produce bags, which are better than the environment than plastic ones. But if you’ve ever touched one of these bags … you know the horror of them. They’re almost kinda wet. It’s very disturbing.

Dan Campbell’s Clump Dog Of The Week: Jeffery Simmons

“See now, THAT’S a play. That’s what I wanna see out of my guys. I don’t think it’s much to ask of them to be true bloodsharks out there. But to be honest with you … [remains silent for two minutes while choosing his words as carefully as possible] … look, I think we need to be a little more ragier.”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Lions Fans

Black Widow. I will never get over Marvel using a slowed-down version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in the opening credits for this thing. It’s the nadir of the form. These fucking studios won’t pony up for original recordings of good songs, so instead they license a shit cover instead and pass it off as deep. I could barely concentrate on the rest of the movie, I was so appalled. But I soldiered on, and I was glad I did for the bulk of Black Widow’s running time, because it jettisons a lot of superhero shit in favor of being a straight-up action movie. This is a general pivot that all big-ass movies need to make. More guns, fewer beams. And Ray Winstone is the bad guy for this one, which is always the right move. So long as you got Ray Winstone in your movie, and so long as he isn’t calling Harrison Ford “Jonesy,” you’ve got potential. Ditto Florence Pugh.

But the final half-hour of Black Widow rubs out all of that good will with a piece-of-shit ending, where Winstone turns out to be The Patriarchy and ScarJo girlbosses him and his flying fortress (always with the flying fortresses) into oblivion. I could hear the studio execs plotting this ending in my head as I was watching it. Did I hang around for the obligatory post-credits teaser? Fuck and no, I didn’t.

I enjoyed Loki, almost exclusively because of the acting talent on display, but every other Marvel thing post-Endgame is quickly proving to be a waste of time.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Actually Homer, that's just one. See, each pushup includes both an up part and a down part.”

Enjoy the games, everyone.

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