Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?

Drew Magary's Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Buy Drew's new book, The Postmortal, through here. Find more of his stuff at his Twitter feed.

The Eagles ran a fake punt on Monday Night. And oh, it was set up beautifully. Both gunners were left completely uncovered. There wasn't a soul within five yards of either receiver. It was like the Bears were handing the Eagles a free first down. It was a perfectly good call to make, even if these things have a way of blowing up in Andy Reid's face.

That, of course, is exactly what happened next. The ball was snapped to punter Chas Henry (so quickly that the Monday Night camera crew completely missed it), and then Henry let loose the single shittiest pass ever. It landed ten yards in front of the receiver. I swear the ghost of Fat Donovan McNabb possessed Henry's arm and made him drive that ball right into the ground. After that, the Bears took over, kicked a field goal, and the Eagles were finished.

Now, I love fake punts and fake field goals. They're so exciting, I wish every single punt and field goal were a fake. Every time there's a fake punt, I audibly gasp and say HOLY SHIT! And if it's successful, I rewind it and watch it a million times, giving it my own color commentary. "Look at that. Completely fooled the linebackers. WHAT A PLAY, EVERYONE."

But as much as I like fake punts and field goals, I suspect that, statistically speaking, they serve no purpose. There's only one advantage to running a fake punt or field goal on fourth down, and that's the element of surprise. And that element of surprise is never a given. There's always a danger of the defense recognizing it, which negates any chance of the play succeeding. And even if you do manage to surprise the opponent, you're still running a fourth down play with personnel ill-suited to running an effective offensive play.

The Eagles had the element of surprise on Monday Night and their fake punt still failed, because Chas Henry throws like a fucking girl. Wouldn't they have been better off putting the offense out there for that 4th and 6 and running a real play? With the starting offense out there, you have options at your disposal (particularly with a running QB like Mike Vick). With Chas Henry at QB, you're a bit more compromised. The element of surprise may never be worth it.

Obviously, not all fake punt and field goal situations are alike. On fake field goals, you have the holder (often a backup QB moonlighting) throwing the ball, which is better than throwing Chas Henry as your surprise QB. Or you can forgo throwing the ball on a fake punt and snap directly to the upback, as the Patriots did in the playoffs against the Jets last season. That fake punt also failed miserably, despite the fact that the defense didn't see it coming. Again, a team favored the element of surprise over using their starting offense to convert a fourth down. The result was a botched snap and a Patriots loss. A wonderful, wonderful Patriots loss.

The current leaguewide 4th down conversion average is 45% (98/216). The percentage is higher at 4th and 1, then drops as you progress downward to 4th and long. Despite an exhaustive Google search (seriously, I spent two whole minutes looking around, which counts as a Herculean effort in the age of digital research), I found no historic success rate for fake field goals and punts. I suspect that the percentage is lower than 45%, only because so many things have to go right for a fake to work. The defense needs to be caught off guard. The person executing the fake needs to do a good job at something they don't normally do. And Andy Reid can't be your head coach when it happens. I asked Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders if there was any validity to the idea that fakes are NEVER a better option than using your best offensive personnel:

I think "do fake FG and fake punts work" is a valid question, sure. But it does get into complex questions of the expected value of a punt, or a FG, compared to going for it normally or trying a fake, and of course you can argue that the playcalls on fakes are so different from each other that you can't judge them all together.

Fair point. We may never know. Then again, the fact that this argument may only exist in abstracts means I totally don't need evidence to back up my spurious claim. ALWAYS PUT THE OFFENSE OUT THERE IF YOU'RE GOING FOR IT OR ELSE YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF IN A WORLD OF SHIT.

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

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?S

Five Throwgasms

Lions at Bears: Jaws and Gruden were fucking insufferable last Monday night, even more so than usual. Every time someone made a play, you got Jaws effusively praising everyone involved for five goddamn minutes, like he was a motivational speaker trying to boost their confidence. LOOK AT MATT FORTE. THE SPEED. THE QUICKNESS. THE LATERAL AGILITY. HE'S GOT IT ALL! And then Gruden would come chiming in with his fucking John Wayne accent. WELL HOWDY PARDNERS. It's unbearable. And do you know what the worst part is? They LAUGH. They compliment, then they laugh, then they compliment some more, and then they laugh some more, as if all they can do in the wake of seeing competent football is just throw up their hands and giggle incredulously. It's pro football. Players are going to do really cool shit out on the field. I don't need you to tell me that Matt Forte is good. That's plain as day. I hate these people. I wish one of them would insult gay people on the air and be forced to resign the next day.

One thing about the Bears: The way they call plays is that Mike Martz sends the play down to the QB coach, who then sends it to Cutler. This is why they are forced to burn so many timeouts early in games, and they've done NOTHING to fix the problem. Are they fucking retarded? Why can't Martz just give the play to Cutler directly? Does the QB coach needs to add napkins and ketchup packets to the order?

UPDATE: Reader Erik sets me straight:" Only a coach on the sideline can communicate with the quarterback's headset radio. Last year, Martz was down on the sideline and called plays directly. This year, he decided that he was more comfortable watching up in the booth. This has created the extended game of telephone which has resulted in more delays of game."

Steelers at Bengals: Someone suggested to radio host Steve Czaban that Andy Dalton should put black streaks in his hair so that it resembles the Bengals helmet. I want this to happen so badly, I may have to accost Dalton in an alleyway with a can of spray paint just to make it happen.

Patriots at Jets: I took my kid to Barnes & Noble the other day because I had no other good ideas. Every B&N store has a little Thomas The Tank Engine set in the children's books department, and the scene around the train set is never anything short of full-on ARMAGEDDON. There are always nine kids crowded around the set, each one trying to hoard as many train pieces as humanly possible. And there's always one kid who's WAY too old to be playing with trains monopolizing the set and pushing the little kids out of the way and you want to be like HEY! YOU LITTLE CUNT! GO PLAY VIDEOGAMES LIKE A NORMAL EIGHT-YEAR-OLD. And then your kid will try and do one loop around the track with his little Thomas piece and his progress will be impeded by eight other kids, and it never occurs to your kid to GO THE FUCK AROUND other kids. No, no, they have to PLOW right through the crowd, and then you have to explain to your kid that other children are tangible and you must avoid them. Then some other little shit kid pushes your kid and you have to restrain yourself from kicking that kid's ass AND kicking the parent's ass as well. What I'm saying is: avoid Barnes & Noble. It'll be gone soon anyway.

Giants at Niners: God, I wish the Giants played New England every week. They should be placed in a two-team division or something. I'd also like to thank the Giants defensive line for bringing kickass face masks back to the NFL. Chris Canty's face mask looks like he ripped off a jail cell door and welded it to his helmet. I love it. The more squares, the better.

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?S

Four Throwgasms

Saints at Falcons: I let my hair grow too long this month (untamed Drew!) and I wore a baseball hat the other day. And when your hair is too long and you wear a baseball cap, you know what comes next: HAT SCALP. Oh God, why must it hurt so badly? I just wanted to look cool in front of my bros!

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?

Three Throwgasms

Texans at Bucs: I know Dickey made fun of the Times for reporting on NFL football delaying "The Good Wife," but it's a legit gripe for any TV viewer: Why the fuck does CBS cling to a Sunday Night primetime schedule that starts at 7PM? It makes no goddamn sense. "60 Minutes" NEVER starts on time. That's why every Sunday, you get Jim Nantz telling people at 7PM, "Hey, if you're looking for 60 Minutes, it'll be on in 40 minutes or so. GO PATS!" Why don't they just move "60 Minutes" back to 7:30 or 8 and move "The Amazing Race" to some other night? I can't imagine anyone who watches "The Amazing Race" will be heartbroken about it. OH NO! MY WEEKLY AAMAZING RACE PARTY HAS BEEN RUINED!!!

A while back, the people at FOX decided to air "The OT" after late games, so that primetime programming always started at 8. That makes sense. I'd hate to see the three people who love "American Dad" miss out on anything.

Bills at Cowboys: Ever get a disappointing booger? You reach in, you think you've grabbed hold of a real whale of a booger, and you pull it out and it's just a little speck? So, so disappointing. Like finding an old shoe at the end of your fishing rod. I wish there were an iPad app that helped locate boogers and projected their size.

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?

Two Throwgasms

Raiders at Chargers (tonight): It's Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock's Lisp as your Thursday Night crew! YEEHAW WOOHOO SEE YOU ON THE FUCKING DOLE, JOE THEISMANN. I love Brad Nessler. He's utterly forgettable, and I mean that as a compliment. He never gets in the way. I'm never like, "God, I wish Nessler would SHUT THE FUCK UP." (I do this with Jaworski every five seconds) Also, he has a nice voice. A sultry voice. I want to clone him and put him on every game.

Vikings at Packers: I watched Christian Ponder lead the Vikings to a victory over the Panthers two weeks ago and I nearly barfed with excitement. After it was over, I spent the whole night picturing myself as his head coach, talking to the press about how he played out there and what he needed to do. "Obviously, Pondo (that's my imaginary name for him) made a couple of bad throws, but I gotta tell you guys, I'm real happy with what I saw out there. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go drink some scotch in my lavishly appointed head coach's office." Being the imaginary head coach of a rookie QB is endless fun. Makes a 2-6 record completely tolerable.

Broncos at Chiefs: I was looking in the mirror the other day when I thought I spotted a looped beard hair. In other words, I thought the hair went out one pore and went back into my face at another pore. I was so fascinated, I considered calling the National Institutes of Health to admit myself as Patient Zero of a looped facial hair study. Turns out it was just really curly. THE MORE YOU KNOW.

Titans at Panthers
Ravens at Seahawks

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?

One Throwgasm

Cardinals at Eagles: Watch any Eagles game and you will see the analyst spend five minutes talking about Trent Cole's stance. Look at him crouch! His head is down! SO UNCONVENTIONAL.

Redskins at Dolphins: Leave it to the Redskins to play "Top of The World" by Van Halen in the their home stadium after the OPPOSING team scores a touchdown. It doesn't get any better than being down 13-3, does it? LIFE IS SWEET.

Jaguars at Colts: A man in town killed himself this week by jumping in front of a Metro train. Seriously, what a dick move. Bad enough that you kill yourself and leave your loved ones shocked and grieving, but then you had to go and ruin everyone else's commute? WHAT AN ASSHOLE.

Rams at Browns

Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

"Nexus Icon," by the Wildhearts. I again find myself sick of my own song library. I'm sorry, but having 3,509 songs lasting a total of 9.2 days simply isn't doing it for me right now. MY MIRACULOUS INSTANT SONG CATALOG CAUSES ME GREAT INDIFFERENCE. By all means, send in your choices for this slot. I'm sure you've had quite enough of me pimping Queens of the Stone Age every week.

Embarrassing Song I Like That Will Not Fire You Up

"Are You Happy Now?" by Michelle Branch. I won't lie. When this song comes on over the loudspeaker at the gym, I purposely dress a little bit slower just so I can listen to it. I feel great shame. Apparently, I am actually a scorned 13-year-old girl. Reader Rob feels the same way:

I have been cleaning out my iPod this week and I just remembered how much I fucking LOVE Michelle Branch. I just want to put her on, sit by myself, and cry. Am I weird?

We both are, it would seem.

/hums "The Game of Love" to self when no one is around

Gregg Easterbrook Is A Haughty Dipshit

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?

Reader Kevin takes umbrage with this section from ESPN's favorite asshole bible thumper:

"The Dark Knight" — TMQ's nominee for the worst motion picture ever made — used Chicago for its location shots of Gotham City. The 2012 sequel, "The Dark Knight Rises" — I am guessing Warner Brothers won't invite me to a preview — uses Pittsburgh and New York to stand in for Gotham. Two American cities couldn't be more different physically than pancake-flat Manhattan and hilly Pittsburgh. But hey, it's a movie.

Kevin writes: "Does he understand that it's possible to use other cities to stand in for Gotham because the whole it's-not-real-a-place thing? He can't be that big of an asshole to not understand how film works and that real world locations stand in for fictional universes, can he? Hell, real world locations stand in for real world locations because of costs and time of year. What a fucktard."

I have terrible news for Easterbrook: Turns out that "Casablanca" was NOT filmed in Casablanca. TOTALLY INVALIDATES THE FILM. I think the reason Gregg really hated "The Dark Knight" was because Batman uses a GLOREE BOY face shield. Totally for the sake of vanity. Disgusting.

The first season of "Fringe" was filmed in New York, though the setting was supposed to be Boston... Here's a crazy thought: Why can't producers simply use Boston to represent Boston?

Well, Gregg, the reason is why is because you've never produced a film, and therefore have no clue as to which municipalities offer decent tax breaks for film productions, and which are willing to cooperate with filmmakers when they need to film exterior shots. Also, you're a simplistic fuckburglar.

And "Fringe" is a four-season major-network TV show revolving around a female protagonist with absolutely zero sex appeal. That's a landmark for something or other.

Jesus. The fuck did Anna Torv ever do to you?

Readers including Claire Mitchell of San Francisco have written to note that the Crabtree Curse proclaimed by TMQ no longer afflicts the Forty Niners.

Well Claire, the reason why the Curse no longer afflicts them is because it DOESN'T FUCKING EXIST.

The Crabtree Curse was that Mike Singletary finished 8-5 without Michael Crabtree and 10-17 with him. This year the Niners are rolling. Singletary was cursed because he drafted Crabtree. Harbaugh/West did not, and so the curse does not impact him.

HOLY SHIT WHAT A CUNT. Yes, it's true. Michael Crabtree is now a completely different entity now that he plays under a different coach. Makes perfect sense. Meanwhile, this is the same fuckhead that spends eight paragraphs bitching about plot inconsistencies on "Terra Nova".

Say, how's that Julio Jones working out for Atlanta, Gregg? Surely, the Falcons will rue spending all those draft picks on a glamour boy from a Top 5 school, especially now that he and Roddy White are imaginary hippity hop rivals!

(Julio Jones) outran the corner, then turned undrafted rookie safety Joe Lefeged inside-out with a move, then legged it 80 yards to the end zone. Suddenly the Jones megatrade looks good, while the Colts drop to 0-9.

Suddenly, your old theories about Jones look trite and stupid.

Finally, reader Chris points out this section:

Troy Polamalu has been a great player over the years, but he's a safety, and try to find him in the picture on (Torrey) Smith's touchdown. Baltimore receivers are going to the end zone on both sides of the field with the clock almost at all-naughts, and Polamalu stayed short as if he expected a run.

Chris says, "The reason Polamalu isn't in the shot is that he's playing on the other half the field. The blown coverage on the TD was Ryan Clark the other safety. This was even pointed out by the SNF crew."

Suicide Picks Of The Week
Last week's picks of Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston went 3-0 (22-5 on the year). Time to pick three potential teams for your suicide pool and something that makes you WANT to commit suicide. This week's picks? Baltimore, Jacksonville, Philly, and announcers saying a team will "hit you in the mouth". Howie Long said it about the Niners last week. That is the single most inexplicable cliche that football announcers use. It doesn't even mean anything. Hitting another player in the mouth is completely illegal. Sounds a little bit creepy, frankly. And yet, the phrase is all over NFL coverage. THEY'LL HIT YOU IN THE MOUTH! THEY'RE REAL MOUTH-HITTERS! Idiotic.

Postmortal Audio Book
The audio book of "The Postmortal" will be released On December 5th. You can order it here. Holy shit, FIFTY BUCKS? Man, you must really hate the shit out of reading if you're willing to pony up that much. Here are the remaining book tour dates. Please note that the Gelf Magazine thing was moved back to Brooklyn.

11/17 (7:30PM) - Brooklyn, NY (Pacific Standard - details here.)
11/30 (7PM) - Milwaukee, WI (Boswell Book Company)
12/1 (7PM) - Chicago, IL (Book Cellar)

Nazi Shark's Vegas Lock Of The Week
Lots of sports sites, to demonstrate the arbitrary nature of gambling, like to have animals like monkeys pick games to see if they can outwit their human counterparts. There's no reason we at Deadspin can't also get in on the fun. So we've asked National Socialist German Workers' Party member Rolf, who also happens to be a shark, to pick one game a week. Take it away, Nazi shark.

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?

"This week, I like the Bills getting 5.5 points on the road against the Cowboys. You know, there's an interesting parallel one can draw between the rioting students at Penn State and the German citizens who fell under Hitler's spell during the Third Reich. With the proper blend of influence and intimidation, it's frightening how easily people can get behind a cause that the outside world might find appalling. It's enough to make you think that free will is an illusion, that any man can become part of a herd mentality, that perhaps we are not fully in control of our own thoughts and actions. And man, that is a WONDERFUL notion. JOIN ME AT MY WHITE POWER PLANKTONBAKE OR I WILL EAT YOU."

2011 Nazi Shark Record: 6-3.

Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Mike D sends in this poop story I call GONE POOPIN':

I was vacationing in Northern WI on the Manitowish Waters chain of 10 lakes. We were staying in a 3 bedroom home with my in-laws, 10 people in all. My brother-in-law Rick and I decided to go early morning fishing at 5 am before the rest of the family would join us around 8 am.

After about an hour of fishing and no bites, a rumble hits my colon. I try to ignore it and hope that everything is just reorganizing itself for a mid-morning deuce. No such luck. After about 20 minutes of the pressure building and building, I finally call no mas and convince my Brother-in-law to take me back to the bait shop so I can relieve myself. He sits down to start up the boat, while I stand next to him, knowing that sitting down would give my body the false sense that full evacuation was imminent. Rick, sensing my discomfort, drops the hammer.

Tearing across the lake at 45 mph, a small Tupperware that held some delicious summer sausage began to flutter on the deck of the boat, only seconds away from taking flight. I take a step forward to pick it up prevent it from flying into the lake. At the same time, Rick notices the fishing regulation pamphlet begin to flutter in much the same way so he slams the boat back into neutral. I go flying forward as the boat goes from 45 to 0 in a split second. As I careen towards the trolling motor on the front of the boat, every muscle in my body shifts from the "Don't shit your pants" mode to the "Don't fucking die" mode. I have shit my pants. It was not just that a little squirt leaked out. It was a full and complete voiding of my bowels. It was both awful and a wonderful feeling of relief all rolled into one.

Rick ask if I was alright and I reply, "I am fine, but I just shit my pants." Rick chuckles thinking that I was making a joke in reference to the scare of flying across the boat. He quickly realized that I was not joking, and begins to laugh with his whole body as he chokes out, "You seriously shit your pants?" We slowly proceeded back to the cabin. I stood with my legs straight and spread to prevent the constant squishing of the now ice cold crap sandwich that was in my pants.

Rick cycles between honest empathy for my situation, 3rd grader-type snickering, and uncontrollable laughter. After what seemed like an eternity, we docked the boat back at the cabin at around 7:30 am. Terrified that the entire family would be waiting for us to arrive and chat about our angling success, I snuck through the garage, grabbed a garbage bag and headed for the bathroom. I turned the shower to ice cold, because the thought of the shit stench being mixed with hot humid air repulsed me. I hopped in fully clothed and peeled off every thread of clothing and deposited it in the garbage bag. I scrubbed for a good five minutes with a bar of soap, that was then also deposited into the garbage bag. I got dressed and came out to the entire family laughing hysterically as Rick had just delivered the "Mike shit his pants" punch line. I smiled and waved kindly, and headed back out fishing with my bag of shit clothes in tow to be dropped in the first public garbage can that I could find.

Still probably doesn't smell as bad as a tackle box.

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 2011 chopping block:

• Tony Sparano*
• Jim Caldwell*
• John Fox
• Jack Del Rio
• Ken Whisenhunt
• Hue Jackson
• Mike Shanahan
• Andy Reid
• Norv Turner

* - Could happen any moment!)

Let's welcome back Andy Reid, everyone. You knew he wouldn't be able to go three straight games with a proper run/pass ratio.

Chris Johnson Memorial Fantasy Player That Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death
Reader Mark is not happy about Miles Austin or Miles Austin's hamstring:

Austin, you should be slowly dipped into a boiling witch's cauldron made up of sperm and Oprah sweat, with a little hint of oregano, then have Guy Fieri make his O face when he takes his first bite of you.

Gametime Snack Of The Week

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?

Miniature cupcakes, which are much better than regulation size cupcakes because they're much, much easier to eat. When you get down to the last bite of a regulation-size cupcake, it's a complete disaster. The last part of frosting usually falls off. There are crumbs everywhere. You have a dollop of frosting up one nostril already. It's a pain in the ass. With minis, you just eat the whole goddamn thing in one bite. No muss, no fuss.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?

Aass! That's right! AASS! Greatest beer name EVER. Reader Matt sends in this Norwegian brew:

I enjoyed this up in Norway a couple of weeks ago. Apparently they have extra letters in the Norwegian alphabet, one of them being "Aa" pronounced "au." Regardless, it never ceased to be funny asking for a "cold refreshing Ass" to the amazingly gorgeous bartenders they have up there. It didn't taste that bad if you're wondering, and ended up being one of the more cheaper things Norway has to offer.

Look at that can. I swear that half of all Norwegian letters are in strikethrough font. I MUST HAVE IT. And I'm not being a smartaass about it.

Robert Evans' MVP Watch!
Time to start thinking about who the leaders are for the NFL's MVP award. So every week, legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans will join us to give us his assessment. Take it away, Mr. Evans.

Are All Fake Field Goals And Fake Punts Useless?

"Baby, my favorite for the NFL's MVP this year is still Aaron Rodgers of the Packers! This whole Penn State business reminded me of a crisis I experienced while making The Godfather, specifically when it came to handling the legendary ABE VIGODA! Now, it was no secret around town that ol' Abe liked to tag a youngster now and again. But studios agreed that Abe could keep on working so long as there weren't any child actors around him on the set (this is why he's not in the baptism sequence). Well, one day I'm in my office at Paramount and a little Mexican production assistant comes running in.

"'Senor Evans!' he shouts. 'I saw the Meester Veegoda with his pepe in a boy's flauta!' Sickening? YOU BET! Perverse? HOPPER HAS DONE WORSE. So I grab the little fella and I slap him, hard as I can. And I tell him, 'Why are you telling me this, you little fucker? THIS IS A CLASS A PICTURE WE'VE GOT GOING ON HERE. WE DON'T HAVE THE BUDGET FOR A NEW TESSIO!' And I fired him on the spot. Now, you might think Evans did the wrong thing here. But I'm in charge of the whole SHE-BANG, baby! No Vigoda, and the whole studio collapses! EVANS IS BACK TO SELLING SHOES! Couldn't be done. Later that night, I ate pistachios and held a midget orgy. Cleanses the ethical palette. "

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Dolphins Fans

The Woodsman. Wholly appropriate this week.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
Homer: Boy, you don't have to follow in my footsteps.

Bart: Don't worry, I don't even like using the bathroom after you.

Homer: Why you little!

Enjoy the games, everyone.