Unfortunately, Colts coach Chuck Pagano is done talking about the fake punt fiasco that marred his team’s Sunday night game against the Patriots. Fortunately, Colts punter Pat McAfee isn’t.
Appearing on The Bob and Tom Show, McAfee offered the best explanation yet regarding the design of the play, the intended outcome, and the reason for the miscommunication that blew the whole thing up.
“The point of the play is a deception play,” McAfee said, via Colts.com. “So, you’re trying to manipulate the [opponent] into thinking they have to sub their defense back on. We are sprinting to the sideline in hopes to make the other team think we are subbing our offense back onto the field. So, when they think the offense is coming back on the field, your hope is that they think their defense has to come back on the field. . . . As soon as their defense comes back on the field, we snap it, steal five yards, and we get a first down. So there’s the intention of it. That’s the thought. . . .”
That was the thought, but there was a problem in the execution, due to an injury.
“The gunner who became the center all week was [safety] Clayton Geathers,” McAfee said. “Clayton Geathers gets injured in the second quarter. Insert Griff Whalen who had never done it before. So Griff Whalen is now the new center in a play he’s never practiced before.”
To make things worse, Whalen didn’t know that a wrinkle had been added to the play — an effort to draw the Patriots offside if they didn’t fall for the 12-man banana in he tailpipe.
“Last week [in practice], Griff is at the other end catching my punts,” McAfee said. “We added something to try and draw them offsides if they don’t do their substitution. Griff never got the heads up this was happening, because it’s not in the playbook. Stanford guy, reads the playbook, knows everything he has to do, but if he’s not there for an audible that’s added, he can’t know. . . .
“Griff has no idea we’re trying to draw the guy offsides because in the play it says if we get under center, snap it. So Colt Anderson is trying to draw a guy offsides to pick up an easy five yards. If not, we just don’t snap it. We take a delay of game.
“Griff goes, ‘His hands aren’t supposed to be on my ass. If I feel him right now, I’m supposed to snap it.’ So this is a 100 percent miscommunication. It’s literally a miscommunication.”
But a “miscommunication” implies an effort to communicate that somehow failed. In this case, the more accurate description would be a non-communication, because no one bothered to tell the replacement gunner/center that he shouldn’t snap the ball when he feels Anderson’s hands on his ass.
And from Whalen’s perspective, he did exactly what he had been told to do. He snapped the ball when he felt Anderson’s hands on Whalen’s ass. So of all the guys to blame, Whalen deserve the least of it. Actually, he deserves none of it.
McAfee separately confirmed to PFT that the plan was never to actually snap the ball, unless the Patriots were caught with 12 men on the field. I also asked him why the play proceeded after the Geathers injury forced a guy who was unprepared to run the play into one of its most important roles.
“We proceeded with it because Griff Whalen is highly trusted on our team,” McAfee told PFT. “He knows the whole playbook, [he] just wasn’t a part of the last-second addition of the ‘try and get them to jump offsides if we don’t catch them attempting to sub.'”
But that’s arguably all the more reason to not use the play at all. And McAfee’s candor, which has been trumpeted by the team’s website, arguably makes a bad situation worse for the Colts.