Pat McAfee: Griff Whalen Wasn’t Original Center in Failed 4th Down Fake
Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee clarified Tuesday morning on the Bob and Tom Show that wide receiver Griff Whalen wasn’t the actual center when the team practiced their failed 4th down play previously last week:
Instead, it was rookie safety Clayton Geathers as the original center in practice, who was forced to leave the game earlier because of a knee injury:
"“The gunner who then became the center all week was Clayton Geathers,” said Pat McAfee Tuesday morning on the show. “Clayton Geathers gets injured in the 2nd quarter. Insert Griff Whalen, who had never done it before. Okay, so Griff Whalen is now the new center in a play that he’s never practiced before.”“Last week, when Griff was not around because he’s at the other end catching my punts,” explained McAfee. “We’re working it with the punt team. Griff is catching punts. We added something to try to draw them offsides if they don’t do their substitution there. Griff never got the heads up that this was happening because it’s not in the playbook.”"
According to McAfee, Whalen wasn’t actually at fault, because he did everything the playbook originally said to. Specifically, Whalen’s only fault was that he wasn’t aware of the audible change because he had been returning punts as normal instead of working with the rest of the special teams unit on that particular play:
"“Stanford guy reads the playbook, knows everything he has to do, but if he’s not there for an audible that is added, he can’t know,” added McAfee. “So, Griff has no idea that we’re going to try to draw the guy offsides because in the playbook, it says, ‘If get under center, snap it’.”“So Colt Anderson (quarterback) is trying to draw a guy offsides to pick up an easy 5 yards and if not, we just don’t snap it and take the delay of game,” concluded McAfee. “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% miscommunication.”"
Of course, what infamously ensued is now one of the most poorly run 4th down fakes in NFL history:
Still, given what McAfee said, it doesn’t make Whalen out to be the full blown scapegoat that he was initially thought to be. Given his limited knowledge of the playcall, Whalen did exactly what he was supposed to do. It was more of a miscommunication error than anything regarding him actually snapping the football under those circumstances.
That being said, it’s still on head coach Chuck Pagano and even special teams coach Tom McMahon to ensure that Whalen knew exactly what he was supposed to do on that special teams fake playcall, especially since he hadn’t practiced it with the rest of the unit.
Given Whalen’s high importance on that particular special teams play and overall unfamiliarity playing ‘center’ in it–having filled in for Geathers, he should’ve been instructed previously by the coaching staff in detail, both what to do and what not to do under each particular circumstance.
It seems like there was a communication breakdown not just between the special teams players themselves, but also the coaching staff. That simply can’t happen in a crucial game on a pivotal 4th down play with the game on the line. A playcall that could very well change the outcome if not executed properly.
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