LA Rams recognize the sting of a Fassel fake punt

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams are all too familiar with a failed fake punt like the one that turned the game momentum against the Cowboys in their lopsided loss

The LA Rams took a lot of gambles over the years since head coach Sean McVay took over the reins of the team. Those gambles had shown up on the football field in the form of a fake punt, a trademark move that Mcvay and special teams coach John Fassel would draw up for important games.

But the risks taken by a gambler are real, no matter the wager. In order for a fake punt to succeed, teams must believe a punt is coming. With Coach Fassel, that is not always what plays out on the field. That became very apparent by fans of the Dallas Cowboys in their Thanksgiving Day game against the Washington Football Team.

Needless to say, getting blown out at home by Washington by a score of 41-16 was not the look sought by Cowboys’ owner and general manager Jerry Jones.

Rams recognize that feeling

But the Rams recognize the sting of that play. It’s part of the assumed risk of running a gadget play, a fake, or a misdirection.  You win some, and you lose some. When you succeed, it’s suddenly a great coaching decision, a game-changing gutsy move of a superior coaching staff.

And that is the addictive nature of a fake punt. Once it works, there are more and more occasions that seem to fit the ‘let’s try it now’ scenario. And that dilutes the surprise effect. But when it fails?

Oh, it can get ugly. Downright ugly.

Such is the fortune of a gambler. You win some, you lose some. When you win, you are tempted to stick with it. The yards seem to be easy to gain. The odds of success seem to bend to your audacity. ‘There’s more where that came from’ mentality sneaks in, and suddenly the attempt once or twice a season becomes once or twice per month.

Worth the risk?

The affordability of taking a gamble must always be measured in terms of the ‘can you afford to lose?’ measurement. Lottery tickets, horse racing, casinos, are all lucrative operations because the lure of a huge payoff seems to dwarf the minimal cost of participating.  That chance to shine, to risk a little and reap a huge reward, is tough to say no to.

But one failed fake punt can change the game momentum. It happened before for the LA Rams. And on Thanksgiving Day, it happened for the Dallas Cowboys. The risk of the play seems small at the time. A negative play buried in an entire game. Just one play that can move the chains, create a new set of downs, and even lead to a scoring play. But the cost of failure is impossible to disguise.

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When the Dallas Cowboys poached the LA Rams special teams coach, the assistant special teams’ coach, and the field goal kicker, the Cowboys assumed all of the risks of those fake attempts. But they did not poach LA Rams All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker.  So yes, the LA Rams recognize the sting of a failed Fassel fake punt. But there’s no sympathy. After all, those are the risks with the gamble of poaching another team’s coaching staff.