Yes, the NFL has many gambling related issues that it should address. And the NFL still isn’t concerned enough.
One of the potential concerns that played out Sunday in L.A. With the Rams down by 10, just four seconds left in the game and the ball on the San Francisco 20, coach Sean McVay called for a 38-yard field goal.
The final score? 49ers 30, Rams 23. Pregame point spread? 7.5.
There was no way the Rams would change the outcome. They had time for one more game. They picked a play that allowed them to cover the spread.
It seemed exasperating, especially since the NFL was so heavily involved in sponsorship deals with sports betting. It was a meaningless game. Given the ever-present risk of injury on any contested play, the most responsible course of action would be to take the knee and call it a day.
McVay did not question the decision after the fight. On Monday, reporters asked the question.
Here is the full answer with word salad.
“What we were trying to do was we were trying to get a pass where we kicked a field goal in advance with an opportunity to be able to . . . if we hit that deep breakout route, it would really work the way we wanted it to,” McVay said. “We wanted to try to kick a field goal as soon as we got into field goal position so we could kick the field and try to give ourselves a real chance to win the game. When it came down to it, (I) didn’t think we hit Puk (Nacua) running that long and he just said, ‘OK, go ahead and kick the goal.’ (I) felt it was an opportunity to not leave Matthew (Stafford) prone to unnecessary lifting into the end zone and get an opportunity for our downfield operation. The original goal was to try to get a two-on-one where you end up getting in the field for a field goal a little earlier with some of the play picks we had and eventually try to get an inside kick. then you can go try to compete for a draw or a win. Apparently, (VP of Communications) Artis (Twyman) told me that there are a lot of people in Vegas upset about this decision. Obviously I didn’t know about these things.”
It’s surprising that McVay even mentioned that last part. Yes, people are upset about it. The Rams made a pointless play to cover the spread. Regardless of whether he knew the point spread, he made a pointless play. Instead of putting his quarterback at unnecessary physical risk, he put his goal unit at unnecessary physical risk, making the final score 30-20 instead of 30-23.
Why don’t you just explain that clean sheets are one of the deciding points of the playoffs? Sure, clean points aren’t a problem until after seven more tiebreakers were applied. But it’s still a tiebreaker. That’s a much better rationale than anything McVay was trying to say.
As a result, there is reasonable suspicion that he was aware of the point spread and that he perceived some kind of moral victory in covering the spread. And while that’s also a legitimate explanation, it’s too close to the betline borderline to ever be accepted.
As Commissioner Roger Goodell said more than a decade ago, before the NFL realized how much money it could make from gambling: “If gambling is allowed freely at sporting events, normal game incidents like bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalties. and play call it will inevitably encourage speculation, disbelief and accusations of spot-cutting or game-fixing.”
If normal game incidents “inevitably encourage speculation, disbelief and accusations of scoring or game-fixing,” what will abnormal game incidents — like kicking a pointless field goal — do?
Here’s the answer: He’s doing exactly what happened on Sunday. People think McVay kicked a field goal to cover the spread, benefiting those who bet on the Rams and the points. And his explanation for putting out the fire really didn’t help much.