Fans and players alike have contended for years that the goal-line fade is one of the worst passing plays in the NFL. Few players have had success with the passing route, outside of former Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson played for the Detroit Lions from 2007 until he retired in 2015.
One of the easiest plays for Johnson was the goal-line fade, or the “jump ball” in the end zone. The 6-foot-5 athlete made it look easy, but nobody has replicated Johnson’s success with this play. With little success, the goal-line fade play is disappearing from the NFL altogether. Let’s learn why fans and players are excited to see it finally phased out of the league.
What is the goal-line fade?
The goal-line fade is a simple passing play, but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy to master. Essentially, the goal-line fade passing play or “jump ball” play is where a quarterback lobs the football over a beaten defender neatly into the hands of a wide receiver at the back corner of the end zone. It sounds simple enough, yet it’s rarely successful.
The key to success with the goal-line fade is all about height, footwork, and repetition. Of course, the quarterback and wide receiver must be on the same page too for the goal-line passing play to pan out.
Calvin Johnson was the only player in NFL history to catch over 50% of his goal-line passing routes. Johnson acknowledges that his 6-foot-5 height played to his advantage, reports SB Nation. But he contends that his footwork at the line of scrimmage is what really made his success. As a receiver, you must sell the defender on a slant in order to gain outside leverage.
The history of the goal-line fade in the NFL
While Johnson was successful with the majority of his goal-line fade attempts, only five successful goal-line passing plays were achieved during the 2019 NFL season. The fade also resulted in two interceptions during the season.
The five receivers to complete goal-line passing plays last season were Mike Williams, Mike Evans, James Washington, Odell Beckham Jr., and T.Y. Hilton. Only two of these five were over 6-foot. In terms of quarterbacks utilizing the goal-line fade, Cleveland Browns’ quarterback, Baker Mayfield, attempted the most in the league with four attempts.
The efficiency of the goal-line throw has resulted in his lack of use season after season, reports ESPN. During the 2017 season, quarterbacks attempted 51 goal-line fade attempts. In the 2018 seasons, attempts dropped down to just 42.
Then, in 2019, quarterbacks attempted only 37 fades from five yards, or less and successful completion was at just 13.5% during the season. In comparison, 57% of flat routes, 42% of slants, and 42.5% of out routes were completed throughout the season. Throughout NFL history, the pass has proven itself not to be an efficient throw.
Fans are ecstatic to see the goal-line passing play disappear
Offensive coordinators are still dialing up the goal-line passing play. However, it’s definitely not a go-to play and is being used more infrequently than in years past. The goal-line fade just hasn’t proven to be effective in recent seasons. This may be in part to the lack of towering wide receivers like Calvin Johnson in the league right now.
Regardless of its reason for being phased out, you won’t find very many upset fans about the disappearance of the goal-line fade. Fans have made noise about the fade route being frustrating for years, details The Ringer.
Most fans view a goal-line fade attempt as a waste of a play, and with its lack of success in the 2019 season, they’re not wrong. Due to the goal-line fade’s continual inefficiency, it’s probably time to finally fade out the fade from the NFL playbook.