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Can Timeout Rules Be Changed To Prevent What Happened Monday Night?

folk-at-buff-gw.jpgAs promised, I will continue the debate I started earlier this week regarding the current practice of calling a timeout from the sideline just prior to the snap of an attempted last-second field goal.  This has now occurred three times in six weeks of football, most recently on Monday night in Buffalo when Bills coach Dick Jauron called one just prior to the first 53-yard attempt by Cowboys kicker Nick Folk. 

Most of the commentators on ESPN and the NFL Network have addressed this quandry, with Terrell Davis and ex-coach Jim Mora expressing the same sentiment.  There is something “wrong” with doing it, but neither are quite sure what can be done about it.  On the Sportscenter broadcast “1st and 10”, the two analysts both stated that it was nothing to be concerned about and would work itself out in the future.

I disagree.  Having watched the NFL for something like 25-years now and witnessing the multitude of rule changes that have taken place over the years, it is these very types of situations that tend to be addressed by the NFL at some point, usually the off-season.  The question is, what kind of a rule-change, if any, can be done to stop this seemingly unethical act before it’s too late.  I have already received several e-mails with suggestions and by all means, keep sending them and perhaps the issue will be kept alive long enough for some sort of action.

One suggestion was to make it a rule that under the 2-minute warning, no team should be allowed to call a timeout prior to a field goal try.  There are some good and bad points to this, obviously, but it does hint at the problem at it most basic element.  It is an issue only on field goal attempts, and it is only an issue when they are last-second potential game-winners. 

Now let’s look at the rule in question and the reason it was instigated in the first place.  Having stated my experience in NFL viewing, I can remember when only a designated captain of a team could call a team timeout.  This led to several problems, namely the loss of time it took for the coaching staff to locate a team captain, for the captain to then locate a referee, etc.  Several precious seconds were usually wasted in this process and it was a game-breaking  loss of time on many occassions.   This led to a rule change in which any player on the team was allowed to call the timeout.  Not a good solution either as many times players were wasting crucial time-outs or calling them when the team had none left to call, which is a penalty.  Finally, around 2006, it was decided to allow the head coach himself to call a time-out from the sideline.  Hence, our current dilemma of the coach coralling a ref on his sideline, waiting for the appropriate time and calling the time-out. 

The leading tenet in all of this is if a team has a time-out to call, they should be able to use it whenever they wish.  However, as stated by most experts, there is something “gimmicky” about this current practice of using one just before the ball is snapped.  In a sport and business that is very concerned with fair play and parity, this is not going to be overlooked for long if it continues to be done.  Even Wade Phillips, someone on the wrong end of the situation, claimed the next day that he probably would have done the same thing!  In fact, most coaches have publicly said that they would indeed, if in similar circumstances as happened on Monday night, do the same.

It has been labelled as a “loophole” by most football analysts, and that is a good definition, but at the same time, it lends itself to the realization it could be closed.  So here’s my bright idea for a possible modification/addition to the rule.

No team should be allowed to call a time-out if the game-clock isn’t running and the play-clock and game-clock are not concurrently running and have been stopped by either an official or team time-out.  For example, in the Monday night fiasco, the Cowboys had stopped the clock by completing a sideline-pass and the player stepping out-of-bounds.  This is an official timeout and the game clock isn’t re-started until the next snap of the ball.  The officials are allowed time to reset the ball at the line of scrimmage and the play clock is reset to 15-seconds instead of 25. The game-clock doesn’t re-start until the snap but the play-clock is running.   Sounds complicated, I know, but could be tweaked to help resolve the dilemma. 

I guess it all boils down to the basic fact pointed out by most everyone, it just doesn’s seem right.  The biggest downfall is that no-one seems to know the timeout was called until it’s too late to stop the play.  Maybe if we allowed coaches to call the timeouts from the sidelines, which was the main goal, but they have to get the attention of the referee who is on the field, by eye contact as required, and the ref in turn, gets the play stopped.  In other words, the coach can’t grab a referee and have him stand right next to him while he waits until just before the ball is snapped.

No matter how you look at it, it is going to be a tough decision to make by the rules committee in the off-season and there’s a good possibility it won’t be changed at all.  Until then, we can only hope that the consenquences of the practice will somehow work itself out somehow.  Who knows, maybe kickers will earn more respect and get better contracts as a result.

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2 Responses to “Can Timeout Rules Be Changed To Prevent What Happened Monday Night?”

  1. Jesse says:

    Good stuff Quinn

  2. Sam says:

    Makes good sense! Even though the team that is set to lose in a situation like this may not like this, I think it is best for the game overall. Let’s hope for the best from the League.

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