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The Redskins' Disappearing Timeouts

(By Streeter Lecka - Getty)

I hate to see teams squander timeouts. I hate to see even teams I don't care about squander timeouts. They're an integral part of the fourth quarter of NFL football games, and there's almost nothing that's worth giving them up earlier in the game. It's like taking a case of empty beer cans and deliberating just flinging them into the trash bag when you're standing right next to the recycling bin, and then taking the trash can and emptying it into the ocean, along with some gasoline for good measure. It's just a waste, and it's sad.

I don't know the odds, and maybe math would prove me wrong, but I feel like I'd accept a five-yard delay penalty in most third-quarter situations to have an extra timeout late in the fourth.

Anyhow, as you all know by now, the Redskins were plum out of timeouts with eight minutes left in Sunday's loss to the Panthers. Maybe they could have used them, as it turned out. Zorn's explanation for burning the first timeout, which preceded a failed 4th-and-3 late in the third quarter, was entirely non-satisfactory.

"What happened on that, it was the fourth-down call, and we're waiting for them to spot the ball," Zorn said. "Well, the clock's running, and I'm looking, I'm trying to call a play, but I don't know where they're going to spot the ball. I don't know if it's gonna be 4th-and-5, 4th-and-2, 4th-and-7, what was it gonna be. And so all's I could do was call timeout."

No. False. Wrong answer. Try again. I mean, take your best guess at the distance. Look where the guy got tackled. Ask an assistant coach up in the box for help. Hire a dang extra set set of eyes if you have to. Somehow, other NFL teams manage to call fourth-down plays without wasting timeouts with two minutes left in the third quarter.

Ok, next timeout. It came on the failed challenge during that infernal screwed-up fair catch, which was apparently ruled on correctly by the officials.

(Speaking of that, here's how special teams ace Brian Mitchell described the special teams disaster on Comcast SportsNet's postgame show:

Get out of the way, he said. Fall down. Don't get pushed into the receiver.

"Is that being stressed by Danny Smith?" Mitchell asked. "Now, I like Danny, I know Danny's a good coach, but I'm watching things week in and week out with the special teams, that you would have NEVER seen with Pete Rodriguez, Wayne Sevier, John Harbaugh. Is it a point where they're letting people get away with too much and not really teaching the rules?")

Anyhow, once you accept that the rule is what it is, there's no point to a challenge. The ball hit a Redskin first. There was no question about that.

"Well, you know, it was, the officials recommended that because of all the confusion that, you know, hey, you know, this is, a, you know, they just said this is a challengeable call," Zorn smoothly explained during his press conference. "And up in the box, we were debating the rule of the fair catch, and so I wanted them to rehash that, and I thought it was the right call to challenge. I mean, if I didn't challenge it, I would be kicking myself if it could have been in our favor, so it was worth the timeout for me."

No. False. Wrong answer. Try again. First of all, I wasn't familiar with that rule, and I wish I had been, but I'd have expected a staff full of NFL assistants to know the rule book better than me. Second of all, "Wanted them to rehash that?" I mean, like what, change their minds about the rules? Third of all, it would only have been "worth the timeout" if spending the timeout had earned you anything. Like, say, a donut. Since the call was clearly correct, this was taking a timeout and lighting it on fire for no reason at all.

Even Brian Billick, during the broadcast, described Zorn's motivation as "hope against hope." You can't just waste timeouts for the hell of it, just because, and then say it was worth it. Because, sort of by definition, it wasn't.

The third timeout was called by Jason Campbell with eight minutes left. The Redskins had a first down, and were just two plays into a drive. The play clock was running down. At that point, there was every reason to think the team might need to stop the clock for a tying field-goal attempt at some point; I'd have taken a 1st-and-15 over a big Zero under the TO slot on the scoreboard. But that's not part of the philosophy up here, I guess.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 11, 2009; 4:51 PM ET
Categories:  Media , Redskins  
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Next: Brian Mitchell Calls Zorn "A Little Less Than" Norv


It's not just wasting timeouts to challenge questionable calls. There's not a game goes by that Jason Campbell doesn't burn at least one a half in trying to figure out what to do next. I can't figure whether its a mixup on the sidelines and Zorn can't figure out what call to make -- or if it all jost too overwhelming and confusing for this sol-called quarterback. But judging from the dumbfounded look on his face most plays, I suspect it's probably more of the latter. What a waste of a roster spot!

Posted by: Vic1 | October 11, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Zorn calls timeout prior to every single 4th down that he goes for. Sign of an unprepared coach and unprepared team.

Posted by: mschmall625 | October 11, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

keep up the good work, steinz.

Posted by: snydercash4clunkers | October 11, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Nice guy does not equal good coach. I wanted so much for Zorn to be the guy, but for whatever the reason, he's not.

Two important "positions" - head coach and quarterback - never seem to show fire in the belly. Psychologically, that can't be good.

Posted by: fan-o-matic | October 11, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

And you say you don't care...{wink}

Posted by: nojunk4me | October 11, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: hessone | October 11, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: ThisGuy | October 11, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: redskinfan4life1 | October 11, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

a coach in over his head with a team that doesnt care a tough combination 3-13

Posted by: bobmarshall50 | October 11, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Listen, lets stop beating around the bush...Zorn has to go. He is no where near ready to be a head coach. Why has anyone thought Campbell can be a solid QB in this league? He needs to be benched and let Collins run it for the rest of the year. Campbell can go elsewhere next year. Nice guy but not a QB in this league. Cerrato can go along with them. Hire Shanahan and give him full reign.

Posted by: kdowney3 | October 11, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to start by saying that I agree with your assessment that these were dumb timeouts.

But I really don't think that in the end I don't see many games that really come down to whether a team has timeouts left or not. The Pats and Colts burn timeouts like crazy every time I watch them play and they still manage to make game winning plays at the end of the game because they're, uh, good. The Skins weren't getting the ball back at the end of the game even if they had the timeouts to force the Panthers to get another first down in order to run out the clock because the Skins D surely wouldn't have been able to stop them from getting that first down. Our players had a chance to force a punt and couldn't do it. That's no accident, that's just what this team is. Our offense coming up with only 3 points on their own is what lost it. If there was a fifth period today we wouldn't have been able to tie that game up.

Losing the timeouts in those ways is certainly frustrating, but timeouts don't decide the game.

Posted by: Hobes | October 11, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

I got an email from my buddy Skip after the third burnt timeout. "What do the skins value less--timeouts or draft picks?"

Sadly, I dont know.

Posted by: jpfterps | October 11, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

The only problem with the Skins is their tiny owner with the Napoleon Complex.

Posted by: nativedc | October 11, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

I quit. I will not root for the Redskins, buy over-priced gear, attend over-priced games, etc. until little danny sells the team. He is an idiot. It really saddens me because I grew up in DC during their golden years, but Snyder has ruined the team for me. I don't know how we force little danny to sell the team, but the first step has to be to stop spending money on them. little danny is a greedy bastard first and foremost. if the team isn't making money, maybe he will sell. if not, maybe xenu will send him to a galaxy across the universe and we can have an owner that is not such an idiot.

Posted by: burnskj | October 11, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Come on?

We have morons running the Redskins - starting with Hitler youth Dannyboy and buttboyvinny. Work your way down from there...

Posted by: Jaymand | October 12, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

All the more proof of what a blind moron could see from the time Zorn was hired: the guy is well out of his depth. He has absolutely no idea about calling plays, not to talk of running an entire NFL team. But I don't blame him. If someone said to me "wanna be president of the united states?" I would have said the same as Zorn "hell yes, let me get my suit". What a joke of a franchise.

The fact that Fat Mike is starting just shows how clueless the entire front office is. Fat Mike should be on The Biggest Loser and not starting for an NFL team.

Posted by: tundey | October 12, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Zorn and JC were hit so many times that their brain cells are mush. Add crowd noise and you get two dum omelets. Now add Vinny to supervise the draft.
Lets see undrafted Heyer protecting your right.. Left is old and injury prone. Center is old castoff from Ravens. Mike Williams is a former foodaholic. Anyone who has ever watched a military movie will not want to sit in that pocket.
Get a real GM and rebuild .

Posted by: jercha | October 12, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Now a lot of you are ripping Zorn for those timeouts when 2 of them were NOT his fault.

The first one was not his fault because the refs were trying to figure out if Fred Davis fumbled. At first they ruled it was a fumble then they changed their minds and ruled it down. The refs were talking the whole time and then placed the ball down without ever explaining what happened and the play clock was running. So when the ball was placed there was no time to call a play.

The second one was NOT his fault either because the refs changed their minds 3 times on the call. First it was Caronlina's ball after it hit the Skins returner. Then they changed it to Skins ball after huddling. Then one ref went over to the Carolina bench and John Fox said something to make the refs change their minds again. If that never happened it would be the Panther's challenging the play and not the Skins. Also, how was that play not a 'Halo infraction'? The Carolina player was pushing the Skins player into ARE but he (panthers player) was right next to ARE when he was doing that.

Posted by: Vt2gtown | October 12, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

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