The Redskins' Disappearing Timeouts
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.
October 11, 2009; 4:51 PM ET
Categories: Media , Redskins
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