September 21, 2009

Time to Ice Freezing the Kicker

If you watched Sunday night’s game between the Giants and the Cowboys, then you saw Lawrence Tynes kick the game-winning field goal, not once – but twice. Why? Because of the asinine rule that allows the coach of the defensive team to hover over the shoulder of a referee on the sidelines, waiting until the very last possible second to call time out… which usually doesn’t get signaled to the players on the field in time to prevent the kicker, the defense and the rest of the refs from proceeding with the kick as scheduled.

And so, usually the kicker boots it through the uprights and his team starts celebrating, only to learn milliseconds later that it didn’t count. Then he has to try it again, only because it’s Kick No.2, the pressure is magnified tenfold. (Sure, on at least one occasion, this strategy has resulted in the coach calling time out right before a shank, and on the second time around the kicker won a game he would have lost – but given the accuracy of professional kickers, the potential reward generally outweighs the risk.)

It’s just a dumb rule, fashioned from the loophole created when the league gave coaches the right to call timeouts from the sidelines – but it was never the intent of the rule to allow coaches to use this power to try and freeze the opposing kicker at the last possible second. Certainly, on a pressure kick, if the defensive team wants the kicker to have to dwell on the kick a little bit longer, it’s within their rights, so long as they have time outs remaining… but this shouldn’t degenerate into a “fastest finger competition” and into debates on whether or not the coach truly beat the snap with his time out call.

The solution is simple… on kick attempts, the coach can still call time out, but only up until the play clock reaches five-seconds remaining. After that, the players on the field can still signal for a timeout – because that would be in full view of the kicker, the refs and the TV cameras, leaving no doubt to all that a timeout had been signaled long before the kicker’s foot reaches pigskin.

Last night, it didn’t affect the ultimate outcome, but this tactic does make a mockery of the game, in my opinion. And it left a bad enough taste in my mouth that I couldn’t help but protest.

Wade Phillips a.k.a. the Lurking Shadow

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