King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Join Adopt a Timeout today: The clock stoppage you save may be the one your favorite team's coach squandered in the third quarter.


Salon Staff
December 5, 2003 1:00AM (UTC)

It's Jacksonville's ball, second and 10 at midfield midway through the third quarter of the Jaguars' game Sunday against the Buccaneers. The score is tied 10-10. But oh no! The play clock is running out and quarterback Byron Leftwich doesn't seem to notice! A couple of linemen stand up and signal timeout.

Too late. Officials say they didn't get it called in time and assess a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty. On the next play, second and 15 at the 45, Fred Taylor takes a handoff from Leftwich on a draw play and runs 25 yards for the first down.

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That timeout and its two companions were saved and the Jaguars went on to win the game, but many, many more of these beautiful creatures are dying needlessly every weekend. That's why I'm writing to you today.

NFL head coaches routinely slaughter their precious timeouts just so they won't have to take a usually meaningless 5-yard penalty for delay of game. Of course these coaches have to pay the piper at the end of the first half or late in the game, when they're racing against the clock and can't stop it because they've squandered this valuable resource. And yet, the killing goes on.

  • The Giants, trailing the Buccaneers 17-13 and facing a fourth and 19 at their own 3, use their last timeout coming out of the two-minute warning.
  • The Rams, less than six minutes into the first quarter of a scoreless game in Arizona, call timeout with a first and goal at the Cardinals 1. A quarterback kneel-down would have left them second and goal at the 2. They score easily on the next play.
  • The Browns, in a playoff game in Pittsburgh last year, use all three of their timeouts in the third quarter: second and 9 at the Steelers 42, leading 24-7; a bad challenge of a Steelers touchdown catch that makes the score 24-14; and second and 6 at the Steelers 14, score still 24-14. With 54 seconds remaining in the game, the Browns, now trailing 36-33, take over at their own 24, out of timeouts. They run six plays before time expires on second down at the Steelers 45, about 10 yards from the outer reaches of game-tying field-goal position.

    You're probably saying, "Yes, but what can I do to save timeouts? How can I help stop the carnage?"

    That's why I've started Adopt a Timeout (ATO), an organization dedicated to preserving NFL timeouts, that they may live to serve the purpose for which they were placed on this earth: to stop the clock late in a half or a game when a team is driving or trying to get the ball back.

    For just $35 a year -- that's less than the price of one of Peter King's triple venti hazelnut lattes every month -- you can support this vital cause. Every penny you give will go directly to direct action, in the form of small rubber mallets that ATO volunteers will use to thump NFL head coaches on the head while saying, "Dude, second and 15 is not so much worse than second and 10 that it's worth wasting a timeout over! Do you have any idea how valuable timeouts are? Quit using them to avoid 5-yard delay penalties. They can win the game for you later." And then another good whack. And then, why not, one more.

    The mallets will also be brought into press boxes and used on NFL chatterers and typists, none of whom even talk about whether taking a penalty rather than using a timeout in such situations is the right play. Even if people don't agree with ATO's position, isn't it at least worth discussing? Of the millions of words you've ever heard and read about the NFL, have you ever seen this issue debated? Announcers just tsk tsk that you hate to have to waste a timeout like that, but that's it. They never make the logical leap.

    For $35 a year, you can change all that. Won't you save a timeout today?

    Legal notice: Contributions to ATO are not tax-deductible, or even literally possible. But don't let that stop you. Visit the ATO Web site.

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