Clockblocking: A Long-Winded Perspective

10.17.07 10 years ago 33 Comments

Gamesmanship has boiled over with a new permutation in this, the 2007 campaign of the National Football League. Coaches, who were given the power to call timeouts themselves in 1999, have been doing so during field goal attempts from the other team. Or, more specifically, immediately before the attempt is made, in an attempt to mentally buttfuck the kicker, moments before he steps into the kick that could win the game for his team.

Most people are pretty pissed off about this new artifice, and with good cause. These timeouts, while exercised within the confines of legal play, have taken a bite out of the drama that fans have expected (and, frankly, have deserved) after investing themselves in a close, hard-fought contest, only to see it determined by one physically unimpressive man’s ability to boot a football through a giant Y.

Fucking with the opposing kicker gives your team an edge, but it’s a time-honored tradition that’s been clamped down upon. The old way was to call a timeout right before a kick, dude would call time, then call time again, and if he had another timeout to burn and wasn’t named Mike Holmgren, he would call a third time out. The League passed a rule that outlawed calling consecutive timeouts before a field goal try, so now we have this.

Mike Shanahan is the father of this bastard practice, which oozed from his pock-marked womb in Week 2. With Sebastian Janikowski ready to make what would have been a game-winning FG in OT, Shanahan figuratively inserted his penis into Janikowski’s mind by calling time almost immediately before the snap. The play was not whistled down before the snap, or Janikowski’s money kick. The Raiders stormed the field, and it was like, “Hey, guess what, assholes. That kick didn’t count. Get back over there and do it again.” Janikowski re-kicked and missed, and the Broncos drove down the field, where the Dreamcrusher Jason Elam hit a lob wedge for a 23-yarder of his own. The Raiders, only minutes after watching what almost everyone thought was the game-winning field goal, were defeated.


Word of Shanahan’s ploy spread like a great case of herpes and has been implemented by other teams. Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin paid that shit forward the following week when he clockblocked a successful FG from Browns K Matt Stover Phil Dawson, whose second, historically significant attempt was blocked.

The most notable clockblock may have been in last Monday night’s game featured a futile cockblock permutation from Bills head coach Dick Jauron, where Dallas kicker/metal fan Nick Folk fucked Dick by sandwiching his timeout between nearly identical 53-yard tries, the latter sealing the game for the Cowboys. Along with than Janikowski’s make-miss, Stover’s make-block, and Folk’s make-make, we might be overlooking one or two [EDIT: We were, Gostkowski’s miss-make last season against the Bears (thx Kevin)].

Even that little blond-headed turd in the United Way commercial with Michael Strahan can agree that clockblocking is (a) perfectly legal,(b) a proven strategy, and (c) has the potential to kill the excitement of a last-second finish, as it did in last Monday night’s affair. While there may be a consensus that the team’s use of timeouts need be restricted.

It’s worth noting that the clockblock, as best as I can ascertain, is the second available stratagem in the history of the League that the head coach executes independently. The coach doesn’t have his players call the timeout; he calls the timeout himself, as has been his privilege since given in 1999, an extension in power coinciding with the coach first-available independent stratagem: challenging certain rulings on the field via instant replay.

A team’s decision to challenge a play is a coordinated effort, and a technology-intensive one. The League acknowledged this when it initialized this system of appeals-based oversight of its officiating. It was unique (to the NFL) in that the system was operated by the teams themselves, not the League (this current incarnation of replay is similar to what the old USFL implemented in its 1985 season).

With this system, a team’s window to challenge the previous ruling before the next play is quite finite, and the League made the concession to expedite that process by permitting the head coach (instead of the now designated captain, who is responsible for all other team communication with on-field officials) to deliver the appeal to the referee. Few can find fault with this decision.

But consider: during the last two minutes of each half, many of the game’s rules change, some dramatically. Fumbles cannot be advanced by the offense, for example. A player’s injury that causes a stoppage of play can cost his team a timeout. And, more significantly, head coaches lose the privilege of challenging decisions by the officials, as that responsibility of oversight is shifted to League personnel, similar to the League’s former replay system that was discontinued after the 1992 season).

So inside these last two minutes, the time we’re most likely to see a game-deciding kick (duh), the head coach is bereft of the one privilege unique to his position that would warrant his stoppage of the game. Logic suggests that he be stripped of that privilege entirely. Today, the boss has the unique right to stop the game inside of two minutes, where these games are scheduled for climax, but not the unique need. Repairing that inconsistency by removing that coach’s privilege would be a start.

But now, you say, why would a defender not assume command for performing the same clockblock? There are differences here. Foremost; this guarantees that if the defending team would call timeout, they would do so ON THE FIELD, in full view of the teams, fans, and cameras. We would see the stoppage for ourselves, instead of hearing about it from the referee and watching what all of us would think was the deciding play.

Secondly, it’s within the defensive team’s right to call timeout, and should remain so. What if they only have ten men on the field, for example? Shouldn’t a team be afforded every opportunity to defend a play where scoring is a near-certainty, as they are afforded on every other play? Besides, I would almost guarantee that almost no coach in the League would leave the nanosecond-measurement of a cockblock to one of his players. Conversely, tying the ability to call time with the play clock puts an unnecessary strain on the offense (not to mention the officiating–the only thing worse than a timeout in that spot would be a review to see if dude’s hands made that little T in time), as they may spend the first 30 seconds after the last play waiting for a timeout that may come, or may not.

But, most importantly, there must remain, to a serviceable degree, a valid means of fucking with the other team. The League has been legislating benefits for the field goal unit for some time. Teams are no longer able to call consecutive time-outs before a field-goal attempt. Nor can they line a player over the long-snapper. Nor can they flinch to draw an opponent offside. We could probably go on.

These games, after all, are competitions, and one could argue that too much is legislated to ensure that the cameras and the fans see points on the board. Yeah, it’s annoying to see someone try to kick a game-winner twice, but we don’t need to tweak the shit out of everything to fix that for 2008 (not that I’m certain that the fuck-the-defense mentality of the Competition Committee won’t do it anyway, assuming they could get the 3/4 vote). But, literally, at the end of the game, victory does and should still depend on performing in the clutch, and it is at that point that physically unimpressive men still need to conquer the giant Ys to earn their keep.

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