There was a brief moment in the fourth quarter of the Jets’ 31-24 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field when it looked like the Jets had tied the game on a Jeremy Kerley touchdown catch.
It wasn’t to be. The play had been blown dead as the line judge called timeout.
Replays showed offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg gesturing for a timeout and the Jets said that was the case after the game. Mornhinweg, who didn’t speak to the media per the usual Jets routine, apparently didn’t like the play call, which led to shouting and gesturing for a timeout. The official didn’t grant the stoppage, but defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson did notice Mornhinweg and leaned forward to tell the official. Richardson said after the game that he got the impression that Mornhinweg had changed his mind again, but it was too late.
“I saw Marty calling the timeout and I was into the game,” Richardson said, via NJ.com. “I knew it was crunch time. I didn’t know if he wanted the timeout or not. I just knew he called it. I helped him out a little bit. I whispered in the referee’s ear ‘timeout,’ and he called it before the ball was thrown. It’s just bad timing on my part. I feel like I let the team down. It just happens when you’re into the game like that, though. By the time I was yelling to help them call timeout, I guess they were fine with the play. They wanted to go on with it. It just happens like that. A miscue on my part.”
It goes beyond Richardson. The normal protocol is for Mornhinweg to inform Rex Ryan that he wants a timeout on the headset rather than start gesticulating wildly on the sideline with the collective voice of Lambeau Field making it tough to hear on the field. Richardson also says that players have helped Ryan get timeouts in similarly loud situations so it’s not the most unusual situation.
NFL rules state that only a head coach or a player on the field can call time, but the league said Sunday that officials “are instructed not to turn their attention away from the field to verify who is calling the timeout” late in the play clock and should only refuse to grant it if he’s certain it isn’t coming from the head coach.
Ryan should know the potential pratfalls of assistants calling timeouts. He did it when he was the Ravens defensive coordinator on a key defensive stop against the Patriots in 2007, giving the Pats life that they turned into a first down and a win that helped them to an undefeated regular season. Sideline chaos is going to lead to mistakes of one kind or another, whether it was Richardson or someone else who pulled the lever this time.