After last night’s AFC Championship, referee Ron Torbert created the impression that the crazy do-over in the fourth quarter resulted from an official trying to rectify an error by the clock operator.
The truth is that the error was made by Torbert.
Prior to third-and-nine 1.0, the action stopped because the ball had been placed in the wrong spot following an incomplete pass on second and nine.
After the ball was moved, Torbert activated his microphone and said this: “Please reset the play clock to 10 seconds, 1o seconds please. The play clock and game clock will start on my signal.”
And so, on his signal, the play clock and game clock started.
The field judge, stationed deep behind the secondary, noticed the clock was moving when it shouldn’t be, and he tried to shut the action down after the play started. No one heard a whistle and no one pulled up before the play ended.
That’s when the officials huddled, with Torbert eventually deciding that the play had been shut down and that there would be another third and nine.
And when Torbert explained it this time, he was careful to say, “We will start the play clock on my signal, game clock will start on the snap.”
So it was Torbert’s fault in the first place, not the clock operator’s. The clock operator simply did what the referee instructed the clock operator to do.
The situation demonstrates how important precision and specificity is when it comes to the things a referee said. It also suggests that the clock operator should have a way to talk directly to the referee, in the event that the clock operator believes the referee has given an erroneous instruction.
In this case, Torbert clearly said “the play clock and game clock will start on my signal.” The clock operator clearly complied. That entire mess clearly is on Torbert.