John McGrath

Help wanted: NFL coach specializing in clock management. See Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Would Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll benefit from having a coach dedicated to the strategic use of time outs?
Would Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll benefit from having a coach dedicated to the strategic use of time outs? AP

Pete Carroll’s Seahawks coaching staff includes 19 assistants. There are so many coaches, five of the assistants are assisted by assistants.

Many of us who remember when an entire NFL coaching staff could fit comfortably into a 1963 Ford Fairlane station wagon might find 19 assistants excessive. I don’t. I believe there’s a desperate need for Carroll to round out his brain-trust at 20.

The title of the 20th assistant: “Time out coordinator.”

The Hawks’ 34-31 defeat to Atlanta on Monday night produced second guessing typical for a game that seemed to hinge more on the mistakes the losers made than any key plays the winners made. That doomed fake field-goal attempt at the end of the first half already has been hashed out – universal consensus: it was dumb – so I won’t dwell on the second-craziest call of Carroll’s Seahawks career.

He renounced three virtually certain points in order for the punter, who also serves as a holder, to throw a pass to a backup tight end, anticipating the backup tight end would score a 17-yard touchdown.

“If he pops it,” Carroll said of Luke Willson’s reception, “he walks in.”

Right. And if I hit the next Powerball jackpot, I’m buying a Point Ruston condo, suspecting I’ll have enough in the bank afterward for a haircut.

Carroll took a far-fetched gamble and lost, which is what usually happens with far-fetched gambles. Life goes on.

More irritating was how Carroll wasted two of his team’s three time-outs in the second half, clock-management mistakes that found the Seahawks beginning their final offensive possession, at the Seattle 25-yard line, in a mode of frantic.

The Hawks spent their first time out of the half three minutes into the third quarter. Substitutes were slow to join the huddle for a third-and-12 play at the Atlanta 22-yard line.

“We got behind the clock a little bit with the substitutes, and we just ran out of time,” Carroll explained. “I was calling it, too.”

If a time out assistant is there to advise Carroll, he tells the coach: “Suck up the 5-yard flag for delaying the game. We’ll get at least 5 yards back on a high-percentage pass, stay in routine field-goal range, and save the time out in case we need the time out late in fourth quarter.”

A delay-of-game penalty in that situation posed minimal consequences, but Carroll called a time out in a knee-jerk reaction.

A second time out was squandered with 9:03 remaining in the fourth quarter, when Carroll challenged an incomplete-pass ruling on Russell Wilson’s third-down throw to Doug Baldwin from Seattle’s 19-yard line.

About 10 seconds of replay review was all that needed to reveal Baldwin never had control of the ball, but the receiver pleaded his case to the head coach, and the head coach obliged.

“Doug and I have been through this for years, and he’d been right a bunch of times,” Carroll told reporters. “The ball may have touched the ground, but he secured it. That’s what he said, and I believe him. I trust him.”

Putting trust in a veteran as reliable as Baldwin underscores the healthy camaraderie Carroll shares with this players. This is a good thing.

Blowing a time out by challenging an obvious ruling on an incomplete pass is not a good thing.

Again, here is where an extra assistant could have intervened by saying, “Don’t challenge the call, Pete. Chances of an overturned decision are nil. It’s not worth the time out.”

To be fair, Carroll used his team’s final time out judiciously, stopping the clock after forcing a Falcons punt with 1:55 remaining. Following the possession exchange, the Hawks had the ball at their 25-yard line, needing a field goal to force overtime.

Quarterback Russell Wilson is uncommonly adept at the two-minute drill – he’s overseen 23 fourth-quarter/overtime comebacks since 2012, most in the NFL – but the comeback drive on Monday lacked crisp execution. It took the Hawks a full minute to advance the ball past midfield, leaving them with 46 seconds to advance the ball into field-goal range.

Access to a couple of time outs on the drive would have invaluable, but the time out allotment was shot.

The allotment is not shot if there’s an assistant coach monitoring when and where to call time out. Should the task prove difficult, the assistant time out coach could always be supplemented with an assistant.

The more, the merrier.

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