If pro football clocks lasted 50 minutes instead of 60 minutes, the Seattle Seahawks would be six games into a perfect season.
The challenge of putting opponents away during the final 10 minutes has found the Seahawks’ vowing to compete until there is no time remaining an admirable-but-vague ambition. How does a team learn to hold a lead? By enrolling in finishing school?
I’ve got a better idea.
Eliminate, say, 10 minutes from the game by playing four 12 1/2-minute quarters. If the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers were to agree to such a format Thursday night, nobody notices until Jim Nantz asks Phil Simms: “Is it my imagination, partner, or is this game moving a bit more quickly than normal?”
And Simms would respond: “Ah don’t know, Jeeum, but I’d ‘preciate it if you’d stop calling me ‘partner.’ ’’
A more dramatic way of eliminating 10 minutes would be to play three of the usual 15-minute quarters, setting up a five-minute fourth quarter sponsored by — who else? — Sprint.
Thanks to replays, time outs and extended commercial breaks between every change of possession, a five-minute fourth quarter still would take about a half hour in real time. But a half hour in real time is more tolerable than an hour and a half.
Who would be on board with this? The television networks, for one. Football games are supposed to fit into a three-hour slot that includes some studio analysis and allows for a seamlessly scheduled doubleheader. Games don’t fit into that slot any longer, creating headaches for network executives and problems for the rest of us.
The players would be on board, too. Eliminating 10 minutes from 16 games translates into 160 fewer minutes per season: That’s more than two games. It just so happens many owners are anxious to expand the season by, ahem, two games.
The schedule could be expanded while easing the players’ work load.
I know what you are thinking. Any notion of shorter games is heresy, because football has been a 60-minute proposition since football was invented.
But when it comes to rules, the NFL is nothing if not flexible. The league’s owners live for two things: To get together at warm-climate resorts and hold meetings, and to introduce potential rules changes at those meetings necessitating further discussion at another warm-climate resort.
Recent rules changes have dwelled on keeping players as healthy as possible, an enlightened philosophical shift since healthy players represent sound financial investments. A shortened game means fewer injuries — specifically, fewer injuries associated with fatigue.
To recap: If game clocks are reduced to 50 minutes, it’s a win-win for everybody. The networks get their traditional Sunday-afternoon schedule back. Players are spared wear and tear, while owners could point to 50-minute clocks as a bargaining chip for an 18-game regular season.
Best of all, the Seahawks win. That prelude-to-overtime touchdown pass they gave up to the Rams in St. Louis, with 53 seconds remaining? Doesn’t happen.
Those lead-changing touchdowns the Hawks allowed at Green Bay (with 9:28 left) and at Cincinnati (with 2:17 left)? Forget about ’em.
The last-minute pass that allowed Carolina’s Greg Olsen to burn Seattle’s “Cover Who?” defense and stroll into the end zone last Sunday? Too late, sucka.
I know, the notion of proposing a rules change posing obvious benefits to the Seahawks fulfills any definition of “self-serving.” But, hey, I do what I can.
The two-time defending NFC champs are 2-4 in games with a 60-minute clock. If games were played to a 50-minute clock, the Hawks would be 6-0, and girding for a third consecutive Super Bowl victory.
“If at first you don’t succeed,” the proverb goes, “try, try, again.”
Nonsense. If at first you don’t succeed, explore a rules change.
Proverbs are so yesterday.