Salon's King Kaufman makes a solid point: while it's easy (and fun!) to blame the officials for bungling another end-of-game call that affected the final score, it didn't have to come to that in Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon.
Referee Scott Green has been exposed as a fraud, but if Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wasn't such an awful clock manager, we'd be none the wiser. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way, which must've made it a joy for Mike Pereira, NFL head of officiating, to come into work today.
Anyway, Kaufman writes that instead of kicking on third down with 15 seconds left in the game, Tomlin should've instructed Ben Roethlisberger to take a knee and then call a timeout with one second left. Skippy Reed would've had to convert a 34-yarder instead of a 32-yarder, but given how it turned out, he still would've easily converted.
Armchair strategists would point out that Tomlin did the right thing by kicking on third down because there's always the possibility of a bad snap or muffed hold. After all, the Steelers long snapper has been on the job three weeks and almost put a ball over punter Paul Ernster's head earlier in the game. That's a legit point, right? Uh, not quite. Kaufman explains:
The problem is, this never happens. Muffed or fumbled snaps are rare enough. Now consider, once that snap isn't fielded cleanly, who's more likely to recover it. The kneeling holder and his soccer-player pal, or the 11 defenders bearing down on them at full speed?
Have you ever seen a messed-up field-goal attempt on third down, followed by a successful one on fourth? I haven't. But I've seen a few amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling finishes on kickoff returns and Hail Mary passes.
Okay, I've never actually seen a messed-up field-goal attempt on third down, followed by a successful one on fourth, but I have seen a messed-up field-goal attempt on second down, followed by a successful one on third. But that was once, six years ago, and in the thousands of field-goal attempts I've witnessed before and since, it's never, ever even come close to happening.
Put differently: Kaufman's argument is a good one, and, frankly, I was hoping the Steelers would run the clock down before attempting the field goal because the thought of Darren Sproles getting his hands on the ball one more time was a frightening one.
Logic aside, I don't think Tomlin's coaching decision -- one you can question but hardly find fault with -- should obscure the fact that Green totally mangled the call. I mean, it shouldn't be the coach's responsibility to make sure the officials don't make fools of themselves. Not unless Roger Goodell issued an executive order declaring as much and I somehow missed it.
Mike Tomlin Could've Saved Official Embarrassment of Not Knowing Rules originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Mon, 17 Nov 2008 15:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.