Week 1: Rams at Lions
4th quarter | 2:45 remaining | Tied 20-20 | STL ball | 2 & 12 @ DET 31
“First, let me explain this to you,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher prefaced his comments. “This is separate from the officiating. This is a clock operator error.”
Fisher, who also serves on the league’s Competition Committee, is a master of nuance of the rules and mechanics of the game. So, while his meticulous planning was unraveled by the clock operator, he was clear to take the heat off of the replacement officials.
Fisher called a run knowing that, if 2:40 or less remained on the game clock, he did not need to run another play before the two minute warning because the 40-second play clock would not expire. For reasons unknown — but pinned on the clock operator — the game clock stopped and restarted.
“If they never stopped the game clock and started the play clock, I’m at the two-minute warning,” said Fisher at a Monday press conference. “But they stopped the game clock, it froze at 2:38. So now the play clock starts at 40, 39, 38, 37 – so the play clock got three seconds ahead of the game clock.” (The league confirmed there was a clock operator error.)
If the referee or any other official (particularly line judge who has primary game clock duties) sees the clock malfunction, it is correctable, but the correction cannot be determined by replay. In this game, the line judge was Shannon Eastin, who, in this game, was the first female to officiate an NFL regular season game. “Eastin came to her spot, she kept the play running,” said Fisher.
Maybe the correction is made with the more experienced referees who are currently locked out by the NFL.
Hometown operator myth dispelled. One item that I do not recall being revealed otherwise. Fisher said that the clock operator is “a league hire …. They interact with the officials, but it’s a separate entity. They’re not part of the crew. This is not a replacement clock operator.” This should dispel the rumor of the “hometown clock operator” who anticipates dead balls for the home team by immediately stopping the clock, and waiting for the official’s signals when it benefits the visiting team.