Our own Chris Chase wondered earlier Tuesday why Chris Johnson was in the game so late when the Tennessee Titans were beating up on the Jacksonville Jaguars on "Monday Night Football." You may have wondered why Jags head coach Jack Del Rio seemed insistent on prolonging the suffering in a 30-3 laugher in which we saw far too little interesting football and far too much Trent Edwards(notes). Titans coach Jeff Fisher intimated in Chase's piece that he kept the pedal to the floor because of the two timeouts Del Rio called after the two-minute warning, but as it turns out, Del Rio had a reason for doing so that went beyond the strategic:
"Jack used his timeouts," Fisher said. "My understanding is they needed network timeouts, and that's why Jack used his timeouts. They came over and asked me to do it, but I said, 'I was hoping to get a first down and kneel on it.'"
Fisher has an interesting sense of humor (you may remember that he tried to break his team's 2009 losing streak by donning a Peyton Manning jersey), but in this case, he wasn't joking. Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com has the real story, based on Fisher's Tuesday press conference with the local media:
"At the two-minute warning in every game in the fourth quarter, there are conversations that go by. There's conversations that take place at the two-minute warning before the first half. But there's conversations that take place, and it's the official's responsibility to give the head coach a status of commercials and TV timeouts," Fisher said. "Yesterday, I was told that they were two short. And they looked at me and smiled, and I said, 'Sorry, I can't help you.' Mike Carey came across and said, 'Here's the deal. We're two short.' And I said, 'Mike, I can't help you. I'm trying to get a first down and I'm gonna kneel on it.'
McCormick told me that he did not know (nor did Fisher) whether Del Rio took his timeouts in accordance with Carey's request, or the league's specific need for TV timeouts.
According to several sources, the NFL is investingating ESPN's handling of the timeout issue.
Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about this story -- the part that made it so hard to believe at first -- is the idea of a television network, and the need for ad revenue, deciding the pace of a game (no matter how awful it may be). That Carey would break away from his responsibility as a supposedly objective arbiter of the on-field action to try and wrangle timeouts from coaches in the name of commercial breaks -- well, this is where we truly have gone down the rabbit hole. And judging from Fisher's comments, this happens all the time.
Hmmm. Maybe when we blame Andy Reid and other coaches for all that clock-mangling inside the two-minute warning, it's been another culprit all along?
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