What?!? Why would you even consider this?

First, this is a gedankenexperiment, not an actual proposal. Sometimes you just have to think about the world in different ways. Secondly, the clock rules in football are stupid, and other than tradition no one would create them the way they are. While this is an extreme example, here is the kind of things that happen with the current rules:


What would replace them?

Simple, there would be a play counter. Each quarter would consist of 35 plays from scrimmage (28 in High School). Exceptions would be extra points and plays with an accepted penalty (dead ball penalties occur during a dead ball and would be no different from today). Kickoffs and free kicks are not from scrimmage and would not count as plays. Field goal attempts and punts would. Thirty-five works out about right. Current NFL teams run just about 70 plays per game on average. Most colleges run a bit more, but see below for how that would change.
There would still be a play clock, but its rule could be set for whatever pace of play is wanted, without concern for the game clock.

How would this change the game?

In many ways, not at all. In others, dramatically. The big changes would be:

  1. Passing vs Running – We wouldn’t have 4.5 hour long Washington State games because a pass play, whether complete or incomplete, in bounds or out, would take up the same “time” as a running play. On the other hand, an 18 play, all run, death-march drive would take up half a quarter instead of 60 to 65 percent of one.
  2. High tempo offenses wouldn’t get more plays. A high tempo offense would still have advantages, but adding extra possessions onto the game isn’t one of them.
  3. The end of half/game would change dramatically.
    • If you have the lead, 1st down and 4 or left on the play counter, you can take a knee (or 4). Much easier to figure out when you can go to victory formation.
    • Time outs aren’t for stopping the clock, they would be used like they are in the first half, to avoid confusion or to give a team a rest. We could probably reduce the number of them.
    • The field opens up for comeback offenses. You no longer need to throw sideline routes. The middle of the field is opened up, as is running plays if you think that would be more successful.
    • Clocking the ball goes away. No need to waste a play stopping the clock. In fact, it would be counterproductive.

There are other ways it would change the game, discuss in the comments.

What was the point of all this again?

It was a fun idea I had about a decade ago and have been noodling around with since then. I do think it would make end of games more exciting, without the extra time out breaks and letting teams run whatever play works best. It gets rid of some of the arbitrariness in the rules, especially with the fast vs slow moving referees and the silliness over checking the clock to see if there is 1 second left or not. But it’s not a serious proposal…no wait, yes, it is. This would make football better. It should be done. There are no down sides, in my opinion, and plenty of advantages. You might disagree, but you would be wrong. It will never happen, this is further outside the Overton window than the Single Land Tax. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea.


While we are on the topic of clocks in football, how about we get a clock that counts down and stops for injuries in soccer?