The New York Jets lost to the Green Bay Packers 31-24 on Sunday after a game-tying touchdown on fourth down with five minutes left was nullified because the Jets called a timeout moments before the play.
While coach Rex Ryan was standing directly behind the referee, he didn’t call the timeout. Neither did quarterback Geno Smith or any of the players on the field.
It turns out that the timeout was called by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Richardson told NJ.com after the game that saw offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg frantically calling for a timeout down the sideline, so he walked up behind the referee and whispered “timeout” in his ear right as the ball was snapped.
When you zoom in the video of the referee who called the timeout, you can see Richardson (#91) sneak out from behind an assistant coach and whisper in his ear before he blows the whistle:
Rex Ryan was near the ref, but it was Richardson who got the timeout called:
It’s not all Richardson’s fault. Morhinweg was yelling for a timeout from the other end of the sideline, creating a lot of confusion that Richardson got swept up in:
Here’s Morhinweg coming down the sideline calling for a timeout (top right):
The Jets had the touchdown called back, failed to convert the fourth down, and lost 31-24 after holding an early 21-3 lead.
Richardson explained after the game (via NJ.com):
“I saw Marty calling the timeout and I was into the game. I knew it was crunch time. I didn’t know if he wanted the timeout or not. I just knew he called it. I helped him out a little bit. I whispered in the referee’s ear ‘timeout,’ and he called it before the ball was thrown. It’s just bad timing on my part. I feel like I let the team down. It just happens when you’re into the game like that, though.”
Technically only head coaches are allowed to call timeouts from the sideline. The referee never turned around to make sure it was Ryan talking in his ear and not Richardson before blowing his whistle. But according to refereeing expert Mike Pereira, referees always grant timeouts late in the game clock without turning around to make sure it’s the head coach that’s calling it.
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