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  1. american football
  2. 101
  3. timeouts

Football Timeouts

Table of Contents


What is a timeout in football?

A timeout is when a team stops the clock and game by using one of their timeouts. During a timeout, the teams then have a break to rest, get water, make substitutions, and go over game strategy and play. Timeouts are used to stop the clock, as well.

Timeouts are used to stop the game clock from ticking. After a timeout ends, the play clock still ticks and lasts 25 seconds. A coach is responsible for calling timeouts.

Football Timeouts

How many timeouts do teams get in College Football?

In college football, each team gets three timeouts per half. So, each team gets six timeouts total, but if a team doesn't use each of its three timeouts in the first half they do not carry over to the second half. For each half, a team has a maximum of three timeouts. Teams do not have to use their timeouts if they don't want to. Timeouts are allowed to be used whenever a team chooses, except after a team has already called one of their timeouts.

How many timeouts do teams get in the NFL?

In the NFL, each team gets three timeouts per half. So, each team gets six timeouts total, but if a team doesn't use each of its three timeouts in the first half they do not carry over to the second half. For each half, a team has a maximum of three timeouts. Teams do not have to use their timeouts if they don't want to. Timeouts are allowed to be used whenever a team chooses, except after a team has already called one of their timeouts.

Each team is given three timeouts during a half. Timeouts don't carry over to the second half. It is in the team's best interest to use their timeouts before the half ends.

How does a team call a timeout?

A team calls a timeout when their head coach signals to a referee that they want to call a timeout. A head coach usually does this by making his hands into a 'T' shape and telling a referee that a timeout should be taken.

No team can call two timeouts in a row on the same scrimmage down.

How long are timeouts in football?

Timeouts in college football are about 90 seconds long. Timeouts in the NFL are about two minutes long. Each timeout is the same length, so coaches do not save longer or shorter timeouts for specific parts of a game. The reason that some timeouts end up being longer is because of commercial breaks when the game is being broadcasted. Teams use their timeouts to rest until a referee tells them that it is time to get ready to play football again.

Why are timeouts important?

Timeouts are so important because they are a huge part of the strategy of a football game.

Timeouts could be taken to allow a team to rest if the pace of the game is moving very quickly. Usually, these timeouts are called by a defensive team because offensive teams control the pace of the game and do not have to call a timeout to rest; they could slow down and/or make substitutions.

Timeouts could also be taken if a play clock is winding down. These types of timeouts are usually called by an offensive team when their offense is not ready to snap the ball before then play clock will hit zero.

Timeouts are also called to stop the game clock if the time is winding down, so a team will have more time to call plays and get close to scoring.

Timeouts are important because they help teams play better and either prevent scoring more often or help scoring more often, depending on if the defense or offense calls a timeout.

A team will use a timeout:

  1. To conserve time
  2. To change the play design
  3. To prevent a Delay of Game penalty
  4. To ice the kicker

Conserving Time

Calling a timeout can conserve time for a team by buying them a few extra seconds to plan out their next moves. Timeouts are opportunities to regroup and save the last few minutes (or even seconds) for play execution.

Changing Play Design

Timeouts can also be called when a coach wants to change the play or formation in a specific moment. This could be a result of the other team changing formations or new players entering the field. If a team is trailing by a few points at the end of the game, the coach might call a timeout to show the team a new play that might change the course of the game. Other times, coaches call timeouts when his team is struggling and they need to try out other strategies.

Delay of Game Penalty

A delay of game penalty is called when a team takes too long to start a new play. This is called because it is deemed as unnecessary time wasted from the game that could be crucial when it comes to the winner of the game. A coach will call a timeout to prevent this penalty from occurring.

Icing the Kicker

Icing the kicker can be frustrating for the kicker, which is one of the main reasons why coaches or quarterbacks call timeouts. It rattles the other team's kicker right before performing a kick in the hope that he performs poorly when he actually kicks. Although this kick seems unfair, it is legal to use in Football games.



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