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At present we use a very rough and ready clock simulation that allocates a fairly random amount of time to each play with only a few checks and modifications according to the game situation and what actually happened on the play.


The clock simulation does include the use of timeouts, but also in a fairly rough and ready way. We had a look at adding visible timeouts many years ago. The coaches argued about when they wanted their timeouts called, and often changed their minds once they saw the result of the rules they asked for. We didn't get agreement on what the coaches wanted. We found people didn't even agree on what they saw happening in real life. So we gave up and left it with the system we've got now.


The rules for timeouts and the clock aren't things I think are really important for the game, and I don't think it's one of the things we should be spending much of our time and money on, but these days we do have discussion groups so that a fair proportion of current coaches can talk to each other and this is the sort of thing that such a group might be able to work out between themselves.

The idea would be to work out a clear set of rules for how much time should elapse on different sorts of plays, with a reasonable range of random variations, and also work out a set of rules for when to call timeouts. There are plenty of you out there who are capable of testing a routine like that, and I'm sure some of you are capable of finding real life game logs and testing the rules against those.

It'd take a fair amount of time, but maybe there are some of you who'd find it an interesting project, so that it'd be worth spending some spare time on. It doesn't need to be specific to Gameplan. If you get results that look good then someone could post them on the net so that anyone else designing a game or simulation in the future can re-use it (to get better results and/or lower costs, either of which must be good for everyone).


Two reasons why you get a lot more plays inside the two minute warning in Gameplan compared to real life are firstly that in Gameplan no-one ever wastes any timeouts on anything else (or fails to call them when they ought) and secondly that teams in Gameplan use the two minute warning in the first half as well as at the end of the game (many real life teams don't bother, and get a lot of criticism from the pundits as a result - they probably do it because the coach has already thought up the changes he wants to make and can't wait to scamper off to the locker room and get to work).


One thing that happens in the current routine is that teams use their last timeout on the first play when it will be useful. In real life teams hang on to their last timeout for their final shot (a hail mary or a field goal attempt). We don't bother, because we've got a frig in the software so that we know whether we're running the last play of the game or not, so we don't have to hold back our last timeout in case it sneaks up on us.

One effect of this is that the clock can be stopped by a timeout two plays before the last play of the game, instead of on the next-to-last (which in real life is what you save your last timeout for). The total time used on the two plays is the same, so it doesn't have any effect on the result of the game, but it does mean our clock at the start of that next-to-last play shows a lot more time remaining than you'd get in real life.

And that's probably a good example of the complexity a really good clock and timeout routine would need to cope with. Don't forget to include teams being able to throw away a down and stop the clock by spiking the ball. You can probably leave out the business of pretending to be injured, or piling on the ball to prevent the offence getting back to the line of scrimmage, etc.

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