Throughout his coaching career, first with the Eagles and now with the Chiefs, Andy Reid has taken criticism for poor clock management. But a new analysis calls that criticism into question.
Specifically, Reid is sometimes chided for “wasting” timeouts, using them early in halves to take time to get a play called, rather than saving them for late in the half when he needs to stop the clock during a two-minute drill. However, Reid might not be wasting those timeouts at all: He may be using that time wisely by dialing up his best offensive plays.
That’s the indication from an analysis by Paul Noonan of SB Nation’s Packers site, which found that Mike McCarthy often wasted timeouts only to call a play that turned out to be no better than whatever Aaron Rodgers could have called at the line of scrimmage. That will come as no surprise to anyone who watched McCarthy, who was fired during a disappointing 2018 season.
But where the analysis was surprising was in its evaluation of Reid. The Chiefs called 16 timeouts while on offense during the 2018 season, and the Chiefs’ offense was outstanding after those timeouts. In fact, using a metric called “expected points added,” the Chiefs were found to be the best offense in football on plays immediately following timeouts. When Reid uses a timeout, he’s not just doing it because he was slow to get a play called and wants to avoid a delay of game penalty. He’s often doing it to strategize with Patrick Mahomes, make sure the right personnel is on the field and everyone understands their assignments, and unleash a play that is the very best in the playbook for the situation the Chiefs are facing.
It might seem like every coach would be able to dial up his best play after a timeout, but that really isn’t the case. Many teams actually had negative expected points added after timeouts. The coaches of those teams surely thought they were giving themselves extra time to come up with a great play, but not every coach is a great play caller. Some coaches end up calling a dud of a play when they give themselves more time.
But Reid is not one of those coaches: He gets the right play called, over and over again. The tradeoff, of course, is that a timeout used to get a good play called is a timeout that can’t be used late in the half. If the Chiefs are out of timeouts and they need to stop the clock on Saturday against the Colts, Reid will take plenty of criticism. But that criticism should be tempered by the knowledge that Reid doesn’t just throw away his timeouts for no reason. When he calls timeout, he’s got the right play in mind.