Andy Reid’s clock management may be better than advertised

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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.

27 responses to “Andy Reid’s clock management may be better than advertised

  1. Or Mahomes got the offense out of a terrible play call. Me thinks we’ll be having the same conversation about Mahomes and Reid as we did with Rogers and McCarthy.

  2. As a Chiefs fan, even up 28 at half we found a way to lose. By not punting for an entire game, we found a way to lose. And the best part is, those losses came against the Colts, in the playoffs… At Arrowhead…

    Good news Chiefs fans, we play the Colts, on Saturday, at Arrowhead.

    If Andy’s timeouts are so useful, how about he starts using them on defense…

  3. You can spin the analysis any way you want…but the eye and logic tests tell you Andy probably cost the Eagles some potential wins and titles with very poor clock management.

  4. I’m still trying to figure out whether this is a joke or not. Maybe this writer doesn’t really pay attention to the games and results from Andy Reid playoff games.

  5. the argument may make more sense if the chiefs didn’t already have an outstanding offense regardless of when a timeout is called. they are already among the best offense. it’s not like we’re talking about the jaguars having some sort of offensive boost anomaly following timeouts.

  6. Great analysis, except that’s not really why people say Andy Reid is a bad clock manager. In fact, it doesn’t even have anything to do with clock management. It’s nice that he calls the right play, not so nice that he seems to need extra time to do it early and more often than others.

    It has a lot less to do with using timeouts early in games and more to do with how he manages whatever time outs he has left at the end of halves and games and how much time he wastes getting plays called and not having his team ready to call multiple plays without delays for huddling or getting a new play from the sidelines.

  7. A metric called “expected points added.” You can use stats to make any point you want, but the reality is Reid manages the clock poorly and regularly gets his butt kicked in the playoffs. Here’s a stat: 20 years, 1 Super Bowl appearance.

  8. This is based on his 2018 playcalling alone, meaning this is useless. His offense is prolific this year, and it’s too small of a sample size. If the analysis was done for his entire coaching career, I’m fairly confident the outcome wouldn’t be quite as rosy.

  9. Andy accepted unfair blame for Donovan McNabb either not being in game shape or having a bad case of nerves. TO wasn’t calling out Andy Reid for puking in the huddle and taking too long to get the play called in Super Bowl XXXIX. He called out McNabb not Reid.

  10. Reid’s clock mismanagement rep during his time as the Eagles HC was not due to early timeouts. It was due to his time management on offense when protecting a lead in the second half, and his time management on offense when his team was trailing in the 4th quarter.

    1. Protecting a lead – he would go to a too conservative game plan when the game was still within reach for the other team, not keep the offense on the field, and put the ball back in the hands of the opposing offense when his defense was tiring. Terrible clock management if you don’t make an effort to keep your offense on the field in these situations. The Eagles lost at least one game every year he was their HC because of this.

    2. Mounting a comeback – he would grind out a score in the 4th quarter, but he would take so much time off of the clock in scoring that the Eagles would be in a worse position after scoring than they were prior to the start of the drive. Taking 6+ minutes to score when down by 2 scores in the 4th quarter is terrible clock management. The Eagles kept themselves from having an opportunity to win these games (or force overtime). This also happened at least one game every year when he was the Eagles HC.

  11. counsellorben says:
    January 8, 2019 at 10:15 am
    Reid’s clock mismanagement rep during his time as the Eagles HC was not due to early timeouts. It was due to his time management on offense when protecting a lead in the second half, and his time management on offense when his team was trailing in the 4th quarter.

    1. Protecting a lead – he would go to a too conservative game plan when the game was still within reach for the other team, not keep the offense on the field, and put the ball back in the hands of the opposing offense when his defense was tiring. Terrible clock management if you don’t make an effort to keep your offense on the field in these situations. The Eagles lost at least one game every year he was their HC because of this.

    2. Mounting a comeback – he would grind out a score in the 4th quarter, but he would take so much time off of the clock in scoring that the Eagles would be in a worse position after scoring than they were prior to the start of the drive. Taking 6+ minutes to score when down by 2 scores in the 4th quarter is terrible clock management. The Eagles kept themselves from having an opportunity to win these games (or force overtime). This also happened at least one game every year when he was the Eagles HC.
    ——

    Perfectly stated. I remember some analyst saying after the Eagles first Super Bowl against the Patriots that the problem with Reid is that he didn’t have a 4 minute offense,only a 2 minute offense. Meaning that he never started playing fast until the 2 minute warning which, as you pointed out, made it virtually impossible to come back when trailing by more than 7 because he killed way too much clock getting the first score.

  12. People only criticize his clock management when he loses. Fact is, Andy Reid has a .611% lifetime coaching record. How many times has his clock strategy led to a team win? I’d say a lot more than critics realize.

  13. counsellorben says: “1. Protecting a lead – he would go to a too conservative game plan when the game was still within reach for the other team, not keep the offense on the field, and put the ball back in the hands of the opposing offense when his defense was tiring.”
    – Yet look at all the criticisms and mockery Atlanta took for doing exactly what you suggested. Instead of playing conservative, they kept attacking with Matt Ryan

    counsellorben says: “2. Mounting a comeback – he would grind out a score in the 4th quarter, but he would take so much time off of the clock in scoring that the Eagles would be in a worse position after scoring than they were prior to the start of the drive.”
    – The main priority when down by two scores is actually getting the FIRST score. We’ve seen many times a team down by two scores rush the drive and FAIL completely to even get points on the board. You might disagree with this strategy, but Reid at least puts his team in position to get a second score only because he took his time ensure a successful first drive.

  14. Reis’s clock management would be hard pressed to be any worse than advertised and it has very little to do with his timeout usage. The definitive example being the biggest game of his career, when with less than 6 minutes on the clock and needing 2 scores his Eagles lollygagged down the field in a 12+ play drive you could have timed with a sundial.

  15. rogerdodger99 says: “I made up my mind when he mounted a 9 minute drive in the 4th quarter down 2 scores in the super bowl, and I’m not even an Iggles fan.”
    =====================

    Now you’re just making crap up. Here is Eagles 2nd half drives:
    #8 3rd quarter – 4 plays, 2:15, punt
    #9 3rd quarter – 10 plays, 4:17, Touchdown
    #10 4th quarter – 3 plays, 1:15, punt
    #11 4th quarter – 2 plays, 1:20, INT
    #12 4th quarter – 13 plays, 3:52, Touchdown
    #13 4th quarter – 3 plays, 0:37, INT, end of game

  16. Andy Reid’s critics, especially my fellow Eagles fans, usually make crap up.

    Anything to criticize the winningest coach in Eagles franchise history.

  17. I disagree with your points.

    akira1971 says:

    “– Yet look at all the criticisms and mockery Atlanta took for doing exactly what you suggested. Instead of playing conservative, they kept attacking with Matt Ryan”

    Atlanta wasn’t criticized for being aggressive. They were criticized for being stupid. Once they were in field goal range to put the game out of reach with a 2-score deficit, they called a play that could and would put them out of field goal range.

    “– The main priority when down by two scores is actually getting the FIRST score. We’ve seen many times a team down by two scores rush the drive and FAIL completely to even get points on the board. You might disagree with this strategy, but Reid at least puts his team in position to get a second score only because he took his time ensure a successful first drive.”

    If you don’t get the first score quickly, you’re not going to have time to get the second score. So you maximize your chances of winning by trying to get the first score quickly. If you don’t, then so what? You’re going to lose anyway. You don’t coach just to “get close” to winning… unless you have money on the point spread.

  18. Pats were up on KC in the playoffs by 14, Andy seemed to be playing for a score, an onsides kick and a Hail Mary. And that was all aparantly decided with 7 minutes still left in the game.

    Same thing against Pittsburgh a couple years ago. Down a couple scores, with the same horrible defense, and was basically running out the clock on himself.

  19. jbaxt says: Pats were up on KC in the playoffs by 14, Andy seemed to be playing for a score, an onsides kick and a Hail Mary. And that was all aparantly decided with 7 minutes still left in the game.”
    ================

    The 2004 Patriots had a smothering, 2nd-ranked defense that year.

    Yet Reid put his team in position to win or tie the game in the end even after being down by two scores in the 4th. Or would you rather have a couple of 3-and-outs and lose by 10 points instead?

  20. Andy finally got a QB and now he’s smart. Actually, he was always smart, but one person says something and then everyone else repeats it. Unfortunately, that’s the football world we live in. But also, when Alex Smith was his QB, he had to make sure someone was always wide open, so sometimes he’d have to wait to see the defensive personnel and then choose his plays at the very last minute. With Mahomes, he doesn’t necessarily need somebody to be wide open. He’s not going to need to out-coach his opponent every single play.

  21. I can see the haters salivating for a Chiefs loss already. As a Chiefs fan, I’m hopeful but I’ve been here before, so i’m guarded as well. That being said, go Chiefs! Win one for the Kool Aid man!

  22. The 2004 Patriots had a smothering, 2nd-ranked defense that year.

    Yet Reid put his team in position to win or tie the game in the end even after being down by two scores in the 4th. Or would you rather have a couple of 3-and-outs and lose by 10 points instead?

    ————————————————-

    I’d rather KC win over trying to make the score look respectable. And that goes for letting your foot off the gas when you’re up too. Andy’s earned his respect, but it’s time he goes for the jugular. Sadly he lost a game, similar to the Colts playoff game, just 3 weeks ago to the Chargers. I doubt he’s changed anything he’s done wrong in the past. Either way, KC’s in the playoffs, got the #1 seed, and proceeds with another chance. It could be worse, they could be 4-12 losing to the raiders by 30 and nothing to play for. I’ll take 1 and done over missing the playoffs every year. Sadly, that’s about all ya Chiefs fans can expect. But in my best Jim Carrey voice, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance…”

    Go Chiefs!

  23. This analysis has zero to do with clock management. Zero. As a Chiefs fan, I will be very concerned with Reid’s use of times-out and/or clock management. It has been suspect, at best.
    My advice would be to not call any t-o’s during the 3rd quarter. Games are won and lost for lack of ability to stop the clock; obviously, you say? They why does it happen so much? Coaches need to resist calling t-o’s to prevent 5-yard delay-of-game penalties. How often does that happen to disastrous results? Study that scenario.

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