Hofmann: Time was Eagles coach Reid's, and he almost got it right

Andy Reid was 25 seconds away from making the right call on his first timeout Sunday, in an expert's opinion.
Andy Reid was 25 seconds away from making the right call on his first timeout Sunday, in an expert's opinion.
Posted: September 17, 2010

IN 1997, JOHN T. REED wrote the book on football clock management. I know this because the title of his book is "Football Clock Management." He said that members of most NFL and college coaching staffs, including the Eagles', own a copy by now.

(Insert snide comment here.)

Reed has some unique, and some would say radical, theories about this business. He believes, for instance, that the team with less than a 50 percent probability of winning should be in some form of hurry-up offense from the start of the game, and that the likely winner should be playing some form of a slowdown. A man with a Harvard MBA, a background in the military and a love of the game as a high school coach in California, Reed has studied and written about the business of time and football because he always felt there was a dearth of real knowledge on the subject.

Talking about coaches, and how they manage the clock, Reed once said, "They all suck." He said that the first time he made that comment, the words appeared jarring to him in print. He sticks by it, though, even while acknowledging that he hasn't studied the clock-management skills of individual NFL coaches.

Which brings us to Andy Reid.

In one week of the 2010 NFL season, there already have been quarterback questions for Reid and time-management questions as well. All we would need is a little run-pass ratio conversation to score the Andy Reid hat trick. But take heart: There are still 15 weeks to go.

The time-management issue du jour concerned Reid's use of his timeouts on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Lost in all of the Kevin Kolb/Michael Vick business, and all of the concussion business, was the decision by Reid, trailing by seven points in the fourth quarter, to call his three second-half timeouts with 5:25, 5:17 and 5:11 left to play.

It was jarring to some, who asked, essentially, why so soon? It was reasonable enough to others, who figured that there wasn't a whole big bunch of difference between getting the ball back with 4:13 left and no timeouts (as Reid did) or getting it back with 2:23 left and three timeouts (which is what likely would have happened had Reid waited).

But what sayeth the man who wrote the book?

"I think he made a couple of mistakes," said Reed, who could talk about this stuff forever. He also can do it while putting on a Philadelphia accent, after being born in Camden and attending Collingswood High School.

It wasn't as bad as you think, though. It wasn't a bunch of mortal sins. These were smaller sins and somewhat open to debate. Remember, Reed's theory is that you manage the clock the whole game, not just in the last 2 minutes. The way he talks, the really mortal sins are calling timeouts in the first and third quarters, and calling timeouts when your team is on offense.

As for the rest, here is where Reed thinks Reid erred:

First, "I think 5:25 is a little too early - I don't think you should call a timeout until the last 5 minutes of the half," Reed said. He explained that 5 minutes is the point where you have a decent idea about what you're looking at as far as the end-game is concerned.

"He was close," Reed said, "but I think it was a little bit too early. Because you have to remember: If the Eagles score, the time they've saved benefits the opponent."

Next, he said, Reid made a mistake by calling a timeout after the Packers' first play of the drive - not because it was a running play, and not because it gained 4 yards, but because Reid never gave the Packers time to signal their intentions.

"The optimum time to use a timeout is when you're on defense and the other team is in a maximum slowdown," Reed said. "If they were in a maximum slowdown, with 5:25 left, that's still a little early. But were the Packers planning to run down the play clock before snapping it? They didn't know yet what the Packers were going to do. I would be inclined to confirm that they were going to be in maximum slowdown before I called a timeout."

Another question concerned Reid using a timeout even after the officials had stopped the clock for a measurement. But remember: In the absence of that timeout, the officials would restart the clock after they measured. There are 40 seconds between plays after such a stoppage by the referee. And this is Reed's credo: "Three timeouts can buy you up to 120 seconds. You don't want to settle for less."

So that's it, essentially. The guy who wrote the book would have had no problem if Andy

Reid had waited one more play before starting with the timeouts. If he had done that, the clock would have gotten under 5 minutes. Then, if the Packers showed they were milking the play clock until the end - which they actually did show at the end of the drive - calling the timeouts would have been OK.

So, no capital crime was committed. We're talking about misdemeanors.

With that, 15 weeks to go.

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