John Smallwood: Hey Andy, does calling a play take that long?

Posted: October 04, 2010

THE GREAT MYSTERY of South Philadelphia has been solved.

The decade-long debate over whether Andy Reid or Donovan McNabb was more responsible for the consistent string of clock-management gaffes that highlighted their tenure together with the Eagles has been settled.

With Reid and McNabb on opposite sides for yesterday's Eagles game against the Washington Redskins, we were going to find out whether the coach or his former quarterback was more responsible for clocks always running a bit faster than the Eagles were thinking.

It was Andy. It was always Andy.

McNabb did burn two timeouts less than 2 minutes into the third quarter, but the most damning time-management miscue in the Eagles' 17-12 loss belonged to Reid.

It was definitive.

How could Reid let happen what happened at the end of the first half yesterday?

How does a coach get so disjointed that his team ends up getting a delay-of-game penalty coming out of a timeout because he can't decide on a play?

Reid's blunder turned a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line into a fourth-and-6. It was a change that might have cost the Eagles the game.

Nothing McNabb did could have trumped Reid not being able to come up with a play and get his team prepared to run it in what essentially amounted to 6 minutes of dead time.

If the Eagles score a touchdown, they are down by seven at the half. Instead, they settled for a field goal and trailed, 17-6.

"I take full responsibility, in particular, for what happened at the end of the first half," Reid conceded, as if anyone else could have been at fault. "I thought the play initially started out as [fourth-and] inches, but after the review, the play we had for inches ended up being a yard.

"The clock was well into it when we were aware of that."

You've got to be kidding me.

The spot had been marked for nearly 5 minutes during the review. Then the Eagles had another full 30 seconds after calling the timeout before the play clock started.

They didn't realize where the ball was spotted until it started running?

Just to refresh memories, LeSean McCoy had been stopped just short of the goal line with 23 seconds left in the half. The replay official called for a review to confirm McCoy had not crossed the goal line.

After nearly 5 minutes of review, the call on the field was ruled correct.

Presumably, it was during these 5 minutes that the Eagles decided to go for it on fourth down and determine what play they wanted to run.

They then saw where the ball actually was and called a timeout.

Obviously, you can't run the same play on fourth-and-10-inches that you would run on fourth-and-maybe-2-feet.

Somehow, an additional 55 seconds was still not enough for the Eagles to get a play off.

"Six minutes. Six minutes. Six minutes, Andy Fresh you're on!"

This definitely was not "The Show."

The Birds' offense hadn't gotten set at the line of scrimmage when the yellow flag for delay-of-game came out.

Reid has made some serious time-management gaffes in his 11-plus seasons, but nothing compares to this.

You got so flustered by a difference of 20 inches that you couldn't come up with an alternate plan and get your team set to run it in nearly a minute?

"That's on me, no excuses for it all," Reid said. "I wasn't surprised that the clock was moving, but I was surprised that it was moving as quick with the spot of the ball."

For me, all those times we saw McNabb putting his hands to his helmet as the play clock ran down before calling a timeout is now explained.

"We had a play-call with that spot," said Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb, who had replaced an injured Michael Vick. "They moved the ball back and we went to get our next play-call in and by the time I got the play and was coming back in . . . I want to say when I was running out there, there were 8 seconds left, somewhere around there.

"Obviously, I didn't have time to call it and execute it before the play clock went off."

Reid didn't say what play he wanted to run, but considering Kolb was in for Vick, I doubt it was a quarterback sneak.

So would it really have mattered if they tried that delayed shuttle pass to the running back from 10 inches out or 32 inches out?

"I just know from where it originally was and where it ended up being were two different spots," Reid said. "That's my responsibility.

"I'm not here to complain about the officials. I'm not here to complain about anybody else other than I goofed."

It was Andy. It always was Andy.

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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