Reid, Kelly, and clock management
Those football gods sure do have a sense of humor. Andy Reid is coming to town Thursday, and clock management was a topic of discussion Monday in his former workplace.
That subject, of course, was an oldie but rarely a goody during Reid's 14 years as the head coach of the Eagles. Who can forget everybody's favorite, "Tick, tock, there goes the Super Bowl clock?"
Those were the days, and you probably thought they finally ended when Chip Kelly replaced Reid as coach. Clock management seemed like the least likely topic to be raised with a coach who likes his offense to move at the speed of light.
We live in a world in which we're constantly bombarded by messages that tell us faster is better. The truth is that sometimes slower is better, especially when faster means you're going to have to count on the leaky Eagles defense to win the game. We all saw how that worked out during Sunday's loss in the final seconds to the San Diego Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field.
Kelly pleaded guilty to a series of crunch-time mistakes during his day-after news conference Monday, the most glaring of which was his failure to realize that Michael Vick could have remained in the game after he was shaken up by a big hit from Chargers defensive end Jarius Wynn. All Kelly had to do was call a timeout, and Vick could have run the next play.
"That's on me," Kelly said.
Fans would have shown up at One NovaCare Way with pitchforks and torches had Reid committed such a gaffe, but Kelly is a rookie coach still on his honeymoon. That offense he's running sure has some nice legs, and that remains the fans' focus for now.
The call that followed Vick's one-play exit from the game was equally perplexing but certainly reflective of Kelly's aggressive coaching personality. Backup Nick Foles, after watching the entire day, threw a pass into the end zone that sailed well over DeSean Jackson's head, leaving the Eagles with a third and 10 from the San Diego 14-yard line with 1 minute, 58 seconds remaining. When Vick's third-down pass fell incomplete, the Eagles settled for a field goal, leaving Philip Rivers just under two minutes and two timeouts to orchestrate a game-winning field goal drive.
Kelly was asked if the offense should have slowed down on its final possession of the game.
"Yeah, when you look at it in hindsight, we didn't score," he said.
That's another insight into the rookie coach's mind. The Eagles actually did score. Alex Henery's 32-yard field goal tied the game at 30-30, but Kelly's offensive mentality is all about touchdowns. Field goals are a defeat, and this one certainly led to Sunday's loss.
"We wanted to try to score a touchdown, go up four and then make them have to drive the entire field," Kelly said. "So obviously when you look back at it, we probably should have ran the clock down."
His players didn't feel that way. They have been programmed to go fast, and it made no sense to them to slow down when they were down by three points.
"Why would we milk the clock when we're not winning?" wide receiver Jason Avant asked. "We're a firm believer that you win games in this league. You don't try not to lose. The teams that play scared, they usually lose."
The Eagles were playing to win, and you really shouldn't be thinking too much about the clock when you're behind. It would have been different if the Eagles were tied as they embarked on that final drive.
Some elite NFL coaches have used the clock to their advantage by slowing things down. Bill Parcells' New York Giants beat the high-scoring Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV because of the way they managed the clock. The Eagles lost to Sean Payton's Saints twice by the identical score of 27-24 during the 2006 season with the second defeat bouncing them from the playoffs.
In the first game, Payton and his quarterback, Drew Brees, masterfully drained 81/2 minutes off the clock as the Saints methodically drove down the field before sending in John Carney to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired. It didn't help that Reid had burned two of his three timeouts before the Saints started their final drive, and it's refreshing that Kelly doesn't have that same nasty habit.
Reid has used six timeouts before the two-minute warning in the Chiefs' first two games. Kelly has used three, but two were on failed challenges that were worth making.
At some point, going slower is going to be better for the Eagles because they're going to need to drain those precious final minutes from the clock when they do have a lead. They weren't very good at doing that in the season opener at Washington, but Kelly said it will not be a problem for an offense that loves to go fast.
"It's not difficult at all," he said.
Time will tell.
Fast, Faster, and Fastest
The Kansas City Chiefs, under first-year coach Andy Reid, have run 79 plays in their first two games in which the clock did not stop after the play. The Eagles have run 91 plays under similar circumstances.
Here is a breakdown of the time it has taken between those plays:
40 seconds or more
Chiefs, 37 plays, 46.8 percent.
Eagles, 8 plays, 8.8 percent.
30 seconds or more
Chiefs, 55 plays, 69.6 percent.
Eagles, 33 plays, 36.2 percent.
30 seconds or less
Chiefs, 24 plays, 30.3 percent.
Eagles 58 plays, 63.7 percent.
- Bob Brookover
Contact Bob Brookover at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @brookob.