Tavern talk: NFL’s worst game manager
I’d like to make an official announcement today:
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid is the winner of the best coach in the NFL to be the worst game manager of all time.
Normally, bad coaches are bad game managers — it kind of goes hand in hand. The “Peter Principle” takes over for bad coaches, and the one area that can’t be hidden from fans is game management. Coaches’ ability to handle game situations is visible every Sunday, so those crunch-time decisions shed light on the kind of coach that’s running the team. Bad game managers become bad coaches because their decisions result in losses, which turn off fans and create doubt about the quality of the coach.
Andy Reid is the exception to the rule about bad coaches and bad game managers going hand in hand. He’s a good coach. For someone who’s won 100 regular-season games, he continues to amaze me with his lack of regard for managing the game and giving his team a chance to win. Yet he’s won his share of games, in large part because of the talent of the late Jim Johnson, the Eagles defensive coordinator whose unit would frequently bail out Reid and his poor decisions.
Reid makes decisions that leave me asking WTF?! Last year in Cincinnati, in a classic overtime game, he dazzled me with his moves at the end of regulation and in overtime. In fact, NFL Network should put that game on its classic series to teach young kids who dream of becoming NFL coaches what not to do when it comes to game management. The back and forth between Reid and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis will one day be part of a class lecture taught by own Bob Boland at NY U. Bobb McKittrick, the renown 49ers offensive line coach, once told me as we flew back from the Senior Bowl, “Young man, you can learn as much from what not to do as you can learn from what to do.”
I know Reid is smart. I know he works hard and is well-informed. But I also know he’s the worst game manager currently in the NFL. Sunday against the Raiders, he nailed down the title.
There are some in Philadelphia – a cynical city, for sure -- who might feel that Reid is overrated as a coach. There’s some merit to that, especially when you consider that since their Super Bowl appearance in 2004, the Eagles are 36-32-1. They haven’t dominated the NFL, but they’ve been to the playoffs twice, including one conference championship game, since their bowl appearance. A little balance is always a good thing, especially in Philadelphia.
And for the record, I feel the Eagles should extend Reid’s contract because he’s a good coach. However, there should be one caveat. They should insist he bring someone from the outside to assist him, especially on game days with alternative ways to manage the game. It should be someone who won’t be intimidated by Reid and can make independent recommendations, not just tell him what he wants to hear like many do in Philadelphia.
How did Reid earn this title? With many of his game-gasping management decisions – and none more gasping than this one on Sunday. We start with the Eagles, down 13-9, getting the ball with 3:42 to go in the game and having all their timeouts.
Philadelphia Eagles at 3:42
1-10-PHI 20 (3:42) D.McNabb pass short middle to B.Westbrook to PHI 28 for 8 yards (T.Howard).
2-2-PHI 28 (3:17) B.Westbrook left tackle to PHI 39 for 11 yards (M.Huff). R13
1-10-PHI 39 (2:52) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short middle to D.Jackson to OAK 49 for 12 yards (T.Branch). P14
1-10-OAK 49 (2:45) D.McNabb pass incomplete deep right to D.Jackson.
2-10-OAK 49 (2:36) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete deep middle to J.Avant.
3-10-OAK 49 (2:32) (Shotgun) D.McNabb scrambles up the middle to OAK 43 for 6 yards (M.Huff).
THIS PLAY CALL IS UNDERSTOOD. THEY ARE IN FOUR-DOWN TERRITORY.
Timeout #1 by PHI at 02:21.
HAVE TO TAKE THE TIMEOUT HERE TO REGROUP. NEED TO GET THE FIRST DOWN.
4-4-OAK 43 (2:21) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete deep left to D.Jackson.
Oakland Raiders at 2:14
CHANGE OF POSSESSION STOPS THE CLOCK. AT THIS POINT, BEFORE SENDING THE DEFENSE BACK ON THE FIELD, YOU MUST TELL THEM TO CALL A TIMEOUT IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE FIRST RUN.
1-10-OAK 44 (2:14) J.Fargas right tackle to OAK 46 for 2 yards (B.Bunkley).
Timeout #2 by PHI at 02:10.
NOW, MAKE IT VERY CLEAR TO THE PLAYERS TO LET THE PLAY CLOCK WORK DOWN. WE WANT THE RAIDERS TO HAVE TO RUN THE BALL, AND THE ONLY WAY TO ENSURE A RUN IS TO LET THE CLOCK HIT THE TWO-MINUTE WARNING. IF THE PLAY CLOCK STOPS WITH ONE SECOND LEFT, AT 2:09, CALL TIME OUT. BUT ONCE THE CLOCK PASSES 2:08, LET IT GO TO THE TWO-MINUTE WARNING, WHICH WILL FORCE THE RAIDERS TO RUN ONE MORE TIME.
2-8-OAK 46 (2:10) J.Fargas up the middle to OAK 44 for -2 yards (T.Cole).
Timeout #3 by PHI at 02:02.
HEAD SCRATCHER. NOW REID HAS ALLOWED THE RAIDERS THE OPTION TO RUN OR PASS WITHOUT CAUSING ANY HARM AND FORCING HIS DEFENSE TO DEFEND THE ENTIRE OFFENSIVE PLAYBOOK. THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE.
3-10-OAK 44 (2:02) J.Russell pass short right to G.Russell to PHI 43 for 13 yards (J.Trotter). P17
WOULD NEVER HAVE CALLED A PASS HERE HAD IT NOT BEEN BEFORE THE TWO MINUTE. THIS COST THE EAGLES A CHANCE TO WIN THE GAME — BY GETTING THE BALL BACK. MAYBE YOU COULD ARGUE A PLAYER CALLED TIMEOUT BY MISTAKE, BUT THE TIMEOUT BEFORE, THE COACHES SHOULD HAVE GONE OVER THIS SITUATION. IT WAS SO WEIRD THAT WHEN YOU WATCH THE TV REPLAY OF THE GAME, THEY HAD THE CLOCK GO DOWN TO THE TWO-MINUTE WARNING, NEVER THINKING THE EAGLES HAD CALLED TIMEOUT. I HAD TO REWATCH IT FIVE TIMES. THE ANNOUNCERS NEVER ADDRESSED THE RUN PASS.
1-10-PHI 43 (1:55) J.Fargas left tackle to PHI 46 for -3 yards (T.Laws).
2-13-PHI 46 (1:13) J.Russell kneels to PHI 47 for -1 yards.
PENALTY on PHI-D.Howard, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at PHI 47.
All of Philadelphia is on Reid for his play-calling and lack of halftime adjustments from the Raiders game, and here are some of his responses to those questions. Reid on WIP. Yet for me, the disappointment doesn’t come from Reid’s failure to keep the run-pass ratio in order but his lack of understanding of how to manage the game -- especially now that Jim Johnson isn’t around to bail him out.
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