Well it looks like we finally have our first clock management mistake of the college bowl season although as bad as it was, North Carolina ended up getting lucky. North Carolina was trailing Tennessee 23-20 with :23 left and had 2nd and 10 from the Tennessee 25 yard line. The clock was stopped. North Carolina had no timeouts. Either throw the ball into the end zone or to the sideline. North Carolina decides to run the ball. They got 7 yards. OK. Then quickly spike the ball. But after the running play, North Carolina looked so disorganized and then don’t know whether to spike the ball or kick a FG. It looks like the clock has run out as they try to spike the ball and they even had too many men on the field. But the refs rule there was one second left and NC kicks a game tying FG. They got lucky but that was absolutely horrible coaching by NC Head Coach Butch Davis.
There are so many choices this week, all coming from the same theme: punting the ball when they should go for it. I looked at the importance of the situation (playoff team vs. a team already out of it) and whether they could’ve won the game if they had done the opposite (the Eagles were down by two scores and faced 4th and 18). Therefore, it really came down to Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith for not going for it on 4th and 6 from his own 43 with less than 3 minutes left in the game and Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan for not going for it on 4th and 6 from the Bears 35 with less than 6 minutes left in the game. I could probably make them co-losers of the week but I’m going to go with Rex Ryan because he punted twice in the last 6 minutes when he should have gone for it either time.
This is such a common theme in the NFL. Why do teams punt when the score and time remaining dictate they must go for it, not matter the down, distance and field position? The Eagles are trailing the Vikings 24-14 with 4:30 left in the game. They have 4th and 18 at midfield. They have two timeouts left and the two minute warning. GO FOR IT. The Eagles punt and as I’m typing this, the Vikings have gotten one first down and will punt the ball back to the Eagles with just over a minute remaining. Do you think the Eagles can score twice in one minute? I didn’t think so. Way to go Andy Reid.
Well, I don’t have to say to much about this one because it has been covered by the mainstream media very extensively over the past 24 hours. Saints lead the Falcons 17-14 with 2:52 left. The Falcons have 4th and 6 at their own 43. GO FOR IT! Yes, they did have two timeouts and the 2 minute warning to stop the clock after they punted. But they had to hold the Saints. And they didn’t. And they never got the ball back. One might say it is easy to say that after the fact but at the moment they were punting, I said it was a mistake.
So I’m following up my previous post with more analysis of Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan and his decision making in the closing minutes of the game. As noted below, he first punted with with 5:43 left and 4th and 6 at the Bears 35. The Jets then held the Bears but the Jets couldn’t move the ball and they punted again with 4th and 5 at their own 45 with 3:09 left. The Jets got the ball back again! This time they had no timeouts with 1:03 left from their own 28 needing a TD. If you look at the 3 scenarios, is that the best situation for the Jets? I don’t think so. I certainly think they should’ve gone for it on the first series and possibly on the second. Rex Ryan continually puts the Jets in bad situations to try and win the game instead of taking the opportunities that are clearly a much better option. I’d have to say he’s definitely in the top 4 worst clock management coaches in the NFL.
The Jets are down 38-34 to the Bears with 5:43 left in the game and 4th and 6 from the Bears 35. The Bears have been moving the ball at will in the second half. So what does Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan do? He punts the ball. Really? This is not the first time Rex has done this (see Dolphins two weeks ago). Let’s see if this decision costs him another game.
Dolphins have 4th and 12 from the Lions 32 with 2:58 left in the first half. You are 7-7 and out of the playoffs. Go for it. The Dolphins punt. Now, it might actually work for them as they got the ball back and are looking to score but I still can’t stand “scared” decisions by coaches.
The Browns are trailing the Ravens 13-7 late in the 2nd quarter. The Browns are on the move and have all 3 timeouts remaining. The first play after the two minute warning, the Browns complete a pass and run for 28 yards to the Baltimore 24 yard line. Clock is moving, no timeout called. On first down with 1:16 remaining, the Browns run the ball for one yard. Clock is moving, no timeout called. On second down, Colt McCoy scrambles for 7 yards and gets out of bounds. There are :31 left and the Browns still have 3 timeouts left. 3 plays in 90 seconds. That’s bad clock management. Let’s see what the Browns do on this drive to render the final verdict.
So they settle for a FG but have to kick on 3rd down because there is only :06 left. Brown Head Coach Eric Mangini gets an F on this drive. By the way, the Browns end the half with two timeouts left.
As I watch NFL games late in the year involving team(s) with no chance of making the playoffs, I’m always amazed at some of the bad decisions made by their head coaches. Case in point in last night’s Cowboys/Cardinals game. The Cardinals had taken an early 14-0 lead on the Cowboys from two gifts (interceptions returned for TD’s) and were driving the ball. They faced a 4th and 1 at the Cowboys 31 with 3 minutes left in the first quarter. GO FOR IT. What do you have to lose? Instead, Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt (very familiar to this blog) brings out the FG kicker who promptly misses a 49 yard FG. Now, the Cardinals did win the game but if they had lost, I would’ve blamed the loss on this play. Another example of a coach coaching scared in the NFL.
Wow. This is a tough week. We have three really good candidates. First, we have Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin, who made two mistakes. One, not having his “hands” team on the field for the onside kick and two, for not having his punter punt out of bounds on the last play of the game. Then, we have Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid who tried to give the game to the Giants twice. First at the end of the first half for not running out the clock with :22 left and instead his team committed a turnover and the Giants scored a TD. And second, for not challenging a fumble in the second half that would’ve given the ball back to the Eagles and instead the Giants scored a TD on the ensuing drive. And finally, we have Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy. He has made this blog multiple times this year and I have to put him in the top three worst clock management coaches in the NFL. He completely butchered the “four-minute drill” and ended up costing his team a chance at victory.
I’m going to have to go co-losers of the week. Tom Coughlin and Mike McCarthy. Andy Reid only escapes because he won. But the other two made bad decisions that have huge impact. The Giants potentially lost a number two seed and may not make the playoffs while the Packers now have to win out to make the playoffs.