Cardinals vs. Patriots – Two major mistakes create a dramatic ending.

We finally had a game with a major coaching error but not only did we get one, we got two!  And I was very surprised that New England Head Coach Bill Belichick was one of the coaches who committed a mistake because he usually doesn’t think the same way as most NFL coaches which means he does the right thing.

The first mistake was made by Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt.  The Cardinals were leading the Patriots 20-18.  The Patriots had just used their last timeout and the Cardinals had 3rd and 13 at their own 35 yard line with 1:10 left in the game.  Obviously, the Cardinals were not going to throw the ball.  And the likelihood of executing a running play for 13 yards with the Patriots expecting a running play was very small.  So why jeopardize a turnover with a running play?  Why not play it safe and take a knee and let the clock run down to about :26 and then punt the ball.  The Patriots would have had less than 20 seconds left and no timeouts to gain at least 40 yards  to attempt a game winning field goal.  So what happened?  The Cardinals ran the ball with Ryan Williams who was tackled behind the line of scrimmage and fumbled the ball which was recovered by the Patriots at the 30 yard line.  Uh oh.

But Coach Belichick let Coach Whisenhunt off the hook.  The Patriots had 1:01 and no timeouts.  The first play went for a touchdown but was nullified by a downfield holding penalty.  After a 12 yard gain and another penalty, the Patriots had 1st and 15 from the Cardinals 23 yard line with :46.  Instead of trying to gain some yards for a closer field goal attempt, Coach Belichick had quarterback Tom Brady basically take a knee to kill the clock and then spike the ball on the next play to set up the game winnning field goall attempt with :05 left.  The 42 yard kick was not even close.  Why do coaches think a field goal is almost automatic?  I would never want to leave it to a kick greater than 30 yards yet time and time again, coaches would rather play it safe and not risk a turnover or penalty than try to make it a shorter kick.  Sorry Coach Belichick, this doesn’t cut it in my book.

Week #2 – Loser of the Week

It was a pretty easy decision this week.  49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is the loser of the week for not taking the 15 yard penalty to get a new set of downs with 11 minutes left in the game against the Cowboys.  His decision did cost the 49ers the game as running at least 2 more minutes off the clock before kicking a FG (and who knows maybe they would’ve got a TD) gave the Cowboys enough time to come back and tie the game.

Week #1 – Loser of the Week

For our first loser of the week this year, it’s a tough choice between Dan Mullen, Head Coach at Mississippi State, and Sean Payton, Head Coach of the Saints (see posts below for greater detail on their mistakes).  I’m going to give it to Mullen for a couple reasons.  1.  They were on the 1 yard and had a chance to run at least 3 plays to tie or win the game.  2.  Coach Mullen was 100% responsible for calling the 1st down run play that failed and let the clock run out.  In Payton’s case, I’ll put partial blame on Drew Brees who was executing the last minute drive and also had a hand in the decision making of not spiking the ball to stop the clock.  Congrats to Dan Mullen, Week #1 Loser of the Week.

Who was the worst clock management coach in 2010 for NFL and CFB?

As my first post for the 2011 season, I thought I’d review what happened in 2010 to determine the worst clock management coaches in the NFL and college football.  I looked at my blog and counted the number of times each was mentioned for any type of clock management mistake (I excluded a few that had minimal impact like not taking a knee).  These mistakes included the typical improper use (or non-use) of timeouts, bad play calling based on down/distance/time remaining, punting instead of going for it, etc.

First let’s look at the NFL.  This one is a slam dunk!  By far, the worst coach is Rex Ryan of the New York Jets.  I counted 11 mistakes he made across seven games (including three games with two mistakes in them).  He made four mistakes in three playoff games and he was the “loser of the week” twice last year which tied him for top honors with Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell and Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy.   Interestingly, despite his bad decisions, the Jets won four of the seven games in which he made a mistake.

Second place may also surprise you.  Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is the second worst coach with five mistakes across five games including the two on national television on Sunday night against the Patriots and Monday night against the Bears (meaning everyone saw them).   McCarthy was also “loser of the week” twice (shared one week with Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin).

Based on numbers, third place would go to Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith with five mistakes as well (McCarthy wins the tie-breaker with his weekly awards) but I have to at least give him a tie for third with Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell who only made two mistakes but boy were they big one’s.  His decision in week 4 to call a timeout while on defense gave the Jaguars incentive to try for a game-winning field goal.  And he committed a FIREABLE OFFENSE violation in the playoffs against the Jets when he inexplicable called timeout on defense late in the game to stop the clock for the Jets.  I can’t imagine Peyton Manning tolerating this incompetence for much longer.

The tie for fifth place with four mistakes is split between Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Eric Mangini (ex-Browns), Chan Gailey (Bills), Sean Peyton (Saints). Lewis, Mangini and Gailey all had one “loser of the week” award.

Honorable mention needs to be given to former Cowboys Head Coach Wade Phillips who sabotaged the Cowboys season in the first game right before halftime with the dumb short pass that was fumbled and returned for a TD by the Redskins (our week 1 “loser of the week”).  That set the tone for a miserable Cowboys season and I attribute this play to Phillips’ firing.

3 Mistakes – Steve Spagnuolo (Rams), Tom Coughlin (Giants), Ken Whisenhunt (Cardinals), Pete Carroll (Seahawks), Jim Schwartz (Lions), Mike Smith (Falcons)

2 Mistakes – Mike Singletary (ex-49ers), Tony Sparano (Dolphins), Norv Turner (Chargers), John Harbaugh (Ravens), Jeff Fisher (ex-Titans), Gary Kubiak (Texans),

1 Mistake – Bill Belichik (Patriots), Todd Haley (Chiefs), Brad Childress (ex-Vikings), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Andy Reid (Eagles)

Finally, these coaches were also “loser of the week”:  Tom Coughlin (Week 15), Josh McDaniel (Week 13), Ken Whisenhunt (Week 9), Mike Singletary (Week 2 – this was a tough one as his team scored too quickly).

College Football

This is a little tougher to score because there aren’t nearly that many close games in college football and thus fewer opportunities to make clock management mistakes.  So I’ll just highlight a few “winners”.

Top honors go to Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and LSU’s Les Miles for three mistakes each (Les made two in one game even though they won it).

Two mistakes go to Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, Mack Brown at Texas and Lane Kiffin at USC.

Weekly college football loser of the week awards went to Butch Davis (ex-North Carolina), Brian Kelly, Kirk Ferentz, Steve Spurrier (South Carolina) and Andy Talley (Villanova).


Week #17 – Loser of the Week.

Well, there wasn’t too much happening in week 17 as we had a lot of blowouts in both the college bowl games and the last weekend of the NFL regular season.  Therefore, despite getting lucky and ending up winning the game, I’m going with North Carolina Head Coach Butch Davis for botching the end of the game vs. Tennessee.  That was pretty bad decision making and execution and is indefensible.

Week #16 – Loser of the Week.

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.

Week #15 – Loser(s) of the Week.

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.

Week #14 – Loser of the Week.

This week I’m going with Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan.  His decision not to go for it with less than 6 minutes left in the game when they were deep in Dolphins territory was bad and so was his decision to not call timeout after the Dolphins first play with over 3 minutes left in the game.  He wins out over Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher because his team is actually playing for a playoff spot so his mistakes are more critical to his team.