Andy Reid’s history of mismanaging the clock in the NFL playoffs, revisited
Andy Reid’s two most egregious mismanagements of the clock came in playoff games against the Patriots.
Andy Reid has racked up 195 regular season wins during his career as a head coach and another 12 playoff victories. His 207 total wins are eighth all-time, but all seven coaches ahead of him — Don Shula, George Halas, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau, Paul Brown, and Chuck Noll — have at least two championships each. Reid has been to just one Super Bowl and didn’t win it.
With Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, this season’s version of the Kansas City Chiefs could be Reid’s best shot at finally getting the Lombardi Trophy that’s eluded him over the last two decades.
To get it done, Reid might have to shake his reputation as coach who’s terrible at managing the clock — especially when his two worst time-related failures came in playoff games against the Patriots.
Reid’s rep for mishandling the clock stems most from Super Bowl 39
The only trip to the Super Bowl the coach has ever made came in February 2005 when the Eagles played the New England Patriots.
The Patriots were the defending champions and a touchdown favorite over the Eagles, but only won 24-21 in a tightly contested game. The Eagles were doomed by four turnovers, and also by horrible management of the clock at the end of each half.
Reid’s fumbling of his timeouts and the Eagles’ last chance at a comeback were so bad that it earned him a reputation he still has 14 years later.
The Eagles could’ve led the Patriots at halftime
At the end of the first half, Philadelphia had a chance to score to break a 7-7 tie and take a lead into halftime. After taking over on their own 19-yard line with 1:03 left, the Eagles were fine with running out the clock.
The Patriots stuffed Brian Westbrook for a loss on first down and called timeout, but the Eagles got 10 yards back with a pass to Todd Pinkston. They ran the clock from 43 seconds to 17 seconds before throwing again to Pinkston for 15 yards. That’s when Reid decided to use the Eagles’ first timeout of the half with only 10 seconds left.
The team’s drive ended with a 22-yard rush for Brian Westbrook that got the Eagles to the Patriots’ 37-yard line as time expired. Philadelphia went to halftime with two timeouts remaining.
“I don’t remember that at all, to be honest with you,” Reid said when asked about the questionable clock management at the end of the first half.
Still, the Eagles were tied with the Patriots with one half left.
Philadelphia showed zero urgency to dig out of a hole
It was a 14-14 game after three quarters, but New England took control in the fourth quarter. A 2-yard touchdown from running back Corey Dillon and a 22-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri put the Patriots up 24-14.
Donovan McNabb threw an interception on his next possession, but the Eagles defense forced a three-and-out to give the offense the ball back with just under six minutes left. Philadelphia needed two scores and fast. You sure couldn’t tell by watching the game, though.
The Eagles dinked and dunked down the field, gaining 49 yards on the first 12 plays of the drive. Philadelphia already burned one timeout while on defense in the third quarter, and didn’t use any during the drive. Reid even risked burning another timeout by challenging a 4-yard completion to Greg Lewis that was ruled incomplete, although the replay overturned the call to bail Reid out.
“How many Philadelphia fans are screaming at the TV, saying ‘Hurry up!’?” Joe Buck asked about halfway through the drive.
After the two-minute warning, the Eagles finally took a shot downfield and scored a 30-yard touchdown on a pass from McNabb to Lewis with 1:55 left.
“Well, we were trying to hurry up,” Reid said after the game, via ESPN. “It was the way things worked out.”
The onside kick failed and the Eagles managed to get a stop with their two timeouts. But they took over on their own 4-yard line with 46 seconds left. A 1-yard completion to Brian Westbrook wasted 24 of those seconds and an interception ended the game two plays later.
New England got the win — despite an underwhelming performance — and, from that point on, Reid was labeled as a disaster at managing the clock. Over the next decade or so, he provided more examples to drive the reputation home.
The Chiefs bumbled the clock on their way to elimination in 2016
In the years after Super Bowl 39, there were a few more times Reid messed up.
There was the time in 2010 when the Eagles picked up a delay-of-game penalty right after a replay review — costing them what could’ve been a touchdown before halftime.
“We had the play called for inches and inches weren’t inches when that thing restarted,” Reid said after the game. “The position of the ball wasn’t where we thought. ... I goofed.”
A few weeks earlier, Reid burned the Eagles’ second-half timeouts with 5:25, 5:17, and 5:11 left in the game. Philadelphia lost both of those games to start the season 2-2.
Reid was fired by the Eagles after the 2012 season, and immediately got another chance with the Chiefs. But the criticism of his clock management didn’t pick up much steam until it came roaring back when the Chiefs were eliminated by the Patriots in the Divisional Round in January 2016.
It was Reid’s third season in Kansas City and the Chiefs blew the doors off the Houston Texans in the first round of the playoffs — the team’s first postseason win in 22 years.
A week later against the Patriots, the Chiefs faced a similar situation that the Eagles did in Super Bowl 39. They were down 27-13 and got the ball back with 6:29 left in the fourth quarter. The drive that ensued took 16 plays and over five minutes of game clock before Charcandrick West punched in a 1-yard rushing touchdown.
When the onside kick for the Chiefs was recovered by New England, the Patriots only needed one first down to end the game and they got it. Reid’s clock mismanagement killed any chance at a comeback and came back to haunt another team in the postseason. He was subsequently roasted for it.
Reid’s clock troubles might be a little overblown
The Chiefs’ timeout usage in a Week 6 loss to the Patriots this season came under fire, but really there aren’t that many cases where Reid screwed up.
He’s been an NFL head coach since 1999 and that’s given him a lot of opportunities to make mistakes — something coaches in the NFL do all the time. Even the infallible Bill Belichick cost the Patriots a win this season by inexplicably putting Rob Gronkowski on the field to defend a Hail Mary that never had a chance of being thrown.
A statistical analysis from SB Nation’s Packers blog, Acme Packing Company, even showed the Chiefs as one of the best teams in the NFL at strategically using timeouts in 2018.
But Reid’s clock mismanagement has come at the worst times and on the biggest stages possible. And the Patriots have often been the beneficiaries. To finally get back to the Super Bowl and take the Chiefs there for the first time in 49 years, Reid can’t afford to goof again.