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Thursday, January 7, 2010
Measuring NFC North clock management

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

As the playoffs approach, you’ll see all kinds of rankings, evaluation, analysis and predictions. I found this one particularly interesting.

As part of Thursday’s ESPN.com Hot Read on clock management, the Elias Sports Bureau tracked how often the NFL’s 32 coaches have retained at least two of their timeouts in close games over their careers. For the purposes of this study, “close” is defined as a one-possession game with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Below are the rankings for the four NFC North coaches. It’s worth noting that our two playoff coaches rank No. 3 and No. 4 in the division.

T-1. Jim Schwartz: 100 percent (seven times in seven close games)
17. Lovie Smith: 86.4 percent (38 in 44)
21. Mike McCarthy: 83.9 percent (26 in 31)
23. Brad Childress: 82.8 percent (23 in 29)

It’s also important to point out that coaches have different philosophies on timeouts. Some use them like basketball coaches, hoping to stem the tide of an opponent’s momentum or to ensure organization for a critical play. They’re less concerned about preserving timeouts for the end of a game that could be out of hand by the end of the fourth quarter.

That said, I’m sure every coach would prefer to have his full allotment of timeouts at the end of a close game, and without a doubt, some coaches waste them more frequently than others.

I’m not ready to make any final judgments based on this analysis. But because clock management is so important in the playoffs, and there are so few ways to measure it, I thought it merited a link and ensuing discussion in these parts.