We all know the look by now. The camera cuts to Wade Phillips sometime in the middle of the third quarter of a close game and finds a coach with a blank look on his face that suggests either a deep detachment or a particularly enjoyable daydream about a rack of ribs he once ate outside Abilene. It's easy to get frustrated when you see that face on your TV, but there's reason to believe it actually helps the Cowboys.
Greg Garber of ESPN.com took a look at clock management in the NFL in order to figure out why so few of the league's coaches seem to do a good job at using the clock as an ally instead of an enemy. He doesn't really come to an answer but the various ways but it's an interesting illustration of the various ways that time can kill you during a game. It's interesting stuff that's well worth a look before settling in for a long weekend of football.
Garber's research also turns up a chart of how well different coaches do at keeping their timeouts available to them in the final five minutes of a one possession game. The top three coaches are all first-year men, but the top veteran in the business is none other than our own beloved Uncle Wade.
So what's the big deal about that? Surely you remember when the Cowboys strolled into Philly and walked away with a 20-16 win in November, and how the Eagles kicked a field goal with under five minutes to play. It was a reasonable idea if the Eagles had timeouts so that they could stop the clock and get the ball back, but Andy Reid, who doesn't rank well on the aforementioned chart, had already burned them so he could make a pair of ill-advised challenges.
Coaches in today's NFL try to micromanage every part of the game without thinking about the implications that one decision may have on a dozen other things. Challenges are a perfect example as coach after coach throws his red flag without even thinking about the likelihood of approval -- concrete visual evidence isn't the same as being unsure about whether the call is right -- and without weighing one play in the third quarter against the value of a timeout in the fourth.
Just something to think about when you catch a glimpse of Wade seemingly checked out of the game on Saturday night.