Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was recently asked if he had considered hiring a clock management specialist like the Los Angeles Rams have. Lewis responded by stating that their head coach Sean McVay also calls their offense so, “maybe that is something he feels he needs help with.” That is an odd stone throw by a man with a glass office at Paul Brown Stadium. Lewis, like many NFL head coaches, has had his issues with clock management. Here is a bit of anecdotal evidence to support why the Bengals should have someone responsible for clock management,
September 27th, 2015
The Bengals led the Baltimore Ravens 28-24. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has just failed to connect with tight end Maxx Williams on 4th and 17, giving the ball back to the Bengals with 1:35 remaining in the 4th quarter. Lewis evidently thinks that the game is over as he sends quarterback Andy Dalton and the Bengal’s offense out to kneel on the ball. It is impossible to know what is going through Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh’s head, but what he does is brilliant. The Ravens have one time out remaining, but they don’t use it immediately. They let the Bengals take another knee on 2nd down before using their timeout.
This obviously catches Lewis off guard, and he uses a timeout of his own to figure out what to do. There are now 53 seconds remaining. If the Bengals took a third knee they would likely only get the clock down to around 10 seconds before 4th down. They give the ball to Giovani Bernard who gains 7 yards and burns a few extra seconds off of the clock. Lewis lets the play clock tick down as far as possible then calls a timeout with 6 seconds remaining. The Bengals again run the ball with Bernard on 4th down and time runs out. Although the odds of the Ravens pulling off the win at this point were incredibly low, the Bengals gave them a slight chance.
This situation could have been avoided. Knowing that the Ravens had a timeout, the Bengals should not have taken a knee on first down. It is simple math. The play clock is 40 seconds, so a team can use about 43 seconds per play if the quickly kneel after the snap (this can obviously be extended a little if the quarterback waits to be pressured before kneeling). Since the Ravens had a timeout the Bengals could only hope to take about a minute and a half off the block by kneeling. Taking a knee on the first two downs prevented them from gaining yards and taking additional time off the clock.
The Bengals should have gone into this situation with the mindset of getting the first down. They took a knee when they couldn’t guarantee running out the clock. This was a dumb move, but they got lucky.