During the 4th quarter of the Eagles' win over the Arizona Cardinals, Chip Kelly's offense had 4 drives. They mustered just 45 yards on those drives, three of which ended in punts. Kelly was profusely criticized for his clock management by the FOX broadcast team of Kenny Albert ("Kenny"), Daryl Johnston ("Moose"), and Tony Siragusa ("Goose"), or... "Kenny, Moose and Goose."
Their beef with Chip was that he wasn't letting the play clock run all the way down before snapping the ball, thus wasting the opportunity to milk as much time off the clock as possible.
Before we get into their actual commentary, let's jump in the "way back machine" to Week 10 in Green Bay, where the Eagles executed one of the best clock killing drives I've ever seen. In that game, the Eagles ran 16 plays (including 3 kneel downs), which burned off 9:32 to secure the win. The Eagles did not huddle once during that drive, nor did they let the clock wind down to 1 second on the play clock until they were in kneel down mode.
The drive was immensely successful, so nobody bothered to wonder why the Eagles weren't letting the play clock run down to 1 before they snapped the ball. In fact, there were 11 plays on that drive in which the Eagles came up to the line with the clock running. Here is how many seconds were left on the clock when the Eagles snapped the ball on each of those plays:
5, 6, 4, 2, 4, 4, 4, 4, 10, 7, 8.
That's an average of 5.3 seconds left on the play clock for each snap. But why would Chip Kelly not take advantage of running off every last second? He was asked about that after the Eagles-Cardinals game.
"We were just trying to get the proper looks," said Kelly. "I think there was going to be plenty of time if we didn't convert in those situations."
Frankly, I have no idea what that even means, but I think I can translate. I believe Kelly was saying "None of your business, Holmes."
There are advantages to not letting the play clock run all the way down to 1. If you let it run down to 1 on every play in clock killing mode, the defense knows exactly when to fire off the ball to stop your run game. If you mix it up, the defense has no idea when you're going to snap it, which keeps them on their heels. One of the great advantages any offense in football has is knowing when the ball will be snapped, while the defense doesn't. By telling the defense exactly when you're snapping the ball, that's a major equalizer. That may sound like "Football 101," and it is.
The one play from that drive against the Packers that really stands out was when they snapped the ball with 10 seconds left on the clock. On that play, look at RDE B.J. Raji. The snap is already in Nick Foles' hands out of the shutgun, and Raji isn't even out of his stance yet:
Lane Johnson drives him 4 yards down the field, opening up a huge hole for LeSean McCoy:
McCoy got 9 yards on the play.
Raji wasn't ready for the ball to be snapped because he was expecting the Eagles to burn clock, and instead of milking an additional 9 seconds off the clock, they were able to burn more than an extra minute and a half by getting a first down, and thus, 4 more plays. The sacrifice of those extra 9 seconds, in this case, was worth the reward.
Fast forward to last Sunday against the Cardinals. The FOX broadcast team of "Kenny, Moose, and Goose" began their criticism of this approach as early as the 11:50 mark in the 4th quarter, with the Eagles up by 10. It all began with Siragusa:
Goose: "I understand how you want to have your offense come out and keep the pace up, but you have to go and work (the clock) right here. That's gotta be one thing that you need to do, and right now, Nick Foles… I mean he still has 18 seconds on the clock and they're ready to snap it. They've got to use that time to take it off the clock so Arizona doesn't have a chance to go and get more possessions."
They actually snapped the ball with 10 seconds left on the play clock here, but whatever. With almost 12 minutes left in the game, it's very nitpicky to start in with the clock management when there's a lot of ballgame left.
Goose's initial salvo stuck in Moose's head, who was all over Chip Kelly on the next drive, which began with 8:32 left on the clock, which again, is still a lot of time:
Moose: "I think Tony made a good point on the last drive. The time on the clock, the play clock below there, where you see 23 (seconds) counting down right now, that's the play clock. And they were snapping it at :18 last time. It looks like they're slowing down a little bit, but I think that that's a point, Tony, where they have to keep an eye on that and take that down a little bit further."
Again, they snapped it with 10 secons left on the play clock during the previous drive, not 18, but let's ignore what actually happened.
On the next set of downs, Kenny Albert chimed in, in what almost seems like something they planned on talking about during the commercial break.
Kenny: "Since the Eagles' last touchdown early in the 3rd quarter, 4 possessions, 4 punts, including two 3-and-outs."
Moose: "And that's what Chip Kelly will talk about. He'll talk about those first 2 that were 3-and-outs, because he talked to Tony coming back onto the field for the 2nd half. We've got to eliminate those 3-and-outs. And if you do that, yeah, you are going to possess the ball for another series, but I think that there's still a thought process that you have to go through in specific situations."
The funny thing here is that Moose actually seems to understand the strategy of first downs being more important than milking a few extra seconds, but just sort of criticizes it anyway without any actual rebuttal.
And then Goose chimed in:
Goose: "Let's see what they do right here. The offensive line is on the line of scrimmage right now. The play clock is at 27, counting down, and they have to use this whole play clock. If they wanna go and dwindle this clock down, Arizona has no time to come back. They have to… dwindle it down."
What Goose was seeing here was the Eagles lining up quickly, but taking their time before they snapped. All this really does is give the offense a long look at what the defense is showing, but Goose immeditely went into freak out mode because it looked like they might snap it early.
On this particular play, they tried to catch the Cardinals off guard, by quick snapping it with 12 seconds left on the play clock.
Kenny: "They'll snap with 12 seconds remaining on the play clock."
This was the play in which Nick Foles was intercepted, but there was a penalty, which stopped the clock. This seemed to be lost on "Kenny," who on the next play had this say:
Kenny: "Now the snap comes with 7 left on the play clock."
Uh... It didn't really matter whether there was 7 seconds, 1 second, or 58 seconds. The clock was already stopped.
Then Kenny on the next play, as if it's now a fun game:
Kenny: "We'll see how much time the Eagles take here before snapping the football on second down. Play clock still at…"
Goose (interrupting): "This boggles my mind. I don't know, Daryl. It just doesn't make any sense to me. Why aren't they wasting the clock away?"
Here, Goose was once again not understanding at all what the Eagles were doing. The Eagles were in no-huddle, but certainly not "hurry up." They were getting up to the line so that they could see what defensive look the Cardinals would show:
This caused Goose to basically go "OMFG... THEY'RE GOING TO SNAP IT WITH LIKE 80 SECONDS LEFT!!!!!!!"
But the Eagles were in no hurry at all. Above you can see that they are set, but then they look to the sideline to get the play call after having seen how the Cards lined up. I mean... Does this look like an offense that's in a hurry?
Kenny: "Now they kill some time. Play clock down to 10. Snap with 5 (left)."
OK, so the Eagles snapped it with 5 seconds left on the clock. That should satisfy everyone, right?
Moose: "I think in this situation, Tony, along with what you're saying, it's also just bringing your offense off the line of scrimmage to kind of that sugar huddle area and then breaking to the line of scrimmage. You know, at a certain point, as you allow that clock to go down."
Oh, so the Eagles haven't huddled all year, because it isn't necessary, but now you want them to huddle instead of lining up and seeing what the Cardinals' defense will show? Makes sense.
What say you, Goose?
Goose: "Yeah, you're helping your defense too."
Yep. Those 4 extra seconds are really going to give the defense the added rest they so sorely need!