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Notes: Lions coach Dan Campbell typically uses his timeouts well

More often than not, the Lions are deliberately stopping the clock.

San Francisco 49ers vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Not everyone is hard-core about clock management, but here at Pride of Detroit clock management is serious business just like special teams analysis. An item that came across our feed this week was a fun article on the use of timeouts courtesy of league data scientist Tom Bliss and NFL Football Operations’ fun zone called “The Extra Point.”

The article emphasizes the value of timeouts by first referring the reader to Brian Burke’s work from 2014 that estimated the situational (field position, score, clock) win probability value of having more timeouts. Admittedly, Burke’s input dataset was somewhat restricted since it only included “1st downs in the 3rd quarter near midfield, with the offense ahead by 0 to 7 points,” but at least it yields usable answers. The value varies situationally, but the NFL Football Operations article simplifies it down to a decent rule of thumb: “each second half timeout is worth about 3% in win probability.”

Assessing the timeouts actually used by current NFL head coaches in the 2021 regular season so far, the article divides them into three general bins: time-saving (used on offense or defense to conserve clock), unnecessary (used on offense or defense to prevent a mistake or penalties like substitution errors or delay of game), and a miscellaneous bin to get everything else like challenges or timeouts for injuries. Looking at the chart in the tweet above or the bigger version that’s easier to read in the article, we find Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell fourth from the bottom - which is good! The order in which coaches are sorted is their timeouts used per game for unnecessary (bad) reasons.

Campbell’s most frequent reason for using a timeout this season has been to conserve the clock in defensive situations, followed by clock management in offensive situations. The combined clock management reasons (2.7 timeouts per game) account for nearly twice as many timeouts used by Detroit as the unnecessary reasons (1.4 timeouts per game). While the win-loss record this year obviously hasn’t been fantastic, this is another data point to suggest the Lions are actually a pretty well-coached team.

The article acknowledges the Lions have been playing from behind quite a bit with their bad record, which may have something to do with their heavy use of timeouts to conserve the clock. However, many of their non-Philadelphia games have been down to the wire and a bunch of gutsy calls gave the team legitimate chances to win. In any event, it’s pretty cool to see attention being paid to clock management at all.

Now, on to the rest of today’s Notes:

  • Everyone should get a chance to play this game, not just those of us who obsessively doomscroll on Twitter:

  • For anyone qualified and interested, this is cool:

  • Each week, Fox 2’s Dan Miller sits down with a player for a quick exclusive interview. This time it’s rookie Levi Onwuzurike’s turn:

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