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Caldwell talks late-game clock management

Jim Caldwell called two bad timeouts last year.

In Jacksonville and against the Jets in the playoffs, he was looking to extend games but he helped slow things enough for his opponent to get in position for a field goal that beat him. In a season when he managed injuries and replacements exceptionally well, he took major hits for that poor clock management.

The general philosophy is sound. On most occasions he wants to extend the game since he’s got a team that can make plays with little time on the clock for late wins of its own. But in those two instances, he should have been playing for overtime.

Caldwell is a thoughtful man. So when I had a chance to sit with him recently, I asked him if a thorough lockout review had led him to any philosophical alteration.

His answer was pretty inconclusive. But also, for a guy who usually isn’t expansive, it was quite extensive. There were some questions in here, but he did most of the talking during this piece of our conversation, and I thought I’d share it in full.

So here he is:

“I think that’s the great things about this game. You better look at it. You better look at every phase. You better consider everything and reconsider everything. Because it could pop up again at any time. And I’ve looked at it and we’ve gone through it. Obviously when it doesn’t work in your favor, you better look at it closely and see if you’d do anything differently.

“So that’s what we did. We’ve looked at it closely and analyzed it. Did a little bit more analyzing probably than we ordinarily would [because of the lockout]. We forge on ...

“Every game is different. There are so many different factors involved. You have to take all those things into consideration.

“Here’s the other thing you have to look at. One of our strengths is, nobody scores more points in two-minute drives than we have in the last couple years. We’re certainly very strong in two-minute drives overall, we’re somewhere near the top. A lot of that has to do with the guy that’s under center for us. And the rest of our offensive unit does a great job of putting points on the board if they have time.

“So often times I am always trying to look for time. I’m looking to give us a chance where we have some time and the ball in our hands and we have a chance to put some points on the board. So that plays into it. Sometimes it works for you. When it doesn’t work, you’re going to get skewered.

“Now are you asking me is it going to affect me? [I said I was asking if the way things played out would affect him, not the skewering.] We look at it, we analyze. Every game is different. It just depends on the ball game, it depends on the situation. I can't tell you right now, 'I am always going to do it this way.' It wouldn’t be accurate.

“I’m a guy, I believe that when you believe in something in certain situations, you go with it. Now, there are consequences. I’ve been around long enough to know that. Now I am also one that’s not afraid of anything, anybody or any situation. There is no reason to be. I am a coach, I coach hard, I work at what I do and we see what happens.

“You’re going to think twice about things that may put your team in a bad position, you’ve got to think twice about that.”

I can’t imagine he’d call a similar timeout this year. Yes, in a lot of circumstances you want to extend the game. But you also must take into account that other teams can win late too. Getting the ball back with a few seconds left when trailing is not as good as not getting it back and being tied.

In those two games, he provided that precious time for the other team and never got the ball back at all. In his third year, Caldwell needs to concede he made a couple of mistakes by handling similar situations differently.