NFL Time Management: The Role of Timeouts in End-Game Scenarios
The Journal of SPORT, 4(1), 49-64, 2015
15 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2016
Date Written: May 30, 2104
Time management is an important part of game strategy in the National Football League (NFL), especially in the second half of a game that could be decided by a field goal. This paper determines the in-game factors that contribute to an NFL offensive team’s total time taken to reach field goal range during the final six minutes of regulation in games that are within three points or less. Using data constructed from 2009-2011 NFL regular season games, we find that neither quarterback rating nor the number of All-Pro players affect the speed at a which a team reaches field goal range. However, counter to conventional wisdom, using an offensive timeout during the final drive of the game extends the time it takes to reach field goal range by 22 seconds. On the other hand, the mere availability of an offensive timeout decreases the time it takes to reach field goal range by 19 seconds. Both of these effects are found in games where the offense is behind by 1, 2, or 3 points, but not in tied games. These findings inform in-game coaching decisions for football head coaches.
Keywords: time management, NFL, dual objective decision making, timeout, game strategy, clock control
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