NY Jets’ Robert Saleh ranks as 2nd-best coach in important metric
New York Jets coach Robert Saleh may be a better game manager than he’s given credit for
In his second season as coach of the New York Jets, Robert Saleh made several clock management mistakes on game days that drew the ire of fans.
However, according to a recent study by The Ringer, Saleh may be getting too busy managing his watch.
The article, by Steven Ruiz, analyzes the value that timeouts have on a team’s chances of winning the game. He concludes that timeouts are most valuable when used in the last four minutes of the half – and by a wide margin, too. This means that if a timeout is used before the final four minutes, it represents a significant detriment to the team’s probability of victory.
“Brian Burke, ESPN’s director of analytics, found in 2014 that each timeout is worth about 3.1 points in the probability of winning,” Ruiz writes. “Coaches get six breaks a game, which means they can stack up.”
Deadlines have such a large effect on the outcome because there is a large disparity in their value based on when and how they are used. Timeouts used before the last four minutes have essentially no impact on a team’s chances of winning, while timeouts used in the last four minutes can be very valuable. So, losing an asset that may provide positive value later only to get a net-zero value in the present is an overall net-negative.
Ruiz described how two specific types of timeouts negatively impact a team’s probability of victory: timeouts used to avoid delay-of-game penalties and timeouts used for “operational” purposes (ie, when teams call a timeout to get the call for the game they want).
Because of how valuable time-outs are at the end of the half, it’s actually better to take a late penalty than use the time to save five yards. Those five yards aren’t worth burning a timeout that could buy you extra plays at the end of the half.
In terms of operational timeouts, the bottom line is this: teams across the league generally haven’t produced much better when calling plays out of timeout versus not, so calling a timeout to get into another play-call it tends to be loss. .
“Only two teams – the Dolphins and the Ravens – managed to extract excess value from their operating deadlines [in 2021],” said FiveThirtyEight’s Josh Hersmeyer, who is quoted in Ruiz’s article. “Whatever benefit the other 30 teams got from stopping the clock and regrouping before the end of the half (or game) didn’t come close to covering the costs of the breaks they spent to buy those precious extra seconds.”
Ruiz counted the number of timeouts each team burned in the 2022 season. This includes three types of timeouts:
“Operational” timeout (Used to access the correct play call) Timeouts to avoid missed game delay challenges
Here are the top 5 teams/coaches who missed the fewest vacations:
Nick Sirianni, Eagles (12) Robert Saleh, Jets (14) Arthur Smith, Falcons (14) Mike McCarthy, Cowboys (14) Brandon Staley, Chargers (14)
Robert Saleh was charged with missing just 14 breaks in 2022, tying him for the second fewest of any coach. The Jets were tallied with 9 timeouts, 3 missed tackles and 2 interceptions to avoid a delay of game.
The average number of missed breaks for an NFL team in 2022 was 20. So Saleh saved about 6 more breaks than the average coach.
Moving away from the article’s estimated win probability value of 3.1 points per timeout, Saleh’s ability to avoid losing timeouts added about 18.6 points to the season’s win probability compared to the average coach. Over 17 games, that equates to just over a 1% increase in the Jets’ chances of winning each game.
Saleh certainly has some areas where he can improve his game management, but at the very least, he seems to be doing a great job of saving his breaks when they matter most.