FOXBORO, Mass. — One of the biggest trends in sports during the 21st century has been teams adopting analytics to help evaluate player performance and devise the best lineups, game plans, etc.
Major League Baseball led the charge in the early 2000s, and the NBA, and most recently the NHL, also have embraced the use of advanced stats. The NFL is reaching that point, too, with the Cleveland Browns’ recent hire of analytics expert Paul DePodesta from the New York Mets the latest sign that teams are shifting in that direction.
One prominent NFL figure who doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of analytics is New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
“It’s not really a big thing with me,” Belichick said during his Wednesday press conference at Gillette Stadium. “I’m sure you can go to the (Sloan Conference at MIT) and get your fill. I’m sure there’s a lot there.”
When asked if the Patriots hired math guys to help come up with schemes, Belichick said, “No.”
“We do some of it, but I’m sure we do a lot less than other people do,” he added. “It’s not really my thing.”
Belichick is smart enough to realize that if analytics are able to give his team an edge and aid its preparation, particularly for an NFL playoff game, then there’s some value. But it appears he’s more interested in using the eye test rather than fancy formulas to evaluate players and construct his game plans.
“I’ve done things all the way back to when I was with the Giants, and before that, I was doing them by hand,” Belichick said. “But look, you’re out there coaching everyday, and to me, if you can’t see an 80 percent tendency, then what are you looking at? Now, is it 51/49 or 49/51, what are you going to do with that? You want to bet on 51 or bet on 49? Or are you going to bet on 55 or 45? At that point, what’s the difference? I don’t see a big difference, and I certainly wouldn’t want to bet on 55 and just take my chances on 45. You got to play it straight. Honestly, I think if an experienced coach can’t see 80/20 or 90/10, then that’s not very good.”
The Patriots are doing just fine without a deep dive into analytics — no team has won more games or lifted more Lombardi trophies since 2001. But it wouldn’t hurt for the team to give analytics a closer look at some point. Advanced stats certainly don’t paint the entire picture, but they do offer a fresh perspective, especially in a sport such as football, where teams use so many different, complex plays and schemes on both sides of the ball.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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