FOXBORO, Mass. -- New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick dismissed the role of analytics again Friday, claiming it's not his cup of tea.
“Personally, I just try to take everything based on what I see, and not try to maybe read too much into other numbers and so forth,” Belichick said. “As you know, analytics is not really my thing. I just try to evaluate what I see.”
Belichick also added: “I wouldn’t say it’s a gut thing. It’s an individual analysis based on the things that are pertinent to that game and that situation. I don’t really care what happened in 1973 and what those teams did or didn’t do. I don’t really think that matters in this game or 1983 or 1990, pick out whatever year you want. It’s not really my thing. And I like math too, by the way. I really do. I like math.”
Does anyone really think Belichick is going to openly talk about analytics, or what numbers, trends and other probabilities are valuable in making roster or in-game decisions? He's not going to give up any information that a competitor can use.
The margin for error is so slim in today's NFL, and it has been for quite some time. Teams need to find every competitive edge possible, and analytics (or whatever you want to call the data) is a great place to find those advantages.
Look at some of these positions in the Patriots organization.
I think there's a competitive advantage to them publicly dismissing their adoption of data— Dan Hatman (@Dan_Hatman) September 27, 2019
That said, their staffing suggests otherwise. Outside of Kraft Analytics Group, listed Pats staffers have titles like:
Football Research Director
Director of Research
Chief Data Scientist https://t.co/rfgpzfhqU0
Belichick even won the MIT Sloan Analytics conference's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. In a video on the Patriots' website, Belichick talks about the importance of analytics.
"I know through the years that I've heard from many of you in letters and messages encouraging me to go for it on fourth down, so I appreciate your support," Belichick says. "In the end, football is ultimately determined on the field. And I know that the Patriots wouldn't want me out there throwing passes and wouldn't want any of you out there trying to cover Rob Gronkowski. The analytics and different ways of trying to improve and construct a team are important. We're all here really to do one thing, whatever our role or job is, whatever team or organization we work for, and that's to try to find ways to improve. Find a better way to approach our team or business. To look at different strategies and pick the best one, and ultimately try to motivate and instruct the people we work with to perform to a higher level, including ourselves. ... I certainly respect the mathematical and statistical ways of looking at the game, and trying to use those methods and those results to improve our product on the field."
Belichick obviously uses the eye-test when evaluating players. He has decades of valuable experience at his disposal, and math isn't going to tell you everything about a player. There's not one single method to making roster or in-game decisions. The smartest people use a combination of factors, including analytics, to make the best decisions. The Patriots have been the most well-prepared team in the NFL under Belichick, and it's not hard to figure out why.
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