Over the course of this past week, football analytics has again been a main topic of discussion after Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer downplayed the usefulness of the popular grading website Pro Football Focus.
“The last thing that I want to talk about before I let you guys go is this Pro Football Focus thing,” started Zimmer during his Wednesday media session. “I know everybody wants to get the scoop on this, but quite honestly there’s not really anybody, I look at the grades and I can’t tell you what a 0.7 is or anything like that, but I know that the people that are grading our games and our defenses and our offenses, they don’t know if the tackle gets beat inside, if we weren’t sliding out to the nickel or who our guys are supposed to cover.
“I guarantee they don’t know who is in our blitz package and what they are supposed to do. I would just ask everybody to take that with a grain of salt, including our fans. We as coaches get paid a whole bunch of money to do the jobs that we do, evaluate the players that we evaluate and grade them how we grade them and not based on someone else.”
During his Tuesday press conference, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t asked specifically about Pro Football Focus, but he was asked to talk about football analytics as whole and whether or not the organization has done anything more with them over the course of the last year as they seemingly increase in popularity around the league.
“We’ve done a lot,” said Tomlin. “Ultimately, the bottom line is you come to the right answer or the right result and often times for me, analytics – the end destination is the same. Sometimes it’s your gut and years of experience that takes you to that same destination. I have a respect for analytics, but it’s not the end all, be all in terms of analysis for me, singularly.
“It’s another tool to use to gather information and hopefully done so to come to the right answer, or the right end result, whatever it is we’re talking about. And that’s our approach to it. We’re not resistant to it in any way, but we’re not completely, solely married to it without the utilization of other tools at our disposal to come to correct answers or gather information that’s going to help us win football games.”
While several teams around the league have reportedly created analytic departments over the course of the last few years, Tomlin said Tuesday that the Steelers haven’t gone to those extremes.
“We added some staffing, I don’t want to say we devoted anything singularly to that,” said Tomlin. “Like I said, our mentality is that we’re open, but we’re not completely in the boat in terms of unwilling to use other tools, or historical tools at our disposal in terms of gathering information.”
By the sound of things, Tomlin’s probably isn’t sitting in front of his computer the day after a game waiting to see how Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders grades his team and his individual players for their play. Instead, he likely lets the tape of the game tell him what happened, instead.
In other words, much like Zimmer, Tomlin probably can’t tell you what a 0.7 grade means.