Tomlin Respects Analytics, But Is Not Married To Them

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.

  • Ray

    Nobody can tell you what a 0.7 is. They make stuff up as they go.

  • JayBirdDC

    Dave, what did you think of this response and the role of analytics?

  • Ryan Roberts

    what happened to just playing football?

  • LgFriess

    PFF is generally ridiculous. It drives me crazy when PFF is referenced when evaluating a player. As soon as I see them or their score, I immediately move on, knowing the information will either be off the mark or just flat wrong.

  • Paddy

    PFF is the lazy football writer’s oasis. “Genchi genbutsu” which is Japanese for go and see. Something I use in my business

  • Steelers12328882

    I’d like to see the analytics on Chris Carter.

  • SteelersDepot

    We talked about this in detail on the podcast today that will be up after lunch.

  • JayBirdDC

    Sweet, thanks Dave.

  • Jeff

    I think Tomlin’s new word is “singularly”… haha gotta love his quotes

  • Brendon Glad

    I think with regards to PFF, even though Tomlin wasn’t asked directly about it…that he and Kevin Colbert have the track record to not concern themselves with it. I feel like PFF is a worthy tool for fans, and football writers, and poor gm’s…but if there is ONE thing that I can say has been a consistent PLUS for the Steelers organization for about 45 years…it has been “self-evaluation”. They are the best in the business at dancing-the-dance of almost NEVER getting burned on guys they let go….either young newbies, FA’s to-be, or aging vets….WHILE STILL maintaining a class and loyalty that makes the organization special. However, I trust this site A LOT….and the only reason I even know PFF exists, is because writers for this site reference it a LOT. So even though I don’t subscribe to the site myself, I have a feeling that they are definitely not a joke.

  • Brendon Glad

    And for week-to-week ratings, the reason why PFF benefits fans but not coaches is because the coaches’ jobs are to find out THE REASON for the good or bad score….and then correct the technique that caused it…or attack the opponent’s technique that caused it. So that requires watching the film yourself. With a knowledge of your own playbook.

  • Brendon Glad

    His “Luck quotient” would be very high…because by gosh, he may make the squad AGAIN…without doing anything for 3.25 years. 0 sacks, 0 FF, 1FR, 7T 9AT…and his injuries always came at perfect times…as in when “the competition at his spot playing in pre-season” actually helped his cause while he sat out. Perhaps TONIGHT, Howard Jones or someone else will make him actually have to perform to take a roster spot.

  • Steelers12328882

    Well, they should be playing at the same time as each other tonight, so we’ll get somewhat of a direct comparison.

  • Brendon Glad

    I’d say “I just want to see him ‘FLASH'”, but it’s year 4 and I actually have almost lowered my hopes to begging to see him flash. I mean my gosh Adrian Robinson flashed more than Carter and he’s out of the league……..But no, I have to stand firm and “demand” that I want to see Chris Carter “kick-butt”…a flash is not good enough at this point. If Jones Flashes, but Carter does not kick butt….then I keep Jones…raw or not. Once u(Carter) hit year 4, u better be dominating the back-ups and 3rd stringers that Car will run out there tonight, or it’s time to take a guy who actually makes plays here-and-there.

  • Brendon Glad

    “Obviously”, “singularly” will probably play second-fiddle to “obviously”…but any fresh-word to the coach-speak is welcomed. “Obviously” is condescending and annoying. Especially when reporters are asking him for answers that aren’t obvious.