Coaches Over Data

July 26th, 2020

“Jason, tell’em to email me box scores and film links, not zip files.”

“If you gotta have a computer tell you to go for it on 4th-and-2, you’re getting your ass kicked. You ain’t going to make it. The computer said, ‘Go for it because you’re likely to win the game.’ No, you’re going to get your ass kicked.” — Bruce Arians, February 2020.

Bucco Bruce Arians has about as much use for analytics as he does bottom-shelf whiskey.

He’ll drink it occasionally but he ain’t gonna buy a bottle.

It’s widely known that the arrival of Arians in Tampa meant the end of the Tampa Bay analytics department. Ironically, general manager Jason Licht was a strong proponent of analytics, building a team that grew in his tenure despite Dirk Koetter being no fan of the spreadsheet crowd.

Joe highly doubts Licht soured on analytics, but Joe supposes there’s a chance. If he didn’t, and he fought Arians on the issue, he lost.

Arians obviously prefers coaches over number crunchers, as the Bucs have the largest coaching staff in the NFL.

Last week, BSPN analytics guru Seth Walder shared a detailed list of NFL teams that formally embrace analytics with a dedicated staff. (See below.) The Bucs and Titans are the only two clubs with an empty nest.

This is all quite thought-provoking. Joe’s always in favor of a different approach and there is no right or wrong here — only a won-loss record that hasn’t been good for the Bucs since 2016.

23 Responses to “Coaches Over Data”

  1. D-Rome Says:

    Thanks for writing this up, Joe. This is really interesting to me. I think it’s FOOLISH to not have a person or small team dedicated to analytics. I’m not saying coaches should only make decisions based on analytics but it’s more information. Information is a good thing. Using math to help make decisions is a good thing.

    I think baseball has gone to extremes when it comes to analytics, especially the Rays, but it’s better than “going with your gut” in almost all situations.

    I’ve been hard on Jason Licht for a few years but I can’t help but wonder if he truly is some kind of genius when it comes to analytics and he’s been rebuffed by two of his three head coaches. Fans and most of the media have bashed Lovie Smith but what if the decisions he and Licht made were part of a large-scale shift in analytics based football? Those kinds of decisions take years to lay the foundation. Case in point: Sam Hinkie and the Philadelphia 76ers had his “process”. The Sixers sucked throughout his time but we see the team now and it’s clear the “process” worked. It took too long though.

    I’m not saying we should have kept Smith. I’m saying that perhaps he really wans’t given enough time. Perhaps they were laying the foundation for a process that could have built a winner. We’ll never know.

  2. Says:

    Knowing what your team can do in certain situations is more important than analytics. You can’t know what they can do without good coaching. Make sure the whole team can execute the basics before you worry about the analytical side.

    Knowing that 76% of the time a team gives up a running first down in a certain situation is useful only if your ground team can block and hit the hole and make the defense miss…etc. If your team sucks at any of those tasks, it doesn’t matter what the percentage is.

    So I will choose coaching over analytics until the basics are executed right 100% of the time!


  3. Roy T. Buford Says:

    “The Bucs and Titans are the only two clubs with an empty nest.” That alone tells me the Bucs are missing a tool out there that certainly can’t hurt to be around.

    HOWEVER, what I think BA means is…and consider this carefully… the statistics/analytics should back up what you already know. They sholdn’t drive your decision–they only should reinforce it.

  4. Etzel Says:

    A big reason this team is/will be trash. BA too old and senile to realize how predictable he is. You don’t need a computer to tell you to go for it on 4th and 2, you just need to grow a pair, old man!!!

  5. Roy T. Buford Says:

    @Etzel…you kind of make BA’s case in your comment. And if you think it just takes some stones to go for it on 4th and 2, you are doubly wrong. Just sayin…

  6. matthew veal Says:

    What’s so bad about cheap booze? It’s all I drink. Oh well I guess I’m a good example of why the good stuff is better.
    If there’s one place I can contribute
    Today it would be the argument of principals over patterns. Hard earned knowledge is your best hope in an unpredictable environment. Data may get you a fringe point or two but be careful about show hucksters that are selling illusion

  7. Etzel Says:

    I understand it’s easy to seem bold when your predecessors are Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter and I’m sure his style was really daring in 2012… but the Chiefs and Ravens are destroying us in terms of bold play-calling. Why? Because the analytics say to be.

  8. Etzel Says:

    Hey Roy, look at the numbers. You should almost always go for it on 4th and 2 (unless you’re a scared little punk team).

    Anyone else remember the offense in the second half of the Giants game??? An analytics guy would have told BA to THROW THE DAMN BALL, COWARD!!!

  9. Says:

    That’s where Brady will really help this team. He will get the offense running like a well oiled machine. When Jameis was leading the offense, did they ever catch a defense with too many men on the field? Brady gets his offense so well trained that they will notice when opposing defenses are swapping out players and snap the ball to catch them with too many men on the field. Expect to see us catch sloppy defenses this season.

    That is the difference that good coaching makes. A great QB is a coach on gameday.

  10. Cobraboy Says:

    Anybody care to do a cause-effect analysis of the size of “data” staff and W-L record?

    I’d be willing to bet there is none.

  11. Ndog Says:

    lEtS BaCk oUr kICkeR uP fOR tHe GaMe WiNnEr CaUsE iT WiLl bE EaSiaeR said our brilliant coach who doesn’t need analytics!!
    Or “lETs tAkE bAcK tO bAcK tImEoUtS oN DefEnsE iN a GaMe wINniNg sItUaTiOn, said the brilliant coach!!

  12. Sport Says:

    NDog – welcome back! Glad to see your banishment (self or externally imposed) did you some good.

    Go Bucs!

    In BA I Trust!

  13. Clean House Says:

    Well the Titans have a wrecking ball for a running back, at least they’re consistently old school

  14. Clean House Says:

    Oh wait, I thought I was NDog-that’s what you’ve all been saying for months-
    NDog nice to meet you- they say I’m you because I like JW

  15. Clean House Says:

    Those coaching “decisions” were JWs fault

  16. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Your take on how much Licht relies on analytics may differ from mine. I do see Bruce Arains as a real, somewhat traditional, coach. I also see him as open minded about new ideas and new technologies.

    In BA I trust.

  17. Bush's Coke Spoon Says:

    The Rays clearly created advantages for themselves by spearheading the movement toward analytics, and most of what I’ve seen about analytics in baseball shows consistent applicability. That said, the subject, to me, is quite dull. I’m with Joe on not really wanting to hear the analytics minutia during a broadcast.

    Baseball seems to lend itself to analytics, given the one-on-one nature of the game; pitcher vs batter. It makes it easy to isolate factors that are measurable, with both players using a common starting point.

    There are so many variables in football, that it is difficult, in my mind, to be able to find common data from which to build a mean starting point for evaluation, other than the typical down, distance, time on clock, etc; but we already have been collecting those statistics for decades. They don’t require a new analytics department. Thus, I am skeptical. I’m with Arians, as long as he quits the whole double timeouts and longer kicks are easier routine.

  18. Bush's Coke Spoon Says:

    matthew veal Says:
    “… but be careful about show hucksters that are selling illusion.”

    I know this is a football conversation, but this point is valid always. The danger is everywhere.

    To your other point, I’m drinking Early Times this week (spent too much already). It never dawned on me that it was “cheap whiskey” before they started putting the half gallons in plastic bottles. =)

  19. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Whether it be Knute Rocne, George Halas, Vince Lombardi,  Bill Belichick or Bruce Arians football remains football.  Yes, it is an ever changing game but, football remains essentially the same.

    I think some of you have underestimated what calibre of an NFL coach Bruce Arians is.  I have been impressed by the changes BA has put into place since he has walked in the door at One Buc Place.  

    I love and respect the coaching staff he has.  I love the two-practice regime he has put into place.  I don’ t know what kind of analytics he relies on.  I do know he uses state of the art sports science for setting up programs for each individual player. These are just a few of the changes he has brought.

    I put BA in the same tier as Gruden and Dungy, not necessarily that of Lombardy and Bilichick for example.  I do think BA and JL make a great combo.  I expect big things this year and next.

  20. Ndog Says:

    JimbobBucsFan so to be clear you were impressed by us having the most penalties in the league last year? By the bottom 5 special teams ranking? By the in game gaffes by the coaching staff that cost us at least one game and almost two more? That impressed you, just to be clear?

  21. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    I certainly overlooked the amount of penalties. I expect better discipline as the guys should know the system better.

    Our special teams play needs to improve. That is another failure. There was less than perfect game calling and game time decision making. Another area for improvement.

    I saw a real change in culture by the end of the year. I remain impressed by the coaching process and approach. I am impressed by the quick turnaround in our overall fortunes and expectations for an actual playoff run.

    Of course all must be reflected in wins. The proof is in the pudding!

    In BA I trust!

  22. unbelievable Says:


    I love having a staff and head coach that are completely set in their ways, stubborn to new ideas, and don’t want to learn or adapt or change anything despite new information being available.

    It’s not like people ever learn new things or make advancements, right?

  23. Oneilbucs Says:

    Clean house this fan base don’t understand that the running game is very important and that has been the only thing missing in the offense . And remember titans had a good defense look how they made Brady look .