The concept of analytics can be intimidating to mainstream sports fans. Put as simply as possible, it refers to the use of specific categories of esoteric statistics for assisting in the making of personnel and coaching decisions.
And Browns fans had better get used to it. New CEO Joe Banner is bringing the concept to town.
“Numbers to some people are like technology to some people,” Banner tells Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “They feel foreign, they feel scary.”
In reality, analytics are an extension of mathematical analyses in which the NFL has engaged for a long time. “Remember when you use to see the coach holding the piece of paper that told him when to go for two?” Banner said. “This is multiple layers of sophisticated analysis beyond that.”
More teams are now using analytics, but few are completely deferring to statistical trends in all situations. Unlike baseball, which ultimately comes down to pitcher vs. batter with eight bystanders who chew and scratch and adjust until something happens, football is a 22-piece symphony of conflicting unpredictability, complicated by the bouncing of a misshapen ball on an often uneven field under periodically erratic weather conditions.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t an edge to be gained in crunching numbers and analyzing percentages. Still, the things that happened in countless past football games only go so far when attempting to predict what will happen among any given group of 22 players on any given day under any given set of circumstances.
While the outcome of a game, a drive, and a play will slide into the database, relying on stats when the time comes to call a play or a defense is ultimately no different than relying on percentages when the time comes to blow onto a pair of dice and roll them down the table.
It has its place, but it also has its limits.