Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has opinions on analytics. Strong and probably misguided opinions.
“No. I trust my eyes," Koetter said this week when asked whether he believes in the Buccaneers' analytics department, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "I trust my eyes, okay? I watch the tape. I watch a lot of tape and I trust what my eyes tell me. So I don’t need a freaking piece of paper with a bunch of numbers on there to tell me something my eyes can see."
Keep in mind that the Bucs, like all 32 NFL teams, have invested ever-increasing resources in analytics as a way to gain a competitive advantage. The team hired Tyler Oberly as its manager of analytics in March 2014 with eyes on applying some of his principles to team building. Oberly has spoken at MIT's Sloan Sports Conference, most notably offering his football-related answer to the NBA's player efficiency rating.
To hear Koetter speak on the subject, however, is to dismiss it all as nonsense.
“I mean, not to get pissed off, but that whole thing of looking at a piece of paper and telling you how to call a football game is a freaking joke in my opinion," he said, per Stroud. "That’s why I watch tape. Half the stuff on that paper, you can sort those stats out any way you want to. But I’m sticking by eyes. It’s work okay for me so far."
There are a few ways to look at these quotes, likely depending on the lens through which you view analytics. Statheads will understandably scoff, writing the 56-year-old Koetter off as another aging coach unwilling to change with the times. Old-school die-hards likely believe Koetter is just saying what they've all wanted to for years.
The correct approach, however, is likely somewhere in the middle. Koetter is correct in saying stats alone should not be making all decisions. Football is not an individual sport, and there are inherent complexities to determining a player's value within the team ecosystem.
Where he misfires is dismissing analytics entirely. Smart organizations combine the traditional and new ways of analysis, see where they agree/disagree and make decisions based on all the information at their disposal. Koetter and others dismissing analytics altogether is problematic in ways that might eventually cost him his job if the Bucs offense doesn't start doing better than 18th in points per game.
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