Patriots' Bill Belichick Uses Analytics 'Less Than Zero' in Decision-Making

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2019

MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The rise of analytics across the NFL hasn't had any impact on what New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick does.

Belichick told reporters Friday his reliance on analytics to make decisions is "less than zero" during games.

Former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner told The Ringer's Kevin Clark the foundation for the 2017 Super Bowl team was their use of analytics: "We confirmed that there's a competitive advantage in analytics in a league that is structured to prevent you from having a competitive advantage."

Clark added the Patriots "have incorporated some level of analytics for years."

The most obvious example of increased data usage is the spike in two-point-conversion attempts. Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post reported in October 2018 teams were going for two 11 percent of the time through the first five weeks, up 3 percent from 2017.

The NFL has made it more enticing to go for two since kicking an extra point requires a kicker to make a 32-yard field goal, as Greenberg wrote:

"For example, if teams are successful kicking an extra-point 95 percent of the time—the average rate since 2015, when the league moved the snap for the extra-point kick to the 15-yard line—they will score 0.95 points per kick attempt. That means a two-point conversion needs only a 47.5 percent success rate to give a comparable point per attempt."

Belichick doesn't seem interested in using analytics in that regard, though he's hardly alone. The Patriots are one of 18 teams that have yet to attempt a two-point conversion in 2019.

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Reiss noted New England's use of data tends to be more on the football operations side, including technology, scouting and contracts.

Considering the Patriots have won six Super Bowls since 2001 and look like a serious contender for a seventh this season, Belichick's data usage seems to be working, and there's no reason for him to change his approach now.