Belichick, Pederson Differ on Analytics
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Super Bowl LII will feature two very different head coaches. New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has already won five Super Bowl titles and comes from a defensive background. Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson is about to coach in his first Super Bowl and has a huge offensive background. They also differ on their views regarding analytics.
Analytics are still a relatively new aspect of professional sports, especially in the NFL. Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie created an analytics department to study and try to utilize key stats and see if the numbers shed light on how his team might find an edge during a given game.
Pederson has been an aggressive coach deciding to go for it on fourth down 26 times, that was good enough for second in the league on fourth down attempts. He converted 17 of them which led the league in fourth down conversions. Analytics played a partial role in that decision making process.
“With me and analytics, there are things that I am going to listen to and there are situational things I am going to pay attention to,” Pederson said.
As a former NFL Quarterback, Pederson draws on his experience as a player coupled with his evolving knowledge of the game from a coaching perspective with the analytics flavor sprinkled on top.
“It can be overwhelming quite honestly with the amount of numbers and things that come in,” Pederson explained. “I pay attention to what is important. I pay attention to what can help me make better decisions on game day. It’s been a big help and an aid, but I think you have to take a little bit with a grain of salt.”
Belichick takes his analytics with a heavy dose of salt. That is, he flat out ignores it. Here was my brief exchange with Belichick on that topic:
Where do you fall on the analytics spectrum? How much do you take into account with analytics?
“Me personally, not much,” Belichick stated.
“I just don’t,” he answered.
Ok, so Belichick enjoys coaching more from the old school methods and nobody can argue with that since it has brought him and the Patriots five Super Bowl titles.
But Pederson is allowing the analytics to fuel his desire to be more aggressive and the players are feeding off of it.
“There is so many times where I have been in a situation where before when it is fourth down you get ready to jog off the field and now we don’t know what is going to happen,” Center Jason Kelce chuckled. “We could go for this, we could try and trick these guys or do whatever. You have to be prepared for whatever he is going to throw at you. I think those analytics help you understand how much that plays into the situation with everything as well as how confident he is with how the game is going and he has a really good feel for that.”
Perhaps the reason Pederson has found some success with analytics is because he refuses to allow it to control any situation. It is strictly an aid he can fall back on if he feels that is necessary.
“At the end of the day, we are not coaching robots, we are not programming guys for numbers,” Pederson exclaimed. “I have to continue to teach X’s and O’s. However, I think a lot of it has helped us be in this position with a chance to win a Super Bowl.”
Pederson and Belichick will be interesting to watch in Super Bowl LII. Certainly the game will be decided by how well either team executes, but undoubtedly this matchup will feature key moments in the game where both coaches are faced with difficult decisions. What role will analytics play in the outcome of Super Bowl LII? We will all have to wait until Sunday to find out.