David Fleming has a pretty interesting article over at ESPN.com this week that goes into great detail about the Jacksonville Jaguars and the way their new coaching staff and front office is going to utilize analytics in their efforts to resurrect the most lifeless franchise in the league.
I have to admit, subjects like this scratch me right where I itch. I love this stuff.
Baseball’s analytics movement has exploded over the past decade and other sports (mostly the NBA) are starting to catch up. If you’ve read any of my NHL work over the past four or five years it’s been a big part of my coverage there and I know for a fact there are several teams that have their own analytics departments (including the team that plays across town from the Steelers).
Whether you like the idea of crunching numbers or would prefer to leave your analysis of the game to what you see and feel, there is no denying that more and more teams in every sport are willing to utilize whatever technology they can to gain an edge. It’s not about replacing anything, but simply adding more information to the decision-making process.
There was a line in Fleming’s article that stood out to me:
More than two-thirds of the league’s teams are now crunching numbers full time, including the decidedly old-school Bears, who established their own analytics department this summer. One of the notable holdouts? The Steelers. According to an industry source, they’ve shown “no interest or curiosity in that direction.”
How do we feel about this? Do you even care?
(I will also point out that line goes against some things I’ve previously heard about the Steelers front office and coaching staff under Mike Tomlin).
On one hand, the Steelers have been one of the most successful teams in sports over the past two decades and it’s hard to argue with that success. It also wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t have much interest at this point given the decidedly old school nature of the franchise.
But not even a little bit of curiosity? That seems … odd, and even a little hard to believe. Especially as other teams in the league (including their top rival — and defending Super Bowl Champion — the Baltimore Ravens) dig into the subject.
Forget the NFL, if Fleming’s source is accurate the Steelers seem to be behind the other professional sports teams in their very own city. Shortly after their 2009 Stanley Cup win I interviewed Penguins general manager Ray Shero and asked him what, if any, analytics the team used. He said they brought a few people in to show them some things but weren’t quite sure what the information was telling them or how it could benefit the team. Four years later they have their own analytics department and are one of the few teams that have openly talked about how it’s played into some or their recent roster moves, including the 2010 trade for goal-scoring winger James Neal and last offseason’s roster move that brought them goaltending Tomas Vokoun.
The Pirates, on their way to their first winning season in 20 years and a possible playoff berth, have an entire team of analytics people in their front office and use some wild defensive shifts that have made a huge impact on their fielding and pitching staff.