Albert Breer, a writer for The MMQB who doesn't believe racism exists and that Colin Kaepernick should write an op-ed for the New York Times explaining why an NFL team should sign him, has an interesting article up today. Maybe "interesting" isn't the right word.
Breer's piece, entitled "Analytics and the NFL: Finding Strength in Numbers," reads like a children's explainer on how NFL teams use data. There are sentence like, "On the coaching side, analytics are used are generally used to make staffs more efficient," Breer equating in-game analytics to NBA teams attempting to go 2-for-1 at the end of quarters and plenty of vague quotes from anonymous NFL executives about data, numbers and Bill Belichick.
Breer's main point, after interviewing 40-plus NFL people, is that teams having been using data to help inform decisions for a long time, and that almost all 32 teams subscribe to analytics services like Pro Football Focus or Stats, LLC. And none of that is surprising, eye-opening or shocking.
I've always been bothered by the way the Browns front office of Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta have been spoken and written about, something I outlined in a piece for Medium a little over a year ago. The Browns' tactic of placing an enormous amount of value on acquiring picks, jettisoning veterans on bad contracts and adhering to a PFF-esque way of grading players isn't some Upper Westside way of thinking. It isn't some elitist attitude. Literally every team in the NFL embraces analytics in one way or another, with 75 percent of teams employing some sort of analytics department, per Breer.
Is it slightly more difficult for NFL teams to figure out how to use the data they're given, as the article states? Sure. Less games and a slower rate of acceptance within the "old white dudes" club that is the NFL have presented some challenges. But with the Browns hiring of Brown and DePodesta, you'd think the franchise had just placed a trigonometry professor at the helm of their team, or something.
It begs the question: if analytics in some form have always been a part of the NFL's culture, why did the Browns' hirings cause such an uproar? And why is Breer's trend piece and others like it all the sudden being written with a positive twang attached to it?
We'll never have a definitive answer. It's probably no more nuanced than the Browns overall garbage-ness over the years skewing reviews of any hire they make. But for too long, the team has been criticized as if they were attempting to refigure the workings of football altogether, when instead they've simply been at the forefront of what's to come. And if you're a Browns fan, that should thrill you.