Analytics. It’s that thing you either love or hate, usually depending on if it helps or hurts your argument. Regardless of how you feel, it’s becoming a more important part of the NFL with teams finally hiring people specifically to dig through the numbers.
The very smart Andy Guyader decided to rank each team based on their analytics department. He was able to sift through 13 teams that cite specific analytics personnel, including the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh ranked 7th of 13, led by Karim Kassam.
Kassam, a local Carnegie Mellon alum, was hired nearly a year ago. Guyader referenced this ESPN article after the hiring, Kassam explaining that his role was to “dig up what numbers are going to help us predict who is going to be successful.”
Guyader said that Kassam knows “very little about football,” and paints the next year as very important for him and the team.
He also cautioned, and this certainly shouldn’t surprise you, that Mike Tomlin is not crazy about the idea of analytics. From Guyader’s article.
“Word is that Mike Tomlin is not big on analytics so Karim’s fit into the coaching staff may not be natural due to several factors. Word on the street is that Tomlin gives the vibe that he doesn’t need to have validation of what he already knows.”
Tomlin is famous for going with his gut and has been rightfully criticized for some of his game management decisions.
He said as much about having a “feel” for the game back in September.
“I got a lot of respect for analytics and numbers, but I’m not going to make judgments based on those numbers. The game is the game. It’s an emotional one played by emotional and driven men. That’s an element of the game you can’t measure. Often times decisions such as that weigh heavily into the equation.”
Of course, the Steelers may be delving into one of their own analytically driven choices, opting to go for two point conversions more than anyone else in the league. According to Ben Roethlisberger, that trend should continue, and perhaps increase, in 2016. That may not be entirely a credit to Kassam, the Steelers’ potent offense and new extra point rule changes make the idea pretty intuitive, but I’m sure Kassam isn’t opposed to the notion either.
If you’re wondering, the New England Patriots’ Ernie Adams finished at the top of Guyader’s rankings. I’ll let you make your own Spygate joke in the comments.
Only one other AFC North team was listed, the Cleveland Browns, who finished 4th. Coming in last of the 13 was the Atlanta Falcons. Again, check out the whole list at the link here.