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Ken Whisenhunt on analytics

2/18/2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt has a civil engineering degree from Georgia Tech.

That might have led me to think he'd be into football metrics. But that's not really the case.

In a Tuesday morning interview with the Wake Up Zone on 104-5, a station I am also on, Whisenhunt was asked if he pays attention to analytics.

"Not really," he said, before getting a laugh with his follow-up. "Because I probably don't understand it."

He continued ...

"This is the way to look at it from a perspective of play calling. I can't tell you thousands and thousands of plays that you've gone in there and you've prepared to see a defense and you can run all the analytics that you want but there is no guarantee on third-and-1 in a critical situation in the game that they are going to play the defense they've shown 99 out of 100 times. It just doesn't happen.

"There is always the human element in there, I think. Listen, you're right, I'm an engineer. I understand the trends, I understand the probabilities, I understand all that. But if you get so wrapped up in analytics sometimes, you lose a feel for the game. And to me, there is an emotional side of the game and there is also a feel for the game. When you see a guy like [Frank] Wycheck make a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone with the guy draped all over him, how do you put an analytic on that?

"I mean, I respect it, I respect the fact that you can do studies and that you can put time in about it. But to me ... there is a lot of feel and emotion involved."

I don't think analytics needs to rule the way a coach operates. But I think if a coach isn't factoring in analytics in decisions like whether to punt, kick a long field goal or go for it at a certain place on the field in a certain situations, he's short-changing himself.

To me, the best formula is to have a base in analytics, where you know what metrics suggest, but not to be completely beholden to them, allowing feel for the game, emotion and gut feeling to factor into decisions and overrule things.

And in a bit of a roundabout way, I think that's what Whisenhunt was saying. He respects the available metrics, but he's not going to be completely controlled by them.