Sean Payton recently stated that he wishes he went with his instincts instead of using analytics. Should analytics be a driving or reference point for NFL coaches in the future?
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has become well known for his coaching acumen and offensive playcalling. This season, his Saints are considered the poster child for the NFL’s wide open offensive attack as his quarterback, Drew Brees, is potentially on pace for his first NFL MVP. Payton’s belief in analytics has paved the way for the Saints to be perennial playoff contenders.
But according to Payton, that belief has carried over into making bad decisions. Against the Cowboys last week, Payton decided to go for it on the goal line on fourth down. The offense that game was sputtering and needed all the boost it could get. Instead, the Cowboys stopped the Saints and went on to win that game, 13-10. The loss gave the Saints their first defeat since Week 1.
But this is where analytics must be an accessory and not a necessity. While numbers for situations are good to have, it can’t replace the feeling of intuition. Payton elaborated on how he feels intuition would have played a better part in his decision making than relying on numbers.
I do think that’s where analytics have changed in a positive way. I think we’re more educated.
I kick myself for two or three different situations in that game, not handling them the right way. We have an opportunity to score, it’s fourth-and-1, I know our fourth down numbers are good, I felt like we had a good plan, and yet, in that game? Kick the field goal.
Payton acknowledges the importance of analytics, in which the number crunching has helped educate him on the aspects of football that are normally unseen. Still, he probably wishes he could rely more on his instincts, and not the numbers.