Is there a stat-geek breathing behind all that press conference bluster and Tiger Mountain-climbing? According to a 2003 story for the Tennessean by ESPN's Paul Kuharsky about former Titans defensive coordinator and new Lions head coach (gulp) Jim Schwartz, perhaps,
Schwartz, like FO big kahuna Aaron Schatz, has an economics degree. Like Aaron, Schwartz has been applying regression analysis to football for years. Thus, his status as perhaps the biggest FO believer among the NFL coaching fraternity.
Anyhoo, here's the passage in the linked article that caught my eye:
Schwartz doesn't overload his players with statistical information. Free safety Lance Schulters, a former 49er, said San Francisco defensive coordinator Jim Mora referred to stats the same way Schwartz does in meetings. Cornerback Andre Dyson, who's played for no other NFL coordinator, said he is sometimes surprised by Schwartz.
Well, this certainly bears watching. Will Mora already know that Adjusted Sack Rate doesn't refer to the number of times per day your strong-side linebacker corrects the position of his "package" during practice? Has Moneyball actually come to Seattle?
Edit: Paul Kuharsky sent me a quick e-mail this afternoon, asking to clarify that he meant to say Schwartz wasn't that different from Mora, not so much that Mora was an "FO guy."
Also, an interesting tidbit from Schwartz's introductory press conference today:
There's not a coach in the United States - high school, college or NFL - that doesn't use statistics to some degree. What we try to do, and this goes back to Bill Belichick, who is also an economics major, what we tried to do is we tried to identify the important stats and so many times writers will harp on, 'Ok, well they're the worst in the league in yards allowed, or this.' Try to find out what's meaningful, what correlates to wins and look at the game in a little different way. Statistics have been strong in baseball for a long time, but there are 162 games. Stats will bear out over 162 games, but 16 games is a little bit different. We started breaking down games not into just a game, but into series, looking a little bit farther. I think what it does is that it gives us an idea of how we can best use our practice time. We can devote time to third down defense. We can devote time to things that correlate to keeping points off the board, or keeping drives alive to score.
The divide between old school and new will become more and more pronounced. The Schwartz hire is a huge step in that direction. Whether Mora in fact will choose to tread on the new line in any way remains to be seen.