Analytics guys and football guys have been battling it out on social media and in debates at bars throughout the past couple of seasons, with both sides arguing their points at length. Barely ten minutes into Super Bowl LIV between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, half of the number one NFL announcing crew for Fox, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, showed that he’s been studying up on his analytics regarding at least one point.
Former Field Gulls contributor Ben Baldwin noted the moment on Twitter.
Troy Aikman just said during the Super Bowl broadcast that you don't have to have a great run game to use play action. The nerds have won— new-age analytical (@benbbaldwin) February 3, 2020
That’s a point that Baldwin has been supporting for some time, as it was nearly two years ago that he demonstrated the irrelevance of the strength of a running game to the success of play action in a post for FootballOutsiders.com. The Chiefs finished this season with just 1,569 rushing yards, which is fewer than the Seattle Seahawks recorded during the 2017 season (1,629).
For those who were watching at a bar and couldn’t hear, were at a party and not paying attention or for those who were possibly watching on an international broadcast that did not have Aikman and his sidekick Joe Buck on the audio, here is a tweet that includes the clip and the quote.
The actual quote:— new-age analytical (@benbbaldwin) February 3, 2020
"It proves the theory that you don't have to be a great running team to have a great play action game"
--Troy Aikmanhttps://t.co/0zDnp5GFRh pic.twitter.com/0VAwDDvrVC
The analytics revolution in the NFL is still in its infancy, and here is a perfect example of how a former Field Gulls contributor performed analysis using nothing more than the publicly available play by play data to develop and test a hypothesis. That process led to the publication of an article on a football analytics outlet, FootballOutsiders.com, and now that work has become accepted to the point that the results of Baldwin’s analysis were parroted by a Hall of Fame quarterback during the most watched television broadcast of the year.