New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is a great many things, but apparently, an analytics aficionado is not one of them.
If you want to talk analytics, you’d better talk to Ernie Adams.
(Not that Bill Belichick will probably let you, though.)
Adams, the team’s mysterious football research director, has been the subject of all sorts of intrigue and theorizing since his importance to Belichick and to the New England Patriots became a matter of public record. It’s still not exactly known what he does on a day-to-day basis for his employer, but he’s probably the person you’d want to talk to when discussing New England’s use or non-use of analytics in their operations.
Head coach and general manager Bill Belichick, on the other hand, is the last person you’d want to talk to. Asked by reporters Friday morning how much he relies on analytics and statistical data to make crucial football decisions during games, Belichick’s answer – according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss – was frank and unmistakeable.
“Less than zero.”
So there you have it. Oh, and just for the record, Bill wants us all to know that he “like(s) math, too, by the way.”
Belichick at least cracked a smile while interacting with the media during this session, but he made it crystal-clear where he stands on the whole debate between analytics-based decision-making and ‘going with your gut.’
Here’s more of what he had to say:
“I’m not saying it’s a gut thing. It’s an individual analysis based on the things that are pertinent to that game and that situation. I don’t really care what happened in 1973 and what those teams did or didn’t do. I don’t really think that matters in this game — or ’83 or ’90, pick out whatever you want. It’s not really my thing.”
Belichick has long espoused a forward-thinking, blinders-up mentality when approaching the game of football. He famously refused to dwell on the Patriots’ demoralizing road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs back in 2014 – even though it had just happened – instead proclaiming over and over that, “We’re on to Cincinnati.” It’s perhaps the most well-known example of Belichick dismissing the past outright in favor of the promise of the future.
Perhaps one day Belichick will begrudgingly admit that all this time, Adams or some other shadow agent has been secretly feeding him statistical input over decades upon decades of football research, and he has been using some of that information during in-game management. But for the time being at least, it appears that analytics aren’t even a blip on Belichick’s radar when it comes to coaching his New England Patriots squad.