ESPN put together a ranking of teams in the four major sports leagues based on whether they utilize analytics running their franchise. The Jets rated near the bottom. Gang Green rated 114th out 122 teams. ESPN also broke teams into five categories. The Jets joined only Tennessee, Washington, and San Diego in the NFL Nonbelievers category.
With Rex Ryan as coach, the Jets remained well behind the analytics curve in a league that is barely keeping up in its own right. Don't get your hopes up for a change with Ryan gone. New GM Mike Maccagnan and new coach Todd Bowles likewise sport old-school credentials and were not hired to spearhead a stats awakening for Gang Green -- Maccagnan brings a scouting background (read: the good ol' eye test) from Houston and Bowles comes from Arizona, two franchises that remain skeptical of analytics.
I think there is a lot of irony in this ranking since it seems to be based on no data and all on subjective anecdotal criteria.
I also think this is based largely on the last regime. At this point we frankly do not know how Maccagnan and Bowles will run the Jets. The organizations they come from only tell us so much. We don't know whether or not they agreed with the way their previous teams were run.
The comments with the ranking also run into one of my pet peeves. I think analytics in sports really hit the mainstream over a decade ago with Michael Lewis' book Moneyball. The book presented the Oakland Athletics' player evaluation as a battle between old school player evaluations and statistics. Lewis had to sell books so he needed a compelling story, a conflict between upstart underdogs and people set in their ways. The problem is it didn't actually happen that way.
Using analytics goes hand in hand with scouting. The two are part of evaluating players. We just got finished with the Combine. There didn't used to be a Combine. Now there is, and it is a way to provide teams standardized information on how players perform certain drill. The Combine didn't replace traditional scouting. No team is throwing out its scouting reports and relying solely on the Combine. The Combine simply provides more information for teams to make an informed decision.
Use of analytics doesn't replace traditional means of evaluation. It complements these means. Data can be used to provide a better idea of which traits might lead to a more or less successful career, lead to a better understanding of player value, better training methods, ways to keep players healthy, strategy, and more. The more information you have, the better the decision might be. The data cannot make a decision, though.
There are some very successful teams that rate high on the list, but there are also some pretty lousy franchises. A team can have all of the data in the world. That data is useless unless there are people in place to interpret and synthesize the information into a useful part of the decision-making process. The ranking discusses how the Jaguars used an inane stat to convince themselves to go with Blaine Gabbert for an extra season.
The guy who knows how to evaluate talent will beat the guy with a binder of data ten times out of ten. The use of analytics can have tremendous value, though. Teams should always be looking for more knowledge. Any small advantage can make a difference in beating the opposition. Somebody who knows how to evaluate talent might beat somebody who only has stats, but the skilled talent evaluator who understands how to use data to make his evaluations even better trumps both.
As it pertains to the Jets, I am hoping this new regime will indeed be more progressive and willing to embrace analytics than the last one. Rex Ryan seems to do everything based on emotion and gut. That hurt the Jets at times on gameday because it led to poor game-management. As far as John Idzik goes, I don't think any general manager who uses the franchise tag on an 80% kicker appreciates modern methods of player evaluation.
It's tough to find an area where the Jets as a franchise have been cutting edge in recent years. No matter your view on analytics, a new approach would seem like a good idea. What the team has been doing has not been cutting it.