Doug Pederson saying his decision to go for it on 4th & 8 from the Giants 43-yard line at the end of the first was based on his in-game discussions with Ryan Paganetti, currently a linebackers coaching assistant is bothersome.
Ryan Paganetti worked briefly as an analyst with the Eagles for a couple of years after graduating from Dartmouth with a degree in Economics. So, there’s that. There’s no way to know if he is any good at analytics. It’s not as if he was brought in from Google or another tech company startup where he had considerable success. It appears, from linkedin, that the Eagles were his first gig out of college. This begs the questions, if he was so good with the analytics why is he now part of the linebackers coaching staff?
When the Eagles first jumped into the analytics world, they hired Alec Halaby, an English major and Economics minor from Harvard, who did two different stints as an intern with the Eagles. He’s been promoted a few times and now serves as Vice President of Football Operations and Strategy. Halaby obviously proved himself in the analytics world and now holds a substantial role within the organization and seems to be Howie Roseman’s go to guy for crunching data on players. He also looks like he’d play a mean game of World of Warcraft.
Why isn’t Halaby the one Doug consults? If Doug is consulting anyone for in-game decisions, shouldn’t it be the head of Football Strategy?
Which brings us to the real issue, consulting analytics to make in-game decisions with a play clock running, personnel substitutions being made, play charts being consulted. Yes, there is a New York Times 4th Down Bot that can be consulted, which Jimmy Kempski wrote about here. And maybe, analytically speaking, it was the right decision.
However, many factors not accounted for in analytics take place during football games such as the Giants being 0-2, momentum, crowd, injuries on either side of the ball, emotions, etc.
All of that should be read and observed by the head coach when he makes any decisions once the game starts. Great coaches, like great poker players knowing when to bluff or when someone is bluffing, rely on their own feel and instincts more than analytics once the game begins.
Is Doug Pederson a great coach? Hard to tell this early in his career. But, if he’s gonna be a great coach he is going to need to develop the confidence to trust his own judgement and instincts to make calls instead of numbers and trends. There are variables that numbers cannot quantify and I’d be more comfortable if Doug relied on his decades of experience in the NFL instead of young guy crunching some stats.