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Jason Garrett Dismisses Use Of In-Game Analytics

Following Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was interviewed on Dallas’ 105.3 The Fan. His normally scheduled Monday interview was going about as you’d expect, before Garrett dropped a quote on win probability that was almost unbelievable to hear.

After the hosts of the show, Shan and RJ, described in-game win probabilities and their usefulness to inform decision making, they asked if Garrett had consulted the numbers prior to his big fourth down decision. You know the one: fourth and seven in the red zone, final quarter, down seven.

Garrett’s response spoke volumes, and explained a lot about how the Cowboys play on Sundays.

“Yeah, we don’t use those stats within the game.”

Don’t use those stats within the game.

I cannot stress enough how infuriating this is. The head coach of the Dallas Cowboys actively ignores valuable information which could help maximize his team’s performance on Sundays. He then openly dismisses the idea of using these probabilities, stating that they don’t account for enough of the context of the game.

This is objectively false, by the way, but we’ll leave it be for now.

Owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, a billion dollar franchise dubbed as America’s Team and once considered an industry leader, then defended his head coach’s quotes.

“I happen to agree with him. The analytics aspect of it is a history of how these decisions have worked out. That’s probably good to know. But the momentum of the game, the situation of the game, the, if you will in the other night’s game, the conditions of the game. All of that are more important in my mind than the success history of a similar decision. You’re dealing with averages, you’re dealing with almost theory. And you’re certainly dealing with a result but it doesn’t take into account really the kinds of times when you’ve gone against every odds and made it work. I’ve had my biggest success when I’m sure analytics would have said make the other decision the other way” – Jerry Jones

As a stats nerd who’s entire college thesis was on win probabilities and the lack of a between game momentum effect, I cannot believe an NFL franchise operates this way.

But, it’s true. This is how the Dallas Cowboys operate, and it’s a major reason behind why they continue to underachieve despite their roster talent.

Rather than considering any and all available information before making potentially season changing discussions, Jason Garrett relies on his “gut” and perceived momentum. Rather than consulting with cold-hard facts, he operates based off a feeling.

“I’ve had my biggest success when I’m sure analytics would have said make the other decision the other way.”

This is simply untrue. Yes, making decisions which go against analytics will be ultimately correct sometimes. Even a 70% win probability means that you lose games with similar circumstances 30% of the time. But the process is more important than the results.

If your process is right, the results will come more often than not.

The Cowboys don’t care about this process. Instead, they are operating as arrogantly as any team in professional sports.

And it’s earned them a 6-5 record.

What do you think?

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Kevin Brady

Written by Kevin Brady

Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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  1. That field goal call was simply absurd. You haven’t scored a single touchdown in nearly four quarters and there is no reason to believe the next drive (if there is one) will be any better. Three points won’t win the game. You’re as close to the end zone as you’re likely to ever get…but you don’t take the chance.

    You don’t need in-game analytics to classify this as yet another poor judgement call on the head coaches behalf, a modicum of common sense will do.

  2. So I gotta ask- Have you ever coached or played the game at amy level?
    Because its easy to be a keyboard critic and numbers nerd. I happen to be a stats junkie myself, but as a coach/player in any sport at any level, your gut or game feel can take you a long ways.
    That being said, Jasons bad calls goes beyond analytics. I jist dont thinks he is that good a coach. No pie chart needed to see that.

    • Yes, he played in college. He’s also a numbers nerd. And Jason Garrett could use all the help he can get at this point – which is to say WE could use all the help we can get, as fans. Watching this team right now is ridiculous half the time. Thanks for reading, Mike.

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