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Analytics - Do They Make Sound Decisions for Football? What about Christians?

If you watch football games, it's not unusual to hear about analytics. So, what does that mean? Analytics takes a given situation and advises the mostly likely outcome in terms of success or failure. Let's say a team scores a touchdown to get within one point, there's two minutes to go in the game, and the coach has to make a decision of whether to go for a tie with an extra point kick or go for two points to try to take the lead. Analytics takes past situations and outcomes into account, and advises which path the coach should take.

Let's apply analytics to Christians. Let's say we have time to visit one unsaved person today to talk to them about Jesus. One is a 50 year old lady, and the other is a 13 year old girl. Which one do you choose? Do you flip a coin? Well, analytics has a lot to say about that. The statistics will tell you that the percentage of Christians who gave their heart to Jesus after ago 30 is only about 4%. Meanwhile, a person whose age was 4-14 is about 85%. Analytics would tell you to forget about the 50 year old person and go talk to the 13 year old.

Does that make the decision easy? What if you don't know much about the 13 year old, but the 50 year old is your aunt? Analytics doesn't really take that into account. Maybe overall, we should spend more time on ages 4-14 because the success rate is higher, but I'm not willing to forget about the 30+ year old people.

Many of the young head coaches in the NFL and in college football swear by analytics. Brandon Staley is the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. He goes for a lot of 4th downs when conventional knowledge says you should punt or kick a field goal. He makes a good many of them, but when he misses on an important one, he gets a lot of blowback. In a game this past Sunday in Cleveland, he had a 30-28 lead with about a minute to play. It was 4th and 2 from about his own 48 yard line, and the Browns were out of timeouts. If he punts the ball, the Browns would likely have to drive 50 yards or more in under a minute with no timeouts with a backup quarterback to get into field goal range. Staley's analytics chart said to go for the first down because if you make two yards, you win the game. He went for it and failed. The Browns got the ball then got a first down. They could move the ball no farther, but they were in field goal range. Luckily for Staley, the Browns missed the field goal. In my mind Staley made the wrong decision. He's made several similar decisions that have led to losses.

Another situation came up in the Monday night game between the Raiders and the Chiefs. The Chiefs were ahead 30-23 with about four minutes to play. The Raiders scored a touchdown. The analytics said to go for two points to take the lead. Now, it's time for me to make you smarter at football... Analytics does not take into account who the opposing quarterback is or how tough the team is you are playing. If you make it, you give arguably the very best quarterback in the league, Patrick Mahomes, the opportunity to drive down the field and kick a field goal to win, PLUS you give him four downs to make a first down after each first down he makes. The Chiefs won't punt if they are behind. If the Raiders had kicked the point to tie the game, Mahomes only has three downs to make a first down. If it gets to 4th down, the Chiefs very likely punt the ball as opposed to giving the ball to the Raiders in field goal range. Mahomes is hard enough to stop with three downs and nearly impossible to stop with four downs. So, all of these sports people who agreed with the Raiders going for two points were dead wrong. Good old football knowledge will win out over analytics most of the time.

Analytics have their place in football and in the Christian world, but people shouldn't get carried away with them!


May God always be your number 1 draft pick!

Draftman Rick


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