Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice 'Moneyball' and use analytics, too

Hannah Foslien

Moneyball is rising in the NFL. Are the Bucs one of the teams following suit?

According to Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the teams "riding the Moneyball wave". This comes as a little bit of a surprise, as Greg Schiano has given every indication of being an old school football coach, doing everything the old school way. But Moneyball is a crucial tool going forward in the NFL.

To be clear, Pompei doesn't mean Moneyball in the strictest sense, here. Moneyball is nothing more than finding market inefficiencies and exploiting them, and every team already tries to do that. He means it in the rough "we like stats" way. And that's certainly a good thing: statistics do not provide perfect answers, but they can be useful as a part of the bigger picture. They won't replace scouting, but they can be used to refine the tools of the job.

And by 'statistics', I don't mean traditional production. Mark Dominik, for instance, has talked about "yards after contact" as one of his favorite ways of evaluating running backs in the past. Workout numbers can be used to measure physical traits. Statistics like that are far more useful than a raw completion percentage.Hopefully, that's the kind of thing the Bucs are working on: finding different statistics, measuring how they correlate with success and then using that data in their evaluation. Not as an absolute determinant, but as one aspect of a much larger evaluation process. As is always the case with statistics, it's very important to verify that the statistic you're looking at is useful. A statistic may sound like the best thing in the world, but when it doesn't produce success, it's useless.

Teams that don't keep that in mind and just blindly apply statistics, provide us with cases like this little nugget on a Buccaneer player:

Case in point: a source said in 2010, the Eagles relied heavily on analytics to select Washington defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim in the third round of the draft. Many were stunned he was chosen so high, and the Eagles cut him before the start of the 2011 season.

Te'o-Nesheim was signed off the Philadelphia practice squad in 2011 and managed to start 14 games for the Bucs this season after Adrian Clayborn went down with a knee injury (one of those starts came at defensive tackle with Clayborn healthy). The defensive end managed four sacks and didn't look great, but he was a serviceable and versatile player. A decent backup, but not much more.

This shows us one simple fact: statistics aren't infallible in football and they can't be all you rely on. But they are a valuable part of the bigger picture, when used properly. Every team is going to have to rely on analytics if they want to keep up, and it's good to see the Bucs mentioned as one of those teams.

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