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Dirk Koetter revisits “stats are for losers”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

A few years ago, Raheem Morris became a little infamous for claiming that “stats are for losers”. He articulated something every NFL coach believes: stats are irrelevant, because everyone’s judged on wins. That, after all, is why you play the game.

Today, Dirk Koetter essentially claimed the same thing on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning.

It’s not an interesting statement, nor a profound one. And it also betrays some naivete about statistics in general: they’re not meant to measure success. They’re meant to measure process. They can help you analyze what happened, what went right, and what went wrong. They’re not all-encompassing, and no good football statistician will claim they are, but they are tools to aid coaches, general managers and third-party analysts.

Koetter’s and Morris’ statements imply that in fact, they are no such thing. They fundamentally don’t matter. That is entirely wrong: whether you win or not, the underlying process will have things that went right and things that went wrong. And if you want to consistently get better, you’re going to need to figure those things out. Ignoring them because only wins matter, probably means you’ll eventually start winning a lot less than if you actually tried to use statistics to help your analysis.

Of course, Koetter didn’t quite go that far, but he is the kind of old-school coach who will eschew statistics and analysis based on them. That’s worrying, and something we’ll eventually see reflected in the win column — unless, of course, this is just coachspeak.