HomeFootball DirtGreg Olsen calmly critiques Mike Wilbon's rant on NFL announcer analytics

Greg Olsen calmly critiques Mike Wilbon’s rant on NFL announcer analytics

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If you’ve watched an NFL game lately, you’ve almost certainly noticed how much more often the Joe Buck’s, Jim Nantz’s, and Mike Tirico’s of the world have started having more earnest conversations about the use of analytics. Most of the time, they aren’t even diving all that deep into the subject. As attentive broadcasters, they’re just keeping the audience aware of the probabilities behind a crucial fourth-down decision. Which … is good.

This fact seems to really bother ESPN’s Mike Wilbon.

In a monologue during Pardon The Interruption on Monday, Wilbon tried to take NFL announcers to task for making analytics more prevalent as fans watch live games. Wilbon has a history of bizarre diatribes against the proliferation of simply using math when talking about football. He took particular exception to some analytics conversation during the Detroit Lions’ divisional-round win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, noting how he believes it’s some of the “laziest” logic in athletic competition.

Greg Olsen is one NFL announcer often praised for how thoughtfully he approaches his color commentating for Fox. Olsen does not shy away from challenging viewers. He’s a huge proponent of educating them on league trends and how coaches and players are now approaching a game many love.

When Olsen caught wind of Wilbon’s tangent, he tore him apart in perhaps the nicest, most polite way possible on Twitter:

I don’t think anyone could have said it better.

Utilizing math and probability in critical on-field decisions is just how people in the NFL operate now. It is a means of maximizing efficiency and understanding when it’s worthwhile to be aggressive, especially in playoff games. Nothing more. No coach or front office executive considers analytics to be a Bible that must be strictly adhered to at absolutely all times. It is just another useful tool to have in the back pocket. It’s not reinventing the wheel. It’s considering when the wheel might change speed and how to be prepared for that.

When announcers like Olsen acknowledge this reality while effectively speaking to millions of people, it’s not about some widespread movement asking fans to flip how they view professional football on its head. It’s just an earnest approach to teaching more about the modern game’s current direction.

You either get with the times or get stuck in the mud.

Kudos to Olsen for approaching Wilbon’s analytics opinion with patience and care. That’s the only way sports figures will learn. You can’t push back on any remaining anti-analytics stragglers with hostility or insinuations about their intelligence or lack thereof. You have to let it come to them on their own time while trying to explain with care, hoping they eventually see the light.

In this regard, Olsen is a pro’s pro.

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