Nick Saban Might Not Completely Understand Analytics…

NIck Saban
The Pat McAfee Show

There’s no doubt that Alabama’s Nick Saban will go down in history as one of the best coaches of all time.

The 72-year-old has won seven national championships during his illustrious college coaching career, with his first coming at LSU, and the other six occurring during the overwhelming dynasty that has been Alabama Crimson Tide football, which has spanned across almost two decades.

Saban clearly knows the ins and outs of college football like no other, though it does seem that the age of NIL and the transfer portal has brought the powerhouse of Alabama down a couple of notches.

During the height of Alabama’s run (which they arguably still could be in), it was almost shocking to college football fans if the Crimson Tide wasn’t playing for a nation title every season. Some would argue that Saban’s squad got snubbed last year not making it into the college football playoffs, and many counted out Bama going into this year with the quarterback position being a question mark.

However, just like death and taxes, Saban making a run for the national title is inevitable, and the head coach has his team positioned at the top of the SEC West with his team’s best football still seemingly ahead of them.

How is he so successful? Well, for one, he’s a great coach and a phenomenal recruiter. Just look at NFL teams nowadays, because (this is me recklessly speculating) I’d be willing to bet that over 20% of the pro league is made up of former Alabama players.

And two, Saban is pretty traditional when it comes to game management, as he discussed during his weekly appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. Like your dad or weird uncle has said time and time again, Saban thinks that the analytical part of the game is getting out of hand.

The head coach said:

“A lot of people are going for it on fourth down now and they talk about analytics saying that you got this percentage chance to make it on this down and distance on fourth down, so it’s worth going for it.

What the analytics really don’t tell you is what happens when you don’t make it (and) those consequences are pretty significant. Especially too when you don’t take field position into account.”

Well, not exactly Mr. Saban…

As many smart people online (is that an oxymoron?) have pointed out, the analytics actually do tell you what happens when you don’t make it. It’s basically the opposite (or the remainder) of the number that analytics provide about the play being successful.

This X user described it with clarity:

So in conclusion, there’s a chance that Saban doesn’t understand analytics, though based on his (very, very, very) successful career, he’s probably doing just fine not knowing much about it.

You know what you don’t hear enough about in coaching? Going with your gut. Maybe that’s what Saban’s version of analytics has been over the years…

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock