There may not be a more polarizing term in sports nowadays than analytics. The last decade has seen fans split on how to value information analysis in a world where so much is made of intangible factors.
Because that’s all analytics is: information. The discourse has led to a certain semantic satiation occurring, but it’s simply making decisions based on the gathering of relevant information and statistics.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor knows this, despite not being entirely fluent on the concept yet. That’s why Sam Francis was hired by the franchise when Taylor was brought in. Francis is Taylor’s one-man analytics department who is in Taylor’s ear during games to provide information at critical moments during the game.
Taylor explained to ESPN’s Ben Baby the importance of Francis and his expertise.
“We deal with X’s and O’s, managing a team,” Taylor said. “Some of the analytics stuff is too much for me to know and understand. So you want someone who has that expertise that can explain it to you the right way to where you can then use that information and go accordingly.”
Francis is that guy, and he’s earned more trust from Taylor and his staff. It’s interesting to note that Taylor’s relative youth as a head coach, he’s not shy to admit new-age decision-making is something he doesn’t fully understand just yet. But he knew going into his head coaching career he’d need to adapt.
Most importantly, Taylor understands that just because the process doesn’t always lead to the desired results, it doesn’t mean the process isn’t important.
“There’s going to be times it doesn’t go our way,” Taylor said. “And you’re going to have to deal with the blowback. That’s part of coaching. I’m comfortable with that. It’s because I know that the times you do [successfully] go for it, they just get swept under the rug.”
For a head coach that has learned everything on the job, Taylor is finding himself on the right side of where football is headed. And Bengals fans can thank Francis for that.