Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Raheem Morris: "Stats Are For Losers"

Even after it was pointed out that the Bucs rank 23rd in the league in total offense and 22nd in the league in total defense (including 31st in the league against the run), Morris refused to alter his claim. "Stats are for losers, so you keep looking at stats and we'll keep looking at wins," Morris said a day after Tampa Bay improved to 4-2 with an 18-17 win over the Rams at Raymond James Stadium. I mean, you are what your record says you are in this league, and right now we're tied for the fewest losses (in the National Football Conference), so that makes us the best team."

The Buccaneers have won four games by a total of 20 points; they are 3-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less, a year after going 1-4 in such games. They've lost two games by a combined 50 points. The teams they've beaten are a combined 8-18.

I understand that a coach basically has to say this sort of stuff because the alternative -- admitting that his team isn't as good as their record -- is unsavory. That doesn't make Morris's method of explanation any less stupid.

Thanks to reader Key19 for bringing this to my attention.

Comments

1
by Led :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:11pm

And coffee is for closers.

2
by giraffesturbation (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:17pm

Hey, let me buy you a pack of gum. I'll show you how to chew it.

21
by Theo :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 8:30pm

better stats are for winners.

3
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:21pm

Well the stats that he responded to are for losers. The Titans stats are no prettier in the "conventional" way.

5
by Bobman :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:29pm

I wouldn't say that--the D ranking stats suggest there are a lot of flaws with the Bucs despite the record and that, if they were 2-4 nobody would question it, but at 4-2 and claiming they are "the best team in the NFC," well, a lot of people will question it. And rather than saying something subjective like "your team bites" or "you suck as a coach" or my daddy can beat up your daddy, people can soften the blow but make their argument a little more substantial by saying "psst, these numbers suggest you're not necessarily the best. In fact...."

Now relying exclusively on those numbers to rank teams? Yeah, I'm with you on that one. But milking them for some useful information is surely possible.

I mean, come on, who is the best RB in the NFL? Some might pick the guy with 1,800 yards and a 3.0 YPC, while others like the guy with 1,200 yards and a 4.8 YPC. Morris prefers neither, unless he's on the team with the fewest wins; then he's the best. Just going by wins, especially early in the season, is about as weak as using those lame defensive ranking stats.

7
by ASmitty (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:32pm

Really?

The Titans have outscored their opponents by 82 points, 24 points more than the next largest scoring differential (the Jets).

Tampa has been OUTSCORED by their opponents by 30 points.

Tennessee's conventional stats are plenty pretty.

9
by Bobman :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:35pm

not for Colt fans....

14
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:13pm

I was referring to Yards for and against, which were the stats that Morris was responding too. The Titans are 24th in yards for and 14th in yards against, which are obviously better than the Bucs but not miles better.

Isn't one of the tenets of FO that conventional offense and defense rankings (by yards for an against) is inherently flawed, and now FO is making fun of a guy who is, in a way, saying the same thing. It's not like Raheem is mocking the Bucs DVOA ratings (which he probably would do anyway).

23
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 8:59pm

Yes, that is what FO believes, but that's not what Morris said. If he had said "there are a lot of factors that go into total yards for an against, and if we are preventing TDs by giving up yards that's a good thing," no one would make fun of him.

24
by Sander :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 9:01pm

Well he's said things like that before, "We care about points, not yardage" - that sort of thing. Unfortunately, the one-liner response (which is fairly common around the NFL anyway) is what gets pointed out, not the reasoning used elsewhere.

27
by Bearjew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 10:47pm

Points are for losers.

4
by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:28pm

aren't wins and loses a stat?

6
by Bobman :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:31pm

Only once the season is over. Kidding, but I bet he'd say something like that. or, "the only stats that count" since they determine your post-season future.

My view:
W = a stat
L = a stat
T = kissing your sister.

22
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 8:36pm

Funny - in cricket a tie is about the most exciting thing that can possibly happen, and I do love cricket. I guess it's like my old Latin teacher used to say: vice is nice, but incest is best . . .

33
by Lebo :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:59am

Yeah, but ties are exciting in cricket because it is very unusual for two teams to score the exact same number of runs during such a long game (up to five days of play). If it happened once a week, people would dislike it as much as in any other sport.

34
by rfh1001 :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 7:40am

A draw is a result. Lots of people don't get this, but they're just being dim. Some people find it an unsatisfactory result, but they usually think it's an unsatisfactory result in a sport they don't particularly follow or understand. Lots of people in the UK blindly write off baseball (glorified rounders) and the NFL (slow and boring faux rugby played by sissies in padding) for similarly glib reasons.

A draw/tie is one of three possible results in many sports. In cricket, draws (quite common) and ties (very rare) are different results, and if you think a draw can't be exciting or a good result for one team, that's fine, but most cricket fans will disagree with you.

Ties would be a big problem in a league where the sample size and influence of luck is already as high as it is in the NFL. I love it, don't get me wrong, but the stats are for losers line speaks to this. Because stats so often don't correlate with success, 'winning' is imbued with a crazy mystique. Philip Rivers gets downgraded. Tom Brady gets upgraded. The best team doesn't always win. Contrast with the EPL where, by the end of the year, the best team almost always wins. I am not saying it's a better system - I much prefer the NFL to the EPL, but it is another thing underpinning the line.

(Though, as said by others elsewhere, the line is obviously about the psychology of the whole thing. Winners bang the prom queen.)

38
by Lebo :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 9:56am

Draws in cricket aren't really results, and they are rarely exciting.

I'm sure you're aware that a tie is where the match was completed and both teams ended on the exact same number of runs. Whereas a draw is where the wasn't enough time to complete the match - frequently because of bad weather.

Draws are only exciting when the match almost ended with a result, but didn't. This may be because the batting team couldn't get the last few runs they needed to win. Or because the bowling team couldn't get the last wicket they needed to win. (This scenario is extra exciting because the last batsman to bat is the worst batman on the team; and therefore, theoretically the easiest to dismiss.)

But five day test matches that end in draws after only three and a half days' play due to rain aren't particularly exciting. Interesting? Probably. Exciting? Not so much.

I agree with your point about the effect of sample size and how this plays out in the annoyingly long soccer season (I am not a fan). But I would say that there is more luck involved in a soccer result than any other sport (except maybe baseball - which also has a ridiculously long season). And that is probably why soccer is the sport in which the underdog is most likely to win a match (followed by baseball).

Disclaimer: I don't agree with the researchers' tenet that the unpredictability of the result is the sole factor determining excitement. I think that lead changes, and to a lesser extent big plays, are also significant factors. It would be interesting to see how NFL.com's 'Game Fan Rating' correlated to upsets / lead changes / big plays.

39
by rfh1001 :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 11:07am

Why is a draw in cricket not really a result?

Absolutely, many of cricket's draws aren't exciting. And, absolutely, where weather has been a factor, the result is often unsatisfying as well as unexciting. But then, lots of results in lots of sports are unexciting or unsatisfying (6-0, 6-0; 59-10; 100-45).

It's perfectly reasonable to *prefer* games with only two results, but I, personally, like the three-result system, and particularly in cricket. At the end of almost every cricketing draw, or draw in a league with a three-result system, one of the two teams is happier with the outcome. There's hardly a clearer indication that it's a 'result' than that.

45
by Chocolate City (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 3:37pm

While you two fops were bitching at each other, Cliff Lee just threw one behind your head.

Glorified rounders... Pshaw.

53
by rfh1001 :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 1:47pm

Chris Gayle, seeing the ball coming at his head, hooked it high over deep square leg. I am a fop, as it happens. Chris Gayle isn't.

46
by Lebo :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:21pm

As I said earlier, a draw is when a match concludes without a result due to time constraints. There are three possible results in cricket: win, lose, and tie. A tie is different to a draw. A draw is the absence of one of the above results.

52
by rfh1001 :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 1:44pm

In the absence of the other three results is its presence as a result. (Says Confucius.)

54
by Lebo :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 2:58pm

Did he actually say that? Actually, I don't care because I don't agree. You play a match to find out if you are better than the opposition. Wins, losses, and ties tell you if you are better, worse, or remarkably equal to the opposition. Draws do not. Draws don't tell you anything except that there was not enough playing time during the five allocated days to determine a result. We're just arguing semantics here. But I still think I'm right.

57
by rfh1001 :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 7:16pm

It's not semantics. It's the rules. It's what goes in the record books. Five day test matches, four day first class matches and so on, have fixed maximum periods of play. If no team has won by the end of that, the result is a draw.Usually, by the end of a draw, that is the result one of the teams is playing for. You might not like the fact that a draw of this kind is a legitimate result - many people find it unsatisfying - but that doesn't change the rules. It is the result.

60
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 10/29/2010 - 2:31pm

Right. The effect of a lot of tactical decisions made by a cricket captain over the course of a match is to raise or lower simultaneously the probabilities of both winning and losing - set fields to take wickets at the expense of going for more boundaries, instruct batsmen to go for their shots at the risk of holing out, declare with the target potentially reachable so as to have more time to bowl the opposition out, the opposites of each of the above, and so on. What all of those things are about is reducing or increasing the likelihood of a draw, and to me, that makes a draw seem like a result.

62
by Lebo :: Sat, 10/30/2010 - 12:37pm

Yeah, okay. Draws are recorded in the record books, and sometimes teams do play aspiring to achieve them rather than lose. (Sadly, my team mostly loses.) So I concede that my argument that draws aren't really results is flawed. However, I maintain that unlike ties, draws are rarely exciting.

63
by rfh1001 :: Sat, 10/30/2010 - 2:54pm

I have very much enjoyed enjoyed this little chat.

For what it's worth, many draws in regular league cricket are, indeed, boring, and it's one of the reasons I don't play that version of the game. In the cricket I play, where both teams try hard to win and accept that this increases their chances of losing, and only settle for fighting for a draw as a last resort, in which case the draw becomes an exciting achievement for one team and a huge disappointment for the other, draws tend to be more exciting than wins and losses, which tend to be more one-sided games.

Depending on the sides involved, this is often also the case at higher levels. England beating Bangladesh in a Test Match is unlikely to be exciting. England drawing with Australia usually is.

8
by BucNasty :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:34pm

He says that line after every win when questioned about poor performance in any particular area. Sometimes I think he means it as it's read, but other times I think what he means is that citing stats is what a losing team does. You know, "Sure we lost, but we did manage to throw for 400 yards with two scores and got 3 sacks, so there's a lot to feel good about."

He also has a particular disdain for the official NFL ranking of offense and defense based on yards (as did Gruden), preferring to measure everything based on turnovers and points. I'm sure he's not a reader, though.

As for being the best team in NFC, that's obviously just feel-good blather.

10
by BSR :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:40pm

Belichick has said the same thing. I think it basically just means that at the end of the day, stats don't matter...winning does. I think there are definitely some systems that sacrifice stats for a systems that they believe will give them a better shot at winning.

11
by GregK (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:45pm

Before people flip out, "stats are for losers" is a common phrase used in the NFL. It doesn't mean what it sounds like it means - i.e. putting down people who use stats.

Instead, the phrase means that winners don't talk about stats, only the teams that lose do. They look at stats for ways to feel better about their performance.

Unfortunately, the phrase comes off a certain way that sounds insulting.

12
by rfh1001 :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:57pm

Ditto. Not just NFL, by the way.

13
by Independent George :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:10pm

The difference is that in the NFL, I guarantee you there's at least one person on every team's coaching staff whose job it is to collect player grades, coaching tendencies, success rates, plug them into a database, and then run a statistical analysis for the head coach to incorporate into the game plan.

But just like every other sport, I guarantee the same dude also hands over another report to the GM when it comes time to negotiate player contracts.

30
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:05am

I thought losers whined about doing their best, while winners went home and banged the prom queen.

41
by Noah of Arkadia :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 11:48am

That makes sense

15
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:14pm

When the Bucs finish 7-9 maybe he'll get it.

32
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:09am

That would be an interesting end-of-season press conference. Raheem Morris at the podium, quoting stats after biting the head off a Piscitelli.

37
by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 9:46am

I will state that anything ends with the untimely death of Sabby Piscitelli is good for me. I was at the game this weekend 19 rows back from where Sabby was standing right in front of me, and I can't decide whether I'm happy I exercised self-control or am ashamed I didn't throw things at his head.

51
by Sander :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 11:52am

To be fair, for the first time in one-and-a-half year Sabby got a significant amount of snaps without doing something horrible. He was in a lot for Sean Jones in the second half.

35
by njligernj :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 8:02am

7-9 would be a decent improvement from their record last year and would likely result in him getting a contract extension -- so probably not.

As others have pointed out, the stats which were mentioned to him *are* for losers.

16
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:16pm

For what it's worth, I'm willing to feel embarrassed for Buc Nation. Actually, considering how empty the stadium was the other day, that should probably be Buc State or Buc County.

18
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:26pm

Buc Trailer Park more like it.

team have winnign record and hosting crap Ramms team. ood chancne for a win but fans still dont go and it nice staidum too.

Can understand if had bad stadium

31
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:07am

'Bucborough'. Makes 'em sound cute and hobbity.

42
by BucNasty :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 1:32pm

Bucshire.

47
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 8:41pm
17
by drobviousso :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:25pm

Yeah, it's not like the wildly successful Colts, formerly coached by his mentor, are known for using stats or anything.

19
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:28pm

As the guy above stated, he's not calling stats as tools for losers as in "idiots" but losers as in "people who lose games."

As long as his team keeps on winning, what does he care if they are lowly ranked in conventional stats. Hell, the 2001 Pats were 19th in offense, 24th in defense, and outgained by 500 yards. They still won the Super Bowl (I realize their points scored/points allowed was better than the '10 Bucs).

20
by Sander :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:57pm

Raheem Morris never coached or played under Dungy, so yeah, not his mentor. His mentors would be Mike Tomlin, Monte Kiffin and Jon Gruden.

And as said everywhere else, I'm sure he doesn't mean 'Stats aren't predictive' but 'Stats don't determine if you get into the playoffs'.

25
by Dired :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 9:10pm

You do hear people go on about how such-and-such team is "too talented to do this poorly" and how great their offense is rated, and yet 6-10 means another year with no playoffs, no matter how much the stats seem to imply you'd run the table. A whole lot of things go into winning, and some of that is luck, but there are no partial victories. Yet it sometimes feels like there's some kind of accomplishment in being a "great team" that still loses, or that a team of cast-offs who have a terrible record but sneak into post-season and keeps winning is somehow less legit than the statistical favorite.

Though in college, people don't have to put up with those nasty results and can still vote their two-loss favorites up anyway and claim smaller schools aren't "real".

26
by MosesZD (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 9:13pm

Wins and losses are also stats. Or hasn't he figured that out yet...

28
by tracingplan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 1:04am

Stats are for coaches, or players who are losers. The players job is to execute with as much controlled intensity as possible, and thinking about stats is a distraction.

Coaches, on the other hand, ignore relevant stats at their peril. Like if going through stats here suggests targeting TE, there is an advantage to be had. Or if a coach wants to have the best estimate possible of his own team's or the opponent's strengths and weaknesses.

36
by BSR :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 9:39am

I'd agree with most of what you have written here but I would still say that stats are just a small part of what they do. Most of their time is spent reviewing game film and looking at actual performance, evaluating players and scheming. Some on here become so enthralled with stats that they forget that football eventually comes down to blocking and tackling. Injuries, weather and funny bounces play heavily into the outcomes of games and aren't measured by any stat available. Football stats at their best are about as good as thumb in the air to measure which way the wind is blowing.

At the end of the day, Raheem is right. The stats don't matter, especially in the early part of the season. He knows that his team needs to improve, like all teams do, in order to have a realistic shot for the playoffs. But in the meantime if he can win games and stay competitive then that is all that matters.

29
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 2:56am

Stats are for Chargers fans ...

40
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 11:37am

And sneering stat-crunchers with inflated evaluation of their own intelligence are winners!

Perhaps it's time for FO to act as intelligently as they think they are and realize that coachspeak in public just doesn't matter. Concentrate on refining your stats or something. Nobody loves a cheapshotting elitist except their fellow Yuppies.

43
by South Bay Bengal (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 2:03pm

agreed. it's the easiest thing in the world to take snippets of ACTUAL CONVERSATION and sarcastically deconstruct how stupid each phrase is. but spoken language is rich with nuance and it's silly to disregard that fact. here at FO everybody seems to deconstruct everything herbie or collinsworth or buck says. yes, commentators say some dumb stuff sometimes, but a lot of times they are making good points in a way that is digestible for TV audiences who are considerably less concerned with objective measurements as we nerds are.

44
by BJR :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 3:32pm

Agree with this. I love this site, and I really applaud what they are trying to achieve, but the tone some of the writers here sometimes adopt when discussing players, coaches and ex-player commentators is often haughty and sneering - as if they are all hapless oafs without a fraction of FO's own understanding of the game.

I think it is important as a fan/spectator to sometimes remember that, as someone famous once said, "its not the critic that counts......". Certainly, selectively choosing press snippets such as this to ridicule a (winning) coach is fairly unnecessary and unbecoming.

61
by Spielman :: Fri, 10/29/2010 - 4:42pm

Still, I will take any of the Outsiders at their absolute worst over loneweasel on the best day of his life.

That guy giving anyone a lecture on arrogance is hilarious.

48
by Ryan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 10:49pm

I love this site, but I don't think people understand what NFL people mean when they say stats are for losers. Of course there are many things to be learned from stats, but stats ARE for losers.

The team that loses talks about things they did well statistically, things that might have cost them the win. The team that wins just talks about winning.

49
by Rich73 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 12:45am

"stats are for losers"

Belichick said the exact same thing not long ago.

50
by SamJoxer (not verified) :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 5:55am

I would like to point out that Morris said this originally after the win, in kind of a heat of the moment, "We are the best team in the NFC, yeah you heard me right". Considering that his team had just come back in the final seconds of a game AGAIN and that he had just eclipsed the win total from last year and he likely will be getting a big fat raise from someone if this team goes even 8-8, I think you can understand his excitement.

Also important, is that the question that prompted him saying this the next day, was asked by a gigantic, egotistic, doushbag known as Gary Shelton, who went to his first Morris press conference to ask this question(Shelton has covered the team for more than a decade, but he does not like the new front office). In other words, there is no love lost between the Buccaneers and the man who asked why Morris said they were the best team in the NFC.

So, considering all this, and asking, what else was he supposed to say, I think you have to give Morris some slack here. I can understand the jabs at him, being stupid and such, since the Bucs really do have to improve in a lot of areas, but before you say that Morris has no idea what his team is doing I would suggest you watch some of his press conferences. He may not be the most eloquent man on the podium, but he knows football, hes young, and he has an exciting team.

55
by Richie :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 6:41pm

"Stats are for losers, so you keep looking at stats and we'll keep looking at wins,"

I don't think you'll be looking at too many more this year.

56
by Treima6 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 7:16pm

With a 7-15 record as a coach, Raheem Morris is one of the foremost experts at being a loser in the NFL. I'd take what he says seriously, guys, mmkay?

58
by Mortified Buc Fan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 9:48pm

Every time Raheem Morris opens his mouth to speak - I cringe.

Better to say that in the locker room after a win than say it in front of a bunch of reporters. He really looks like a schmuck and that statement will unfortunately generate a great deal of mocking... and for what?

Hopefully he will be gone before too long as we are not much better than we were at 3-13, maybe just a bit luckier.

59
by towishimp (not verified) :: Fri, 10/29/2010 - 1:50pm

I'll point out what others have, AGAIN:

Other coaches, including Bellichek, have said the same thing in press conferences. Is Bellichek a schmuck, too?

I think Morris is doing a fine job as coach. To say this year's team is no better than last year's is selling them pretty short. Mike Williams is better than any WR on the roster from last year. Josh Freeman has been playin much more solid, careful football and is maturing nicely, I think.

Are there still problems? Sure. But I think the team is fairly well-coached, has been drafting well, and is hopefully headed in the right direction.