Greg Olsen thoughtfully tore apart Mike Wilbon’s rant on NFL announcers using more analytics

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.

Michael Wilbon, known for being anti “analytics” in the past, once again goes into it while discussing the Bucs-Lions game on PTI.

“Do the analytics say go for it no matter who’s going for it? So if you and I were on the field, ‘the analytics say go for it?'”

“It’s the…

— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 22, 2024

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:

This is just further proof how vital it is that announcers continue to educate the viewers on the current approach to NFL football.

It isn’t announcers being “lazy”. It’s the way the game is being played and is here to stay. The game evolves. Not sure why people push back?

— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) January 23, 2024

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.

there’s just no chance wilbon has even put any brain power towards understanding it.

going for two down by 14 in the waning moments of the game is a widely accepted tactic now and it only takes a few minutes of curiosity to figure out why.

— charles (“you look good” – andy reid) mcdonald (@FourVerts) January 23, 2024

The analytics don’t say go for it. The analytics say the most favourable outcome based on probability is to go for it. It is then incumbent upon the decision maker(s) to apply that knowledge to the particular situation. It’s not rocket science.

— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) January 23, 2024

Calling the use of analytics “lazy” is just hilarious.

Accepting the way things have always been done (kick XP after a touchdown) for every scenario is lazy.

— Stephen Osentoski (@StephenToski) January 23, 2024

Strong anti “analytics” guy here (but only bc of what the term has come to represent).

If you don’t understand the reasons to go for 2, down 14, it simply means that you haven’t taken the time to understand the very simple rationale behind it.

— Josh Cohen (@JCohen_NFL) January 23, 2024

I don’t think you can call something stupid and lazy when it’s very clear from your argument that you haven’t actually taken the time and effort to learn the reasoning behind why this is a thing more and more NFL coaches are choosing to do.

— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) January 23, 2024

Happy to talk to @RealMikeWilbon about the use of analytics and what they account for.

But worst of all ESPN has some of the best analtyics experts they could reach out to to better understand them.

Journalists used to ask questions when they didn’t understand something

— Sam Schwartzstein (@schwartzsteins) January 22, 2024

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