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What has Paraag Marathe done in the coaches’ booth?

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The lengthy Paraag Marathe interview with Matt Maiocco had a few questions regarding what he does in the booth on gameday. According to him, he’s there when—and if—they want him.

You don’t hear much from Paraag Marathe in interviews and then he drops a 45 minute chat on Matt Maiocco’s podcast. Fooch wrote a post Wednesday talking about what he did during the coaching search, and I wanted to bring up another thing that I found interesting: His role in the booth.

It’s been reported int he past that Marathe worked in the booth crunching numbers and providing analytics. This post from Socalisteph identifies a lot of what that is better than I can. It’s been speculated by some that Marathe, a non-football guy, being in the booth and possibly calling plays could be problematic.

Maiocco noted that the practice began during the Mike Nolan era, and the outside criticism built from there. In the same post I linked above, it talks about how former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh would rather stick to his gut instincts, much to the chagrin of Jed York, Trent Baalke, and Marathe.

We may never know exactly what has gone down on game day, but Marathe detailed what he does during the games for the coaches, and stresses his advice is mostly a take it or leave it affair. He talked about how it was a resource people could use as they saw fit.

I do suggest listening to the interview to hear his way of talking, but here’s what he said regarding booth responsibilities:

It was something (being in the booth) Coach Nolan asked me to do. I think it was similar to having read through the whole CBA five times over, I read through the NFL playing rules 5 times over and really understood the rules worked. He knew that and it was his idea to say, “Why don’t you come up and be in there”. It was basically just asking questions—I’m sorry, answering questions, when asked and a lot of it was just rules based things. One example would be when a guy runs out of bounds, the game clock only stops inside of two minutes at the first half and five minutes in the second half. It’s different. If they run out of bounds at 5:01, the clock keeps running, if they run out of bounds at 4:59, the clock stops. There’s an example of just a black and white thing, of if he wanted to know on the fly, that’d be something he’d ask.

On the game management chart (when to call time outs vs. when not to, etc.):

It’s something you always work on, and it’s a resource if the head coach wants to use it. That’s pretty much how it’s been. It’s been used by a lot of coaches there’s some version of that, because we’ve had a lot of coaches come through here. Some of the stuff is to more help give them a guideline. For example, how long does it take from tackle to snap if you’re trying to spike the ball? What’s the NFL average on time? So that the coach knows as when he’s hurrying up his two minute offense on average it takes 11 seconds from tackle to snap to get the ball spiked. Verses if you’re trying to go no-huddle and go really quickly, it on average takes 17 seconds. It’s things like that that are in there so they have it on the tip of their tongue or right there if they need it.

Does he do the strategy of it (Maiocco pointed to the 2016 game against the saints where the 49ers held the Saints receivers at the end of the half)?:

The coaches coach. If they had questions for me and wanted me to put something together, I would. It’s really more of the black and white stuff that I’ll lay out for them. If there’s questions or they want me to look up a certain situation, like for example, “Hey, what are all the times in the last 25 years that that Saints 49ers example happened?” I would go find that.

Maiocco asked Marathe about his involvement in analytics as a whole. Marathe was quick to point out that much of what he is providing is similar to what offensive and defensive quality control coaches have been doing for years. He talked about looking at tendencies, whether it be how certain plays work against a certain defense, what teams have given up in a particular trade, or how corners that run slower than a 4.7 40 do in the NFL.

A lot of what we do is not any different from what quality control coaches have done since the beginning of the NFL, looking at tendencies and looking at different things. It’s very similar to the types of things we’ll look at, whether it be what types of plays have worked well against a certain type of defense, or what are all the times that corners who had slower than a 4.7 40-yard dash time have been successful Pro Bowl players. It’s just looking for tendencies and traits. If we’re looking at trades, what are all the times a Pro Bowl player has been traded for more than a first round pick. And like, trying to use that in decision-making. Really, it comes down to this. We’re in a hyper-competitive business, we’re in a hyper-competitive league, you’re looking for every advantage you can get. I think it’s important to make the point, you don’t want to have paralysis by analysis either, right? So it’s really something that’s a resource, it’s there if you ask a question or oyu want additional information in making a decision. If you don’t, then you don’t. But it’s something where there is a delicate balance there.

Marathe was also asked about how coaches accept analytics. I doubt we hear any specifics from Jim Harbaugh about this, but Marathe did talk about Harbaugh in the context of what coaches thought about the analytics. When asked about what coaches think about the analytical side of things, Marathe offered this:

I see it more as like a menu of things I can help you with. And depending on what the general manager or the coach want to lean on, they’ll ask questions, and a lot of times, in a lot of the prior examples you mentioned, it’ll start out as a question, and it will inspire a bigger discussion. And Coach Harbaugh, as you know, he’s always looking for every advantage he can get … Anything that helped him, we would go through. We would talk after other games in the league, that team, they had a minute left, how many plays do you think they could have gotten off?

My job is to keep my head down, stay in my lane, do my job, and help the head coach and GM as much as I can. As all of us, actually, it’s not just me, as all of us, especially during the season and free agency and the draft, it’s important to support the head coach and the GM because they’re running this football team.

Marathe has a strong reputation as a negotiator, working out a variety of contracts that have put the 49ers in a strong salary cap position. His reputation in other matters has always been up for debate. We’ll never hear all sides of this debate, but it is good to at least get a chance to hear from Marathe. The podcast is well worth the 45 minutes.