San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch made the media rounds this week, and his ESPN Radio interview with Trey Wingo and Mike Golic raised a host of interesting topics. One of the more curious comments came when he discussed the team’s process and particularly their use of advanced analytics.
They were talking about Lynch being an old school guy, and Golic asked him his thoughts about this new era of building teams. He specifically used the term “Moneyball,” so clearly he was talking about the advanced analytics nature of team-building.
Lynch was effusive in his praise, and talked about how they try and integrate the analytics (or research and development as they like to be called) int their film scouting process.
There was one particularly interesting comment however. Lynch talks about having a great R&D group, but, “[t]he previous regime wasn’t really using them.” You can check out the full transcript of this portion of the interview below.
Jim Harbaugh was a proponent of anything that would help him win, and Chip Kelly was among the more advanced coaches when it came to considering new ideas. There was plenty of discussion about Trent Baalke being in conflict with his coaches. It’s fascinating, to me at least, to hear a direct mention of the previous regime not doing enough with this particular avenue to potential victory.
“Analytics” or “research and development” or whatever you want to call it has had plenty of debate. In reality, analytics have been a part of football since the beginning. Basic statistics are one version of assessing teams and players. There is a debate as to how much it should be included, but ignoring particular information because you have your own preferred way is how it can be easy to find yourself with a pink slip. There is no one exact right way to assess things, and it’s foolish to not consider any and all avenues to success.
We have, when I came in — you think about where we are, we’re in kind of the epicenter of innovation. And the Niners have always been as a team of innovation. So we’ve got people like Paraag, who handles our cap, but also kind of looks over our strategy. So we’ve got a great research and development — I call it analytics, they don’t like that, they like research and development.
The previous regime wasn’t really using them. I figure as long as they’re here, we’ll see what they can bring. And we found that it’s been incredibly valuable. And we’ve tried to kind of intertwine them in our scouting process. Kyle’s bought into that.
And so, we are using that, but ultimately, we look at the film. One of the things that I mentioned is that Kyle has a great — and his staff, they’ve been together a long time and they’ve run the same system. So they’ve been able to articulate to me, our front office, our scouting staff: here’s the characteristics we’re looking for at each position. And then I think the same on defense. Robert Saleh came from that Seattle tree, and so they have a real good understanding — I feel like that’s why we were able to build such a great defense down in Tampa. We did the same thing for years, and when you do that — you look at teams like Pittsburgh, they’ve been running the same defense forever, they know exactly what they’re looking for.
So I think that’s been a big advantage. We’ve got to continue to make that as such. And then the way we’re working as a front office with our coaches. That’s something Kyle and I signed up for, to do this thing together, and I think we’ve had great collaboration. If we continue to do that, I think we can continue to get better. We got in this thing to win championships, and we’re building towards that. It’s not a finished product by any means, but we do feel like we’re getting better, and that there’s a really exciting vibe here.