Raheem Morris Says Stats Are for Losers

Raheem Morris, head coach of the 4-2 Buccaneers, says that "Stats are for losers." Well, Raheem, I have just one thing to say to you.

I agree.

Most football stats are pointless. Total yards, field goal percentage, fantasy stats, total tackles, and the king of all bad stats--passer rating--are not much more than trivia. Coach Morris prefers to focus on wins, saying, "...you keep looking at stats and we'll keep looking at wins." Here, we are in complete agreement.

At the time Morris made the comment, he was confronted by a reporter with his team's standings in terms of total yardage gained and allowed. Those statistics can be very misleading and are often disconnected with winning. How do I know that? From other, better statistics.

Like it or not, football is a game of numbers. Coaches like Morris are fond of pointing to the scoreboard as the only measure of a team. But take a good look at the scoreboard and what do you see? Numbers, and lots of 'em. Now look down at the field. What do you see there? Oh, look at that, big white numbers painted all over the field. The question is not whether or not numbers matter, because they certainly do. The only question is which numbers matter most.

Everyone, except fantasy fanatics I suppose, agree that winning is what ultimately matters. So let's start with wins and work backward. We can ask which numbers or combination of numbers explain and predict the wins and losses we see on the field. That would tell everyone, coaches included, about what really makes a winner. Just as an example, consider the statistic most directly connected to winning and losing: Win Probability. How could that statistic have been useful to Morris? It might have saved Raheem from one of the dumbest coaching decisions of 2009.

Football stats, at least the ones most people have traditionally focused on, are pretty worthless. But good stats can teach us a lot about a sport that literally paints its field with numbers. You'd be a loser to think otherwise.

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10 Responses to “Raheem Morris Says Stats Are for Losers”

  1. JDA says:

    How does Coach Morris decide whether to go for it on 4th down or not? Or what's the best play to call if he decides to go for it? Or when to attempt a 2-point conversion?

    Of course numbers are everywhere, and I'm sure Coach Morris uses statistics in his game planning and decision-making every week. I don't think he was just taking a stereotypical-jock approach to putting down all stats, although that's how the quote got publicized. Given the question asked of him, I think he was just trying to give a somewhat diplomatic and funny answer explaining why his team's 4-2 even though they haven't looked that great. What's he supposed to say - "our record is 4-2, but we're concerned that we're still a bad team because our yardage hasn't been up to par"?

  2. Anonymous says:

    isn't the win-loss record a statistic? So he really said "...you keep looking at stats and we'll keep looking at [this other stat]."

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think context is important in this case. He was clearly annoyed by the reporters question because he basically trying to get Raheem to admit that they aren't really as good as a 4-2 team, even when they're actually 4-2.

    Every coach (and every fan) in the NFL would rather want their team to be the Bucs and not the Chargers right now.

    And to be honest the value of statistics in football is pretty limited. There's a lot of things advanced statistics can't account for (although it accounts for more in general), like injuries and special teams among other things.

    In that regard stats are for losers. The Chargers are a bunch of losers.

  4. Jim Glass says:

    "isn't the win-loss record a statistic?"

    Right, W-L is a stat, and so is points for/against.

    Even Redskins fans know that. So when they endorse the quote "stats are for losers" what they are really saying is "Simple stats are OK, but stats that I am too dim and ignorant to understand are for losers."

    OTOH, to be fair to the coach, yeah, context matters. If the team I was coaching was 4-2 and the stats told me they were really 2-4 quality, and the selfish, greedy-for-a-story press asked me about it, I wouldn't admit it and diss my team in public, I'd find a way to dismiss the issue to the press too. Perhaps not in those words. Something like "You are what you do and we are 4-2, maybe you've noticed?", Parcells-izing them might be better. Then I'd yell at my team in private. But few coaches manipulate the media like Parcells. So I can have some sympathy for a head coach in that spot. But not any for dumbass Redskin fans extolling their own ignorance in a newspaper comments section.

  5. anthony says:

    "Every coach (and every fan) in the NFL would rather want their team to be the Bucs and not the Chargers right now."

    I'd disagree with that. I'd rather be a Chargers fan.

    That's reflected in the lines (Chargers favored over Ten vs. Ari favored over TB) and the Super Bowl futures (SD 17/2 vs. TB 100/1)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Harbaugh had a press conference after the Ravens/Bills game that the Ravens narrowly won in OT (after being favored by 13 going in). It sums it up nicely.

    "It's what we said in the locker room, 'a win's a win,'" Head Coach John Harbaugh said in his opening postgame remarks. "I'm not going to stand up here and say that we played well.

    "I'm disappointed in the yards; I'm disappointed with the points; I'm disappointed with the coverage. I'm disappointed with the pressure in some ways. We have to play better than that to be the team we want to be, but I'm proud of the win."

  7. zlionsfan says:

    You can never be sure that a coach actually means what he says to a reporter: usually you'll get either good comments or neutral comments, regardless of how the coach actually feels.

    Having said that, if Morris' opinion is, roughly, "It doesn't matter how you get to 4-2: all teams with 2 losses are the same, therefore there's no point in pressing the issue," then I hope he does better at his next coaching stop.

    I don't think anyone who understands the point of analysis is trying to say that the Bucs should ignore their record, it's more that there are things about Tampa Bay that are not typical of 4-2 teams. Maybe things will continue in their favor and they'll turn out to be an improbable 10-6 team (or better), but if he isn't able to address some of those issues and they end up 6-10, not too many of us will be surprised.

  8. Patrick Nance says:

    This is a very commonly misinterpreted football quote that's been used for years. "Stats are for losers" simply means that the losing team will often quote statistics to try to explain why they lost or sometimes to try to take solace in their next contest. The winning team will simply talk about the effort involved in the win. It doesn't mean "only losers care about statistics."

    That said, Raheem Morris is probably an ignoramus.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Who authored this post?

  10. ric says:

    i would argue that wins are a byproduct of better play than the opposing team, at key phases of the game. thus not the 'ultimate goal' and not the best way to frame and discuss stats.

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