Greg Olsen defends NFL broadcasters after Michael Wilbon rant: Analytics are ‘here to stay’

Greg Olsen stood up for NFL announcers everywhere after ESPN’s Michael Wilbon slammed them for working analytics into their broadcasts.

Wilbon’s denunciation came on Monday’s edition of “Pardon the Interruption.” The longtime co-host bemoaned the Buccaneers’ 2-point try while trailing by 8 points in their divisional-round loss to the Lions.

“Don’t start me with, ‘the analytics say go for it,’” Wilbon said. “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?’”

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Indeed, the theory behind going for 2 while down 8 points is mathematically sound. As long as a team makes at least 50% of its 2-point conversions, it can raise its regulation win probability by trying to go for 2 after cutting the lead to 8.

The logic? A team that is converting at least 50% of its 2-point conversions is likely to make at least one of every two attempts. So, if they miss it the first time, they would be likely to tie the game after a second touchdown and 2-point conversion attempt.

And if they make the first attempt? Then they could go for the easier extra-point attempt the next time around to take the lead.

MORE: Explaining the logic behind the Buccaneers’ two-point attempt vs. Lions

Despite this, Wilbon took a shot at the NFL broadcasters trying to explain analytics as part of the game-viewing experience.

“It’s the stupidest, laziest, lamest thing I’ve heard for reasoning in competition,” Wilbon said in discussing the 2-point conversion. “And I hate that announcers just buy it without questioning it.”

Wilbon’s comments evidently didn’t sit well with Olsen, who currently serves as the main game analyst for Fox’s NFL coverage. He took to X (formerly Twitter) to explain that analytics are now “vital” to the sport, so they need to be a part of the broadcast.

“This is just further proof how vital it is that announcers continue to educate the viewers on the current approach to NFL football,” Olsen wrote. “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?”

Olsen’s assessment is spot-on. While Wilbon and others may not be fans of the impact of analytics in the NFL, coaches are using it to influence on-field decisions.

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That’s not to say that analytics are gospel. NFL teams don’t follow the numbers blindly and sometimes will adjust to the scenario at hand.

But as long as analytics are involved in the game, Olsen & Co. will need to acknowledge them and explain how they are impacting the choices that each coaching staff is making throughout the game.


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