“The Dougies”, Analytics, And Why This Team Is On The Rise

Dougie Whaley & Dougie Marrone. Toss Russ Brandon in there as well. The men who brought new millennium thinking to One Bills Drive. They establish mysterious mathematical models of breaking down information into something called ‘analytics’, among other things. So what the heck are analytics in English (preferably American style)?

New Bills GM Doug Whaley (Photo lifted from MondayQBC.com)
(Photo lifted from MondayQBC.com)

One of the most important things an analytics program will do is break down tendencies to the multiple minutia level of importance. You objectively (and subjectively) take in information, TONS of information… and you run it through some creepy statistical formula that creates a robotic algorithm. From that and there, you may then extrapolate and infer more from some sort of “logical analysis” and develop a model all neatly packaged and displayed on an Excel spreadsheet.

What’s impressive about “The Dougies” is that they both seem to ‘get’ that it takes more than a bunch of numbers on a table to understand one of the most important benefits from analytics. It has to do with identifying particular behavioral tendencies by assessing the data, but by also thinking out of the box.

For example, if Thad Lewis has an 80% probability of rolling out to the right when rushed from the pocket, a player might be able to access that information in their brain as they play, and increase the chances of winning on that play. An algorithm doesn’t let preconceived notions and emotional reactions get in the way of establishing patterns. Further, they allow for consideration a completely objective viewpoint regarding established fact and behavioral tendencies.

Behavioral analytics must consider BOTH the raw data and emotional aspect of how data is interpreted to gain a greater insight into how a football team functions as a whole, not as a set of individuals. How does the coach inspire each player to be their best? To respect one another? How does the individual become part of a greater whole?

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

How does that player learn to treat the game they are privileged to play for with respect and a clear understanding of what the role involves? I was struck by some emotionally driven comments ‘Dougie’ Marrone shared when asked about the team culture that exists in places like Miami, and how he felt about “hazing” (Wednesday press conference)?

He seemed to wax on when asked about the culture of any locker room. Definitely get the feeling at times that Coach Marrone almost uses the media conferences as a place to process his own feelings about what is going on in his mind (the whole petting the dog thing cracked me up).

He seems to respond with in an interesting emotional tone, very Bronx and very ‘in your face’ when asked tough questions. I like the feeling that you’re getting a real answer, not just some canned response to a reporter’s questions. Coach ‘Dougie’ Marrone is a very passionate guy when it comes to the game of football.

My greatest criticism of the Coach they called Richard was that I felt that’s all that was there… just a robot spewing words that had been carefully polled, and obnoxiously repeated like a robot in front of a bathroom mirror somewhere in WNY. No matter where, you could always count on Coach Richard as one who could state the obvious no more obviously in the history of the game.

Not too much is robotic about the ‘Dougie’ they call Marrone. There is an emotional guy behind the coaching pulpit now. While Chan had the “tuff gayme for tuff payple” thing down to an art form, (and Buddy as well), the previous Coach they called Richard iterated like a non-human life form.

That’s why I think the Bills now have a coach who is unique, because he is not robotic. Russ and the ‘Dougie’ Whaley identified too much cliche from the previous bunch of GM/Coaches, and sought a person for the head coaching job who would not be afraid to speak candidly to the media (as much as any NFL coach is really allowed to speak candidly).

‘Dougie’ Marrone is the ethical embodiment of a player/coach who gets the concept of team. He is a smart guy who isn’t afraid to get real in front of the media (referencing his raw emotion after losing a very close friend and facing the media after a tough game when he openly cried). You also get a guy who admits he doesn’t pet his dog when he goes home after a tough loss.

So, I’d have to think the early returns both ‘Dougies’ is that this pair could produce a 1 + 1 = 3 type GM/Coach combos in the league. Another season or so, and the real personality/culture of the “new regime” will be established. There’s a good chance this group could prove to be very special.

Call it whatever you want, but when I listened to Coach Philbin talking about the culture of the Miami Dolphins locker room, I’m not getting that really warm and fuzzy feeling he has a clue what is going on in his players’ locker room. He didn’t inspire a strong sense that he had/has any awareness of the alleged drama going on. Ha, that’s their problem though. If any opponent in the AFCE is having issues, all the better for the Buffalo Bills, and by extension their fan base

I was comforted after listening to the ‘Dougie’ Marrone’s press conference on Wednesday, and then reading more about ‘Dougie’ Whaley’s assessment of the first half of his first season as General Manager. Both ‘Dougies’ are bringing with them a different mentality that goes way beyond what any computer scientist can surmise from a bunch of statistical analytics.

They both reek of respect for life in general. Self-respect and respect toward others. There’s not a fake-ness about them just being in WNY for the job. They both have embraced the WNY community and understand the passion of this fan base. They both grew up in communities of their own who challenged them to achieve goals they never dreamed they would be able to achieve without the game of football.

When I do a ‘behavioral‘ analysis on this pair of ‘Dougies’, my fossilizing brain does a quick inventory of past Coach/GM pairings in Buffalo. These two ‘Dougies’ seem to enhance each other, and there is (dare I say) a truly different team attitude developing. “Doubt this Buffalo Bills team at your peril” is the new motto in town. No more will the Bills continue to be the easy “W” on the other team’s schedule.

This pair of characters have had their lives shaped by what is good about professional football. If you didn’t hear Marrone’s press conference from Wednesday, it is definitely worth a listen. Listen to how he talks about how he defines the concept of respect. You will really get a read on this guy’s moral compass when you hear what he has to say on the subject.

Then when you hear the players in their own press conferences talking and using the same words the ‘Dougies’ use; respect, accountability, honesty, etc. can only make a Bills fan smile.
The culture they are building within the Bills organization is something I’m not sure ever existed in this same fashion.

There have been other front offices that were highly successful in Buffalo. However, it was because of its own unique culture, just like the one that seems to be brewing at One Bills Drive under ‘The Dougies’.

Despite a 3-6 record, there really is something that smells different about this coaching staff and front office. They’ve already shown they are not afraid to cut players who are not contributing to the success of the team. That alone gives me hope of a faster turnaround for our moribund football franchise.

And no doubt Bills fans have a valid reason for their prickly reaction when fans of other teams try to joust with us. We are an irritable fan base, and fortunately I do believe ‘the Dougies’ are quite aware of that attitude. They are going to become the agents of change we have suffered so long to find and bring to Buffalo. Time to turn the tide the Buffalo Way. I believe there are finally the right people in place to get the job done.

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at BuffaloFAMbase.com. She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.