Fox Sports broadcaster Gus Johnson is known mostly for his exuberant calls, which can elevate a play or even encourage viewers to seek out whatever game he’s announcing simply because of the potential for an amazing moment.
He’s also developing a bit of a reputation for his deep disdain of analytics or whatever it is he thinks analytics are.
Johnson caught heat in March when he was calling a Villanova game in the NCAA Tournament and got fed up with the number of three-pointers the team was taking.
“Some of these shots these kids are taking are horrible,” said Johnson. “Is this this analytics…crap?… This is ridiculous.”
Fast-forward to this Saturday and Gus is on the call alongside Joel Klatt for the TCU–Texas Tech college football game. While the Horned Frogs would eventually put together a 34-24 victory, the game was fairly back-and-forth before that. And the Red Raiders had some prime chances to remain competitive in the fourth quarter.
Down 20-17 with 12 minutes left in the game, Texas Tech found themselves with a 4th and 2 on their own 36-yard line. Instead of punting, they went for it. Although, as Johnson noted, the Red Raiders were 3-for-3 on the day on 4th-down conversations, they didn’t get this one and handed the ball back to TCU with a short field ahead of them.
Gus Johnson has lost his got dang mind. pic.twitter.com/Svo3Y6MXKS
— BETSPERTS (@betsperts) November 5, 2022
“Ray Guy just passed this week, folks. Greatest punter in the history of football. And I know he’s in heaven saying, ‘what the heck is going on with the Red Raiders?’ Kick it!” said Johnson.
Johnson’s animosity towards analytics continued for the remainder of the drive.
“Texas Tech went for it there on fourth down. Analytics cost them this time,” Johnson would say a few plays after the failed attempt. “They’re unable to convert. And they give up the ball. Turn it over on downs, deep in their own territory instead of punting the football. Where’s the logic in that?”
Klatt tried to explain to Johnson that Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire either felt like he only had so many possessions left and needed to make something happen or felt as though he did have enough time to make up any points that TCU scored if the conversion fails. Either way, Johnson wasn’t buying it.
TCU scored a touchdown on the very next play, giving Johnson the ammo he needed to go all-in on “analytics.”
“Instead of punting the ball, Texas Tech gives up the touchdown after turning it over on downs. The score now 26-17. Analytics, throw’m in the garbage!”
Gus Johnson hates analytics, Part II pic.twitter.com/ArCOMZxH4j
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) November 6, 2022
After the commercial, Klatt, who said he agreed that Texas Tech should have punted, laid out the potential reasoning for why it made sense. Johnson wasn’t hearing it.
“The data community, I really don’t want to hear from,” said Johnson. “To me, what the data community doesn’t understand is momentum. You know, a bunch of guys who didn’t play are telling people that play and coaches that coach what to call, and they’re using it. Now the momentum has totally gotten away from Texas Tech.”
Gus Johnson hates analytics, Part IV pic.twitter.com/7i6CcGy8Gx
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) November 6, 2022
All of this feels a bit like the classic analytics straw man argument that comes up around its usage. First of all, we don’t even know if Texas Tech was using data or analytics when they made the fourth-down decision, but even if they did, the fact that the conversion failed is not some kind of concrete proof that it’s a faulty system. The point is that analytics provide coaches and players with data to suggest potential outcomes and likely scenarios, but just like with “gut decisions,” there are no guarantees.
Gus Johnson condemning analytics after Texas Tech gives up a TD following a failed 4th down, yet refusing to acknowledge the previous TD they scored after multiple 4th down conversions is quintessential cognitive dissonance.
— Monte McNair (@mmcnair) November 5, 2022
Johnson feels like analytics ruin “momentum.” Well, earlier in the game, Texas Tech went for it on fourth down on multiple occasions on a drive, kept converting, and scored a touchdown. What’s a better example of using momentum than that? Johnson didn’t seem to want to acknowledge that in his takedown.
But regardless, that instance doesn’t prove analytics is “correct” any more than the 4th-quarter failed conversion proves it’s “incorrect.” It just shows that if the numbers say that the odds are in your favor if you do a certain thing, you might as well do that thing…unless you decide not to!
Johnson just seems to be mad at someone who doesn’t exist because he doesn’t personally like the idea of analytics.
Gus Johnson, knowing nothing about analytics, says to "throw them in the garbage" after Texas Tech is stuffed on fourth-and-2 at its own 38 with 13 minutes to play, then gives up a TCU score.
It is such an insult to anyone who understands math to say this stuff.
— ??️♈️? (@ADavidHaleJoint) November 5, 2022
I'm literally begging Gus Johnson to stop talking about what he thinks analytics are.
— Shehan Jeyarajah (@ShehanJeyarajah) November 5, 2022
Gus Johnson is so damn excited to clown on analytics when Tech was 3-3 on fourth down and if Smith made the right play he would’ve converted it.
Please god stop clowning math when it’s not math’s fault.
— Brice Paterik ? (@BricePaterik) November 5, 2022
I went back and listened to the Gus Johnson analytics rant people were tweeting about, and woo boy worse than I imagined.
"A bunch of guys that didn't play are telling people that play and coaches that coach what to call, and they're using it!"
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 5, 2022