Greg Olsen Nov 19, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Former Panther and now announcer Greg Olsen during pregame warm ups between the Carolina Panthers and the Dallas Cowboys at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Michael Wilbon launched yet another rant against analytics on Monday. The longtime ‘Pardon the Interruption’ co-host caused a stir after mocking “analytics” following a crucial sequence in the NFC Divisional Round game between the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The rant caused a lot of pushback online after it emerged. It most notably caught the attention of Fox’s Greg Olsen.

Often waxed poetically online, Olsen has quickly become one of the best color commentators in sports. The former NFL tight end’s sharpness on the air and knowledge have made for a pretty strong combination. Unlike some of his colleagues, Olsen is fond of a new age and forward-thinking.

The Fox color commentator offered a solid rebuttal to Wilbon’s anti-analytics rant.

“This is just further proof how vital it is that announcers continue to educate the viewers on the current approach to NFL football,” Olsen said. “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 is correct about a few things here–namely, the first part. If anything needs to be enhanced on sports broadcasts, it’s “analytics.” It’s been used too broad-stroked by pundits like Wilbon and others who can’t appear to view it any other way than a “bogeyman.” It’s simply data used to make more informed decisions.

Teams have been tracking stuff like this for eons. As we move forward into a world that’s no longer regressive, more information is welcomed. And it’s been plenty here. The takeover already happened. Teams have abundant scouting departments with knowledge that you or I would probably be wowed by.

The NFL made it a point to add rules experts to every broadcast network as their inconsistent rulebook became a weekly conversation. Dean Blandino and Gene Steratore have broadcast jobs until they don’t want them anymore, and Mike Pereira is one of the most innovative broadcast hires in recent memory.

Not every broadcast needs to be like Amazon Prime Vision. But you have to wonder: as NFL audiences do nothing but increase and increase, and as these conversations get larger (and seemingly deal with more “consequential” emotions), should other networks move to enhance their broadcasts further than they already have?

It feels like adding someone who’s well-versed in this subject is a no-brainer. You’re not doing your job well enough if your audience doesn’t know what’s going on. Adding onto the conversation only adds more nuance, which should be appreciated.

This isn’t to absolve the play-by-play and color commentators of the world either. Some of them don’t do nearly enough. By comparison, Olsen’s commentary never feels or comes off archaically. If there’s anyone who should be delivering this message right now, it’s probably Greg Olsen.

We’ll be much better off if the NFL (and everyone) decides to smarten everyone up without being pretentious about it. But it’ll also take an effort from those pushing back because, like Olsen says, it’s here to stay.

[Greg Olsen on X]

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022