NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In 2020, the NFL adopted a rule change that stopped teams from accumulating dead ball fouls to drain clock while preserving late-game leads.

Bill Belichick may have first “discovered” the loophole but it was Mike Vrabel’s use of it in a Wild Card win in New England against the Patriots in 2019 that really brought it to the forefront as something that made teams feel it needed to be addressed.Elijah Mitchell

Elijah Mitchell, who analytics helped the 49ers find/ © Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Vrabel saw that as a win and, I believe, as vindication against anyone who would debate that he underuses analytics.

He may not have guys from MIT or Harvard sitting in a booth on game day with binoculars and binders as some teams do, but he and his right-hand man, John Streicher, employ analytics in real-time game decisions and in taking advantage of the rules. Vrabel doesn’t believe requires a big staff. (The following season in a playoff loss Vrabel chose to punt on fourth-and-2 from the Baltimore 40 with 10:06 left in a game the Titans were losing 17-13. No analytics win there.)

Ran Carthon’s background suggests the new GM will put a bigger emphasis on analytics in the front office than there has ever been before. That won’t affect how Mike Vrabel operates, but it should influence some calculations about how the Titans chose players to sign and draft.

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