Welcome back to Gridiron Tech. This week highlights how the increased use of analytics is impacting the NFL, a new league that would like to overtake the NFL as the biggest ‘sports league’ in the world, and a look at how one former ESPN employee is making a career change.

More analytics ahead?: When the NFL began its ‘Next Gen Stats’ initiative four years ago through its partnership with Zebra, initially it was to help provide fans at home and in the stands the next generation of football stats. However, sensor technology has trickled into the offices of coaches and executives around the league, and today, nearly one-third of NFL teams are now utilizing Zebra technology. By tagging player jerseys, teams are able to chart things such as ball velocity for quarterbacks, acceleration speed for wide receivers and even an athlete’s strength and conditioning. Some of the beliefs being adopted in NFL front offices could have a major impact in years to come, such as ‘pitch counts’ for quarterbacks. The next step for the company is to install RIFD tags on NFL footballs. “We use the Zebra Sports practice system to track our players and monitor their participation and performance throughout the season,” explained Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. “The information provided by Zebra has proven to be a vital asset.”

Next best thing to Madden?: While ESPN recently announced another round of layoffs, one former employee has resurfaced as a head coach but with one catch: he’ll be stripped of his authority to call the shots on game day. Former NFL running back Merril Hoge has signed on with Your Call Football (YCF), a real-life Madden-like game which allows fans to dictate everything that happens on the field in each situation. Using the Your Call Football app, users will be able to vote on which plays to call, earn points and win cash prizes. “YCF truly represents the future of the fan experience, and I’m thrilled to be involved,” Hoge said. Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman has also signed on to be a head coach for YCL.
Overwatch takes aim at NFL: The new eSports Overwatch League is aiming to become larger than the NFL. In order to help its efforts, the company has hired Steve Bornstein, who left his job as CEO of the NFL Network, to serve on the league’s executive committee. “When I left the NFL, the only thing I saw that had the potential to be as big was the eSports space,” he says. “What fascinated me was just the level of engagement, the fact that we measure consumption in billions of minutes consumed.” With a league minimum salary of $50,000, to go along with 401k plans, benefits and free housing, the league is attracting teenage video game players from all over the world.
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