As NFL evaluation progresses and all 32 teams leave no stone unturned, one team that has seen an increased reliance on technology and analytics is the Redskins, who have incorporated new technology that provides info for the overall scouting process.
At one time, ESPN rated the Redskins as dead last in the NFL in effectiveness and buy-in regarding the team’s use of statistical analysis. “The Redskins were named by source after source as the NFL team with the least interest in using analytics in football operations,” wrote ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. Slowly, however, Washington is ramping up its use of modern techniques.
Redskins Director of Football Strategy Jeff Scott told the team’s website that the scouting staff isn’t “picking anything based on numbers.” Instead, the ‘Skins remain dedicated to trusting their scouts’ eyes rather than a mathematician’s electronic rubric.
“I would never want to make a decision based on numbers,” Scott said. “But to have another tool in your toolbox is always beneficial, and the earlier we can get that going, the better off we are.”
Two companies at the forefront of this movement are XOS Digital and Pro Football Focus (PFF). Both enable teams to sort video cutups on players based on down and distance or certain situations such as third-down pass plays for a quarterback. Less than a decade ago, scouts had to watch entire games to find these exact situations. Today, PFF charts every play for every player. The modern NFL team saves countless hours using these services.
“The numbers just give you some basis,” Scott said in the team’s report. “If I can get certain things or tendencies or pick up on certain things, we can even get that to the coaches and they can incorporate that into their game plans.”
Mike Stoeber is Jacksonville’s Director of Football Systems. Prior to working for the Jags, Stoeber was the Senior Field Support Representative at XOS DigitalOne. He’s very familiar with the NFL’s efforts to catalog every movement of every player on every snap. This past season, the NFL tracked more than 54,000 plays and recorded every tenth of a second for every player movement thanks to RF chips that feature GPS tracking technology.
These RF chips allow teams to track how often a linebacker blitzes on certain down and distance situations, or which wide receiver is likely to be targeted based on specific formations. This data is only shared by the 32 NFL teams, and players do not have access to the information being recorded and stored. Meanwhile, these innovative methods in college and pro scouting are slowly trickling down to college personnel departments.
As the NFL begins to scratch the surface of new technology, data-driven analytics will continue to take up more space in scouting binders around the league. This is good news if you aspire to work in football. Though old-school methods and analytics go hand and hand, you can be sure that more and more teams will be hiring in their analytics department.