The Kansas City Chiefs are making a stats-driven hire for their front office.
The defending AFC West champions are hiring Marc Richards as a Football Research Analyst, according to Seth Walder of ESPN.
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Richards was part of the winning Big Data Bowl team in 2021, which also included Wei Peng, Sam Walczak, and Jack Werner. The Big Data Bowl is a competition held by the NFL that “calls on professional and aspiring amateur data scientists to devise innovative approaches to a specific challenge,” per the league.
In 2021, the Big Data Bowl’s topic was analyzing pass coverage in the NFL. Richards’ team won the competition by devising “play outcome models for each frame of the data, as well as classified man versus zone coverage schemes to measure the before and after pass ability of each defender.” Their winning submission can be viewed right here.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid have proven through the years together that they are willing to incorporate analytics when it comes to player development and salary cap management. With Vice Presidents of Football Operations Chris Shea and Brandt Tilis being part of the catalyst for analytics use as well in Kansas City’s front office, the Chiefs now further support their analytics-driven approach to football by adding Richards.
Richards’ Pass Coverage Data Could Help Chiefs
A strong connection can be made between Richards’ winning submission in the 2021 Big Data Bowl and Kansas City’s current roster construction.
After losing cornerback Charvarius Ward to free agency this offseason, the Chiefs’ cornerback room is entering the 2022 season overall young and inexperienced. The oldest and most experienced player among the cornerbacks is newly-added veteran Lonnie Johnson Jr., who is 26 years old and has played four seasons in the NFL. Outside of him, Deandre Baker (3), Rashad Fenton (3), L’Jarius Sneed (2), and Luq Barcoo (2) are the other cornerbacks that have played at least two seasons in the NFL.
Then you add in rookie first-round pick Trent McDuffie being projected as a Week 1 starter for Kansas City, and it would make sense for the team to try to expedite the development of the budding cornerback room.
One way to do that is to further expand the analytics-based coaching methods they have in place. Hiring Richards could give the Chiefs the analytics they need in the cornerback room to do just that.
Twitter Reacts to Chiefs Hiring Richards
Twitter users reacted to the news of the Chiefs hiring Richards.
“Brett Veach having a heck of an off-season with the analytics crew,” one Twitter user wrote.
“The #Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes; they should use that to their advantage on fourth downs. Hopefully this moves helps the go for it more often (when favorable),” Zack Eisen of Arrowhead Report wrote.
“maybe we’ll run when we’re up double digits and averaging 6.5 ypc now,” another user wrote.
“If the Chiefs go for just ONE fourth down now… move over Chargers and Ravens, there’s a new Nerd King in town,” Matt Lane of KC Sports Network wrote.
“Chiefs going Big Brain. But will Andy still call a jet sweep to Blake Bell in a critical moment? Who can say, but I’m here for it,” Matt Verderame of FanSided wrote.