Analytics might be the most polarizing topic in professional sports. Nearly every NFL team has at least one full-time staffer devoted to mining data and analyzing when to go for it on fourth down. Or when it makes sense to kick the extra point over a two-point conversion.
The Philadelphia Eagles have long been at the forefront of it. They have a whole department dedicated to it. The Eagles ranked ridiculously high on a 2021 ESPN survey asking: Which team most incorporates analytics into its decision-making? They were No. 3 on the list. So when Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees got on his soapbox to denounce analytics, well people got mad.
One such person was former Eagles president Joe Banner. He criticized Pees’ “lack of appreciation” and called out the long-time NFL assistant for making “critical generalizations.” Yikes.
“The computer told you that,” Pees said, via Pro Football Talk. “When did the computer know what the weather was? Whether it was raining, whether the wind was blowing. Whether you were playing good on defense.”
To be fair, Pees never uttered the word analytics. He was making a broader point about the younger generation of coaches not building one-on-one relationships with their players. And not working their way up the coaching ranks like he did. Pees started at Division II Findlay in 1979 and didn’t get his first NFL job until he was 55 years old. Food for thought.
“I think the younger generation of coaches feel a little entitled,” Pees said. “I think they’re spoiled. Go work in a high school, go work in a Division III school where you’ve got to mow the grass, you’ve got to line the field. Go do all those things and then you’ll appreciate what you have when you have it.”
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Analytics Guru Created Rift in Philly
There was a report back in April from The Athletic claiming that Alec Halaby – the Eagles’ lead analytics guru – created a rift within the organization. The real football guys, mainly Doug Pederson, felt Halaby had unchecked power and answered only to owner Jeffrey Lurie. He and general manager Howie Roseman were using analytics to override decisions made by the coaching staff.
“It kind of comes from Howie Roseman down,” a source told ESPN in October. “He’s always been a proponent of analytics. I think, at least on the scouting side, they’ve always been pretty advanced.”
True or not, it was an interesting case study. The Eagles relied on analytics quite a bit during their 2017 Super Bowl run. And they won a championship. Of course, there needs to be a system of checks and balances in any relationship – especially when it leads to computers running the show.
Jason Kelce Activated From COVID-19 List
The Eagles are down to 11 players left on the Reserve/COVID-19 list after Jason Kelce was activated on Friday. The Pro Bowl center will make his 122nd consecutive start on Saturday night, per SportsRadio 94WIP’s Howard Eskin. It might only be for a series or two to keep the record going.
Kelce ranks third on the NFL’s active list for consecutive starts right now. Tampa Bay’s Ndamukong Suh leads all players with 163 starts, followed by Atlanta’s Jake Matthews at 125. The all-time mark at the center position is 210, held by former Raiders great Jim Otto.