According to ESPN’s sports analytics writer Seth Walder, Jacksonville Jaguars senior vice president of football operations and strategy Karim Kassam is no longer employed by the organization.
“The reason that Kassam is no longer with the team was not immediately known,” adds ESPN staff writer Michael DiRocco, noting that “Kassam was hired Feb. 19 to oversee the team’s football technology and analytics department in addition to salary-cap administration while working with [new] head coach Urban Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke.”
Kassam is the second individual hired by the new regime to leave the organization. Director of sports performance Chris Doyle resigned in mid-February after just one day on the job. The Jaguars were criticized for hiring Doyle, who had been “accused of making racist remarks and belittling and bullying players” while he was the strength coach at the University of Iowa, noted DiRocco at the time.
Shortly after the news broke, Kassam sent a tweet that seems to confirm the above report, saying, “I enjoyed my time with the Jaguars. I have had the opportunity to work with great teams, and I look forward to doing so again.”
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Kassam Has Been Job-Hopping Since Leaving the Steelers
Kassam came to the Jaguars after a one-year stint as director of baseball research with MLB’s Minnesota Twins. Prior to that he spent seven months as “distinguished data scientist in residence” at Duolingo (a privately-held language learning company), which followed a five-year tenure (2014 -19) as the analytics and football research coordinator for the Steelers.
Notably, Kassam was “the first person the Steelers … ever hired to study advanced statistics,” offered Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a 2015 profile of Kassam.
It’s not clear exactly how impactful Kassam was while working with the Steelers. According to Andy Guyader, founder of the analytics/metrics blog TheQ5, Kassam’s role was to work in the scouting department under general manager Kevin Colbert to both provide information for the coaching staff and to help evaluate college prospects. “Word is that [Steelers head coach] Mike Tomlin is not big on analytics so Karim’s fit into the coaching staff may not be natural,” offered Guyader, whose bio at the TheQ5.com indicates that he played a role in helping to convert former Steelers left tackle Al Villanueva from lineman to wide receiver while Guyader was on Coach Rich Ellerson’s staff at Army in 2009.
Of course, Villanueva went on to become a lineman in the NFL. The Philadelphia Eagles tried him on the defensive line before the Steelers turned him into a left tackle, a position he manned in Pittsburgh for six years. Earlier this month Villanueva, an unrestricted free agent, agreed to a two-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens. At his introductory press conference he revealed that the Steelers let him know he was not in their future plans shortly after the 2020 season came to an end. He also admitted that his options in free agency “were not plenty.”
Devin Bush, Zach Banner at OTAs
In one bit of good news from Thursday, both inside linebacker Devin Bush and offensive tackle Zach Banner were limited participants at OTAs this week.
Both Bush and Banner are recovering from torn ACLs suffered during the early part of last season.
On Thursday, Banner told Steelers.com that he’s “like a dog on a leash right now,” happy to be taking part in OTAs but looking forward to going full speed in training camp. “[Coaches] pulling at the leash bugs me, because I feel good, feeling better every day,” he concluded.
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