“How Far Will They Go With Numbers”
Q&A: Birds Must Marry Scouting, Analytics Properly
The latest changes to the Philadelphia Eagles front office suggest a more analytical way of thinking in terms of player acquisition and development.
On the latest “Q&A” podcast on Inside The Birds, former Eagles Jason Avant and Quintin Mikell give thoughts on the direction of the front office, coaching staff and more.
Quintin Mikell: “I’ve been in the building and in meetings with him. From what I know, he’s very good with numbers. He’s a very intellectual, smart person. I think this addition means a lot of the personnel and contract decisions are going to move more towards the analytical side of it. For me, there’s a place in the NFL for analytics, but I also think there’s times where it’s good to have a football guy in there. If they can also not necessarily rely on just the numbers, but also add the evaluation from football guys and guys that have played the game, I think it can work out well. I think he can succeed, it’s just how far will they go with the numbers?”
Jason Avant: “He’s been with the team now for 15 years or so. [He’s a] Harvard grad, so you know the guy is super smart. His inspiration was “Moneyball” and that’s the way he figured out he can get into the NFL because it was a lifelong dream of his. Using stats and using data in order to shift the odds in your favor was something he kind of wanted to bring to the NFL and the Eagles organization. I believe there’s a great role for analytics. When we’re talking about analytics, we’re talking about player acquisitions and players themselves…looking at the trajectory of his career, the position and how often these guys break down, looking at age, different things of that nature to see if this player’s declining or not…And also when it comes to drafting players: looking at size, intangibles, hand size; How do these things correlate?”
Mikell: “As far as I knew, he’s always been involved with the game, more so than other owners that I’ve heard. He actually studies the game, I’ve been told. I do think he’s very involved, and honestly, it’s his team and his right. He’s had some really good teams over the years. I think there was a little bit of a lull – especially around the Chip [Kelly] era – and after that I think he kind of figured out maybe he should take a little bit of a step back, but I think he was always involved with a lot of stuff that’s going on the actual football field.”
Avant: “He’s around the game a bunch. He’s at practice a bunch. He definitely watches film. I’ve talked to him about watching film multiple times about different players. I know that he would do anything to win. The one thing that I say about an owner is that he doesn’t hold back with giving players what they need in order to succeed. There are a lot of organizations that will not put the money into the players and into the facilities, technology, into the overall experience as a football team in order to have a winning edge. He will do anything to win games. Anything that he’s doing is coming from a place of trying to win.”
Avant: “I always loved him as a kid. He’s always been around the game, asked me questions about how and why I do certain things. He’s always been intuitive and super smart. [Jeffrey] Lurie’s getting old. He’s 70 years old and wants to eventually hand it over to his son.”
Mikell: “He’s had a father that he’s been able to watch prepare his team. He’s been able to see how he takes care of his players, puts the money into the program and analytics and the stadium. From that aspect, that added with him actually putting in the footwork, I think this team will be just fine.”
Mikell: “I think Nick Sirianni’s going to get better because it’s his second year as a head coach. He’s able to bring more players in that he’s been able to draft and choose to be on the team. He’s got his system in place. He’s got his coaching staff for another year, some continuity there. I think those things are what’s more important to improving the overall team and accountability. I think he’s still going to be able to have veto powers if there’s a play call he doesn’t like. There’s going to be times where he might have disagreements with Coach [Shane] Steichen and I’m sure they’re going to have to work through those dynamics.”
Mikell: “On paper, this front seven can be phenomenal, the cornerbacks can be phenomenal. What is the defensive coordinator going to do with that? If he sits back and just plays a basic defense and lets teams pick him apart again, he should be out of here. You don’t spend this much money on this defense and draft all of these players just to have them sit back and get picked apart.”
Avant: “Jonathan Gannon is a question mark. I don’t have anything personal against him, I just think the way he called games last year is not traditional Philadelphia Eagles football. We’re a ‘get after it’ type of town, not a ‘you punch us and we let you punch.’ That should be a staple of our defense, that we throw punches, we don’t sit back and take stuff. I would rather lose a game going after somebody than sitting back.”
– Benjamin Paul is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com
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