I really didn’t expect to write three articles about analytics this week. But here we are. While we mentioned Mike Tomlin seemingly more open to the concept we also noted the loss of Karim Kassam, head of their analytics department since 2015. Although Kassam has a replacement, intern Jay Whitmire will take over that role, there’s no question it’s a loss for the Steelers.
While Pittsburgh is arguably taking a step backwards, the Baltimore Ravens are moving full speed ahead. Under new general manager Eric DeCosta, the team announced the hiring of three members to their analytics department yesterday.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has had a long-standing interest in analytics. With DeCosta taking over the reigns from Ozzie Newsome this offseason, it’s no surprise that they’re announcing three analytics hires (@sarah_malle, @yamiam9, and @SeanFromSeabeck) today.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) June 18, 2019
As Barnwell tweet notes, DeCosta replaces Ozzie Newsome, one of the league’s most successful GMs but also one who had the old-school approach. Pretty obvious DeCosta is more open to analytics and bringing in a fresher, newer perspective. All three of the Ravens’ hires were popular Twitter accounts for that field too, a move that’s become commonplace around the league – Washington recently hired a former PFF employee – and throughout sports. The Milwaukee Bucks hired an analytics blogger back in 2016.
The point is it’s clear the direction the NFL is going. Not that analytics will rule the world but their presence is growing. Teams that don’t keep up will be at a competitive disadvantage. There was a good tweet yesterday that summed up teams who eschew analytics.
Building a team without analytics is like trying to build a house without a measuring tape. You can do it, but it’s going to take a lot longer, you’re gonna eyeball too much, you’re going to miss some cuts, it won’t be as precise, and it’ll probably end up a little wobbly. https://t.co/eXgWRxdIic
— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) June 20, 2019
We know the Browns have fully embraced the idea. Paul DePodesta is still a member of their front office, the guy Jonah Hill’s character was modeled around in Moneyball. And now the Ravens are taking a clear step forward. It’s not just about having one guy crunching the numbers. Organizations are creating full teams to handle the workload and putting them in prominent positions.
Pittsburgh? Right now, it looks as though they’ve gone backward. They’re lockstep with the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s never where you want to be.