Tanney knows scores behind score

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by short faced bear, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. short faced bear

    short faced bear Assistant Head Coach DBS Writer

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    When Bears director of analytics looks at numbers, things begin to add up

    Dan Pompei
    On the NFL

    7:58 p.m. CDT, August 1, 2013

    BOURBONNAIS — When Phil Emery joined the Bears as an area scout in 1998, then-college scouting director Bill Rees asked him to devise a program that would rate players based on various combine tests.

    Emery came up with a formula the Bears would use in drafts in which they selected players such as Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown, Marty Booker, Roosevelt Colvin and Warrick Holdman.

    A similar version of the formula remains in play at Halas Hall, this one devised by former strength coach Rusty Jones and muscled up by current strength coach Jimmy Arthur.

    It's called the Athletic Index Score and Emery referred to it when discussing why the Bears chose certain players in the April draft.

    But in the changing evaluation game, the Bears were searching for more. Much more.

    Enter Mitch Tanney, director of analytics.

    The Bears decided to join the growing number of teams that are playing moneyball in shoulder pads. Others who are going deep into analytics include the Ravens, Cowboys, Jaguars, Saints, Seahawks and Browns.

    Tanney had been the manager of analytics for STATS. Emery became familiar with him after he became Bears general manager and he spent a day at STATS in Northbrook to see how the team could benefit from the company's services.

    Emery and Tanney reconnected in March at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

    "I always had a strong interest in this area," said Emery, who has quoted Pro Football Focus statistics in news conferences. "Going to that conference and meeting with Mitch helped me get my head around the analytics equation."

    So when the team lost a couple of talent evaluators in the offseason, Emery saw an opportunity to restructure the front office and create a dimension.

    But it's not like scouts no longer have a use for game tape. The Bears see analytics as one of many evaluative elements.

    "Mitch's input is no more important than the tape, than the interview or than a high quality computer system," Emery said. "Analytics is part of it, not all of it. … We're not trying to find magic bullets. We're trying to get a little bit more out of the data we have because there is such an array of it."

    The Bears believe Tanney can enhance their efforts in three ways.

    The most important area is scouting.

    "He is going to help us in analyzing (veteran) player statistical information to compare and contrast with other players in the league," Emery said. "He will help us in analyzing future prospects with all the various statistical information each player presents — performance scores on the field, medical scores, background testing and psychological profiling. He will dial down the important information and make it clear how it relates to performance."

    Tanney also will help negotiator Cliff Stein with salary cap analytics and negotiation strategies.

    And he will provide coach Marc Trestman and his staff with metrics that could give them an edge. Tanney is tracking trends for strategical purposes already, and the coaches also have given him special projects.

    "There are so many elements that go into decision making besides the numbers," Trestman said. "But at least you can get percentages on what your chances may be.

    "An example might be if you look at what the numbers say if it's fourth-and-1 on the 8. Is it better to go for it or take three (points)? If you don't get it, there is a good chance you'll get the three back if you have a good defense and you punt the ball. Or you can create a turnover because they are backed up and you stress their offense."

    Trestman said he doesn't know a lot about analytics, but he is open-minded to learning more.

    Emery jokes that he did not get past Algebra 101.

    So Tanney has a very different way of looking at the game than anyone else at Halas Hall.

    He was a quarterback and team captain at Monmouth College, where he graduated with a degree in mathematics. He played quarterback in the Arena Football League and other pro leagues and served as an assistant coach at Monmouth. At STATS, he helped create and manage advanced football statistics, including the company's ICE program that NFL teams use.

    "There is a uniqueness in finding an ex-player involved in analytics and having a deep math background," Emery said. "And he had job experience in the sport. There aren't many people with all those qualifications. So he adds something to the group that can make us better."

    This is a new era for the Bears' front office, and Tanney's presence is confirmation.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sport...ears-pompei-chicago-20130802,0,2637432.column
  2. short faced bear

    short faced bear Assistant Head Coach DBS Writer

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    I can't say I've agreed with Emery's drafting and personnel decisions but I think his developing this area and expanding the scouting dept. is where he will really shine.
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  3. Bearsinhouston

    Bearsinhouston Position Coach

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    I like that he is taking a look at something that logically should be a good data point to consider in player selection. As the article said, it is just one more data point, but if you have one more data point than the other guy, you should also have a better record on player selection. Lets see if that plays out next draft. If you are going to include analytics (and I think you should), I believe that Emery went and got us one of the best out there. I like this.
  4. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I'm a great believer in analytics and since it's proven it's worth in so many ways and in so many different areas of commerce I also believe it has a place in pro football personnel management. But in the end stats are just numbers on a page and you still need to know how to use them correctly. So we'll see if this new guy who's being fused into a role between Phil Emery and Cliff Stein can help them to rebuild this team on the fly which is obviously the road Phil I planning on traveling.
  5. AtomicTommy

    AtomicTommy DaBears Ditka

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    You don't need to hire a guy like Tanney... you just need to know if they can jump out of pools.
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  6. Papa_Bear_7

    Papa_Bear_7 Veteran

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    Why would you need to know if your analyst can jump out of a pool? ;)
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  7. Bearsinhouston

    Bearsinhouston Position Coach

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    In case someone drops a vat of acid in the pool. It's important he can get out of there. Emery considers everything.
  8. Blue Horse-shoe

    Blue Horse-shoe Veteran

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    If it helps them separate the overrated .... from the guys who actually produce more ( even if their "name" hasn't received much noteriety ) then it should help them be a better team .

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