Denver Broncos testing in-game analytics

Aug 10, 2015

Analytics continues its spread into the various facets of sports. Just recently, the Denver Broncos hired a director of analytics, Mitch Tanney, who will be available to coaches on the field to provide probabilities that inform in-game decisions.

“If we’re moving the ball or we’re doing formatting, I’ve got Mitch with me because he’s going to be on the headset, so we’re trying to practice,” Kubiak said.

With Tanney nearby, Kubiak can receive a quick report on the statistical probabilities of almost any situation. Say that you have fourth-and-3 from the opponent’s 45-yard-line with four minutes to go. Do the large-sample-size percentages make the risk-reward ratio acceptable enough to go for it? Tanney’s analytics can provide insight to aid Kubiak’s decision-making.

This should be interesting. From the team’s perspective, does more information during the game actually inform the coach’s decision, or does it clutter, and he eventually goes back to gut feeling?

And if the coach does run with the analytics, how soon will it be before fans and viewers start whining about data-driven decisions over gut feelings? I can already hear the color commentators spouting nonsense when a play doesn’t go in the Bronco’s favor. “I guess the statistics were wrong! Har har har.” [via Deadspin]

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