The Ravens are going Moneyball.
The team announced Monday they hired Yale and Carnegie Mellon-educated Sandy Weil as the team’s director of football analytics, working with the coaching staff and personnel department.
According to the team’s official website, “his in-depth statistical research will range from examining certain in-game situations to mining data related to the NFL Draft.”
“We already do a lot of things right,” Weil said. “The question is: are there places where we could do things a little better or a little more informed?”
Because of the inter-dependent nature of the game (a missed block by one offensive lineman can destroy a potential big run by a back), football has lagged behind baseball in particular in terms of mathematical analysis.
But Weil said he wanted to “use analysis to challenge and examine some of the prevailing schools of thought within the NFL.”
“We’re always looking for confirmation on things we think we know and insights that could provide an edge for us in personnel and coaching,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. “This is where Sandy will help us.”
At the moment, the specifics of his duties are unclear. He’s also worked with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA, but guys with titles such as his are becoming more widespread in baseball after the story of Oakland GM Billy Beane became a best-selling book and popular movie.
“They found a market inefficiency and that exploited it,” Weil said. “That’s what ‘Moneyball’ was about and there are going to be places that you can look at in football and find new stuff. And the question is if you can exploit inefficiencies on that front to create value. I hope so.”
As was explained in the book, such efforts were met with skepticism by old-school scouts and coaches at first.
Weil shouldn’t expect anything less, but good for the Ravens being forward-thinking enough in a business which can suffer from a group-think of evaluators.