A treasure trove of player data is available through chips that every player wears in his shoulder pads, but the NFL is limiting how that data can be used.
Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal reports that the league will not allow teams to access the player tracking data of other teams. So if one team wants to know, say, the total distance its wide receivers are running in a given game, it can find that out. But if that team wants to know the total distance wide receivers on other teams are running, that data is off-limits.
The league is concerned that opening up all the data to all teams could create advantages for teams that have developed more ways to analyze that data.
“There were coaches that just felt that they didn’t want people having data on their individual team, whether it be for free agency or game planning, whatever it may be,” Cowboys Executive V.P. Stephen Jones said. “I can see where maybe people see ghosts and [say] ‘Are we staffed up enough as the next guy?’ There is always the question of the arms race and the resources to actually make heads or tails of the data. There are things that people get nervous about.”
The NFL sometimes releases pieces of the data as what it calls “Next-Gen Stats.” Those stats tell us, for instance, that Panthers receiver Ted Ginn ran 90.97 yards to score a 22-yard touchdown in the NFC Championship Game, and that he reached a maximum speed of 19.2 miles per hour on the play. But the league chooses only select plays to highlight the Next-Gen Stats and doesn’t open up the full data for teams, media or fans.
It’s probably only a matter of time before this kind of advanced statistical information is available to everyone: Football fans have such an insatiable appetite for information about their favorite sport that the NFL will probably find a way to make money off selling the data to hard-core fans. But the NFL is in no hurry to take proprietary information and make it public.