Denver Broncos Embracing Football Analytics

The Denver Broncos are embracing football analytics in a big way—even on game-day.

Englewood, CO—When the Denver Broncos hired Mitch Tanney to become their new “Director of Football Analytics” last March; many wondered exactly what his role would be. At the time, the team said Tanney, a former college quarterback who held a similar position in Chicago, would only be responsible for “developing methods to analyze data that supports evaluations and situational decisions made by personnel staff and coaches.” Now, Tanney’s role is becoming clearer.

For the first time in franchise history, the Denver Broncos will employ advanced statistics and analytics on game-day. Head coach Gary Kubiak says the team is placing it’s trust in Tanney to use analytics in evaluating tricky game-day situations.

“I’ve got Mitch out there with me,” Kubiak said Tuesday. “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. Everything’s going to happen on game day.”

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Giving Tanney a headset is revolutionary for the Broncos. However, it’s not unprecedented across the league. In the last several years, teams around football have embraced advanced statistics to assist in both play calling and personnel decisions. Over the past two years, analytics departments in the NFL have popped up like weeds.

In a 2013 interview with USA Today, St. Louis Rams’ Vice President Kevin Demoff explained the desire to use information to help teams on the field.

“There’s so much more data out there than ever,” Demoff said, “So, there’s the hunger to evaluate it. Somewhere, there are a lot of secrets in the data.”

The Broncos hope giving Tanney a headset on game-day will help them find those secrets and apply them to on-field situations. However, there’s still an active debate in the NFL about exactly how effective analytics are.

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In a Washington Post op-ed titled, “Soul sucking analytics and mindless metrics serve no purpose,” Norman Chad wrote, “there are practical applications to some of the newfangled metrics out there, but taken in even small doses, the micro data could choke a free-range chicken.”

While the effectiveness of analytics in football may currently be an open-ended conversation, there’s little doubt that the Broncos are embracing metric measurement in everything they do. The decision to give analytics director Mitch Tanney a headset on game-day is the most recent symptom of that transition.

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Jake Marsing is an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @JakeDMarsing. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook.

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