The Baltimore Ravens already had a brush with Hollywood with The Blind Side, which documented the life of offensive tackle Michael Oher. Now, Baltimore is taking a cue from Moneyball, the baseball movie about how the Oakland A's won by using sophisticated statistical analysis.
Sandy Weil was hired by the Ravens to be their Director of Football Analytics. His in-depth statistical research will range from examining certain in-game situations to breaking down data related to the NFL draft.
"There’s no longer complete skepticism around the approach,” Weil told the team's official website. "Oakland A’s took that hit. Billy Beane and the people he worked with kind of took that hit and made it OK to hire guys who know how to work with numbers. That stigma is gone.”
Weil added, "They found a market inefficiency and that exploited it. 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.”
Weil has previously worked as a consultant with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. He also presented research papers at the M.I.T. Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, spanning a variety of sports-related topics.
For the Ravens, Weil’s studies could cover everything from the value of going for a first down on fourth-and-short, to determining the traits that are key indicators of success for an NFL prospect.
“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.”
I'm all for gaining an edge, as long as it doesn't take away from a coach's or general manager's instincts for the game. There are times when you just have to go with your gut instinct when making a decision.
And all the numbers in the world can say the decision is a right one. But, in the end, coaches have to coach and players have to execute. I'm sure Weil is great at his job, but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be able to make Lee Evans catch that pass in the AFC championship game.