New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton talked about the ways in which analytics have already changed his coaching methods -- and the radical ways in which they could continue to evolve in the future -- while speaking Friday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
One of Payton's visions? Virtual reality training for quarterbacks, similar to how pilots train on a simulator.
"The challenge we have all the time is that it's the one position where there's only one of them in the game the entire time. ... How do you get those guys snaps, real-time snaps?" Payton said, according to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, who covered all of the topics discussed at the conference.
Payton also spoke about how analytics could change the way the NFL scouting combine is run with more position-specific drills, according to ESPN's Mike Rodak.
"There's been a ton of studies being done now on your bone length as it pertains to your chances of playing a receiver position, chances of playing a defensive back position. How is your chassis basically made up of?" Payton said when he got really in-depth at one point.
Payton said the two areas where the Saints have used analytics the most already are in studying their own tendencies in every situation and monitoring each player's workload in practice.
Last season, the Saints monitored the distance traveled by every player in practice and the distance traveled at certain speeds -- in part to study how that relates to injuries. Payton told a funny story of how offensive tackle Zach Strief told him offensive linemen would walk in circles during warmups because, "We're just trying to make sure our numbers aren't low."
Asked if he relies more on data during games or goes with his "gut," Payton said it's still important to pay attention to your gut. But he likes when the things they're seeing occur during a game validate the data gathered.
"You become a more confident play caller," Payton said. "I think you have to rely on your gut, but I think during the week that data can shape ultimately the way you feel and what your gut is."