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Thread: How modern technology has changed NFL Scouting

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    Default How modern technology has changed NFL Scouting

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    In these articles, a former NFL GM talks about how modern technology has changed NFL Scouting. This is Part 8 in the series on NFL scouting.

    Part 1: NFL Scouting Departments
    Part 2: The Dictionary meaning and the NFL Scouting meaning
    Part 3: NFL Combine scouting pictures are worth a 1000 words
    Part 4: Player Personnel jobs and the game of Chess
    Part 5: Draft Preparation
    Part 6: Scouts View: Evaluating Players
    Part 7: GMs View: Evaluating Players

    Technology has changed the way the NFL scouts football
    by Ted Sundquist

    I’ve been a huge proponent of technology in the day to day operations of professional football for years. When I first starting working for the Denver Broncos back in 1992, there was one PC in the Personnel Department that did nothing but blink a green curser on a black screen for hour after hour. The tracking of transactions and players was done by hand and on paper.

    You want me to do what?

    I felt like a Franciscan monk morphed into a Player Personnel Assistant. My job was to transcribe player movement in a ½ inch square box grid on 8 ½ X 11 paper every day. Day after day, week after week, month after month! The only way to make it fit was using a fine point mechanical pencil and writing in cryptic code.

    Evidently this was the way the Dallas Cowboys had operated for years and how the then personnel chiefs felt it had to be done as well (Dan Reeves had brought Dallas scouts with him). Another method to their madness included the ever popular label and magnet system. This is where you keep track of NFL rosters, Free Agency and the annual draft on magnetized floor to ceiling white boards. It literally is the inspiration for the popular saying “moving up the board”.

    A waste of effort and money

    Scouting reports and other information were kept in 6” blue and orange binders; stacked row after row, floor to ceiling. In defense of this system, it’s very labor intensive and created a lot of entry level jobs for many a personnel man. But it struck me as one of the most inefficient data management systems ever. Massive amounts of player information was compiled and filed into the orange and blue, yet never really looked at by decision makers. If knowledge is power, those that new the Dewey decimal for these binders were king in the player personnel world. Scouts went to exhaustive measures to finish hand written reports, accordingly placed under the correct tabs and never looked at again.

    I’ve always believed in working hard, but working smart is even better. That’s a difficult proposition to make in an industry that can be burdened by status quo.

    So once this regime was fired (imagine that), I was the only person in Player Personnel that knew where anything was and could quickly assemble anything you needed on a player. I took this opportunity and ran with it, as fast as I could!

    Enter the computer

    I had a solid working knowledge of database systems (Air Force Intelligence) and how they could store and query information for just about any topic. Soon that would include the Denver Bronco scouting department. Computers not only became the norm, we took them to a new level in Denver. Though they’ll never admit it, I know the other 31 teams were light years behind us!

    To be continued……..
    Denver Broncos had changed the way the NFL scouts football
    by Ted Sundquist

    All we had to do was look at how business was being conducted at National Football Scouting (NFS) meetings, College All-Star games and the NFL combine; how notes were taken, how reports were filled out, how the presentation of the materials looked, who the clubs were talking to. We knew our scouts were loaded with the best, most recent info on every prospect or attendee.

    Take care of your own

    I had our IT department work closely with National Invitational Camp (the INDY combine) and NFS to ensure that the new downloading process worked first and foremost with the Bronco database. When the NFL began dumping information over to the clubs in a similar manner, that info fed into the same database tables.

    With each and every event, new ideas would begin to emerge. Microsoft Access was our tool and we built the Taj Mahal. The company’s engineers told us we couldn’t do the things we did with it, but we did. Stats links, informational links, links to Combine data, links to pictures and video, links to agent information, links to team pages, links to websites. Queries and reports began to grow exponentially. It allowed us to compare and contrast any player’s background, measurables and data with that of players going back to the late 70’s. We had rosters, depth charts, practice squads, positional outlooks, street free agent lists, NFL Europe reports – all with a click of the button.

    Magnets? We don’t need no stinkin’ magnets!

    We did away with magnetic boards and built our own tracking system through the database. Each week I received a weekly review of all the latest transactions and up to the minute emergency list of players; their agents, last workouts, height-weight-speed-test info, scouting reports & grades. Draft meetings looked more like NASA’s mission control than another club’s cramped warroom with their white walls and stacked name tags. Everything was at the tip of a mouse for us to pull up on three theatre sized screens. Security? Turn off the computer and no boards!

    The head coach became affectionately fond of “tale of the tape”. We could pull a current prospect and side by side compare him to the past Pro Bowl players, or last year’s first round pick, or against whomever he’d like. We could grab a handful of “like players” based on correlated criteria. “This running back is like these five running backs active in the League” based on our own weighted factors at the position. We had injury information, playtime history, HRT profiles, their individual draft projections, all in one condensed player page.

    Ahead of the times

    We automated our draft process by building the board and linking it to all 32 NFL team needs, multiple mock drafts (our own computerized predictions) and our grade stacking; by round, by position, by need. With each pick, ten to twenty different views were automatically updated and could be flashed up on the theatre screens for review in seconds. Video highlights? At a touch of a finger. Once the draft ended – Bam!, we had an immediate list of the remaining players on the board and who we would pursue in undrafted free agency; contact numbers, agent numbers, etc…

    My protégés, Dave Bratten and Mike Bluem, began to generate some of the most outstanding analysis tools I’ve seen in the NFL. Yearly Salary Cap Analysis, Post Draft Recaps, Draft Retrospectives & Historical Comparisons, Free Agency Records, Weekly Waiver Wire Recaps, College and Pro Scouting manuals, Evaluative Reports on Denver Scouts.

    Better than a calculator

    I had contractual breakdowns and analysis reports of every player in the NFL. We built tools that would calculate optimum contracts based on various cap/cash inputs or requirements from agents, and then archived each submitted contract for historical purposes and future reference.

    We had taken an off the shelf product and internally produced something easily worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet even within our own walls it was taken for granted. When the new coaching regime (Josh McDaniels) replaced the old one (Mike Shanahan), it was immediately scrapped. Back came the magnetic boards, back came the name tags, back came the binders and back came the hoarding of information. Knowledge is power.

    New? I don’t think so

    So when I recently read about a company that was going to revolutionize the way NFL drafts were to be run in the future (New scouting technology could give teams an edge in NFL draft – Packers News, Green Bay Press Gazette) and put teams that were willing to pay the price for this product ahead of the rest. I had to chuckle, if not outright laugh.

    Been there, done that. Starting almost twenty years ago.
    justRN: "They carted off Freddies ACL after he ripped it out for being weak."

    Mark Asper: "He'd come smashing in there and make a big play and he has no emotion. He just goes back to the defensive huddle, and we had to trash talk for him. Our big line was 'Kiko Smash.' "#TheLegendOfKikoAlonzo



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