Alec Halaby, Vice President, Football Operations and Strategy
Team owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie, started believing in analytics when heading into the 1999 National Football League draft. Lurie sought to implement a data-driven vision and to find a head coach who would be willing to put it in practice.
The Philadelphia Eagles uses analytics to empower the coaching staff – not only to accept counter-intuitive thinking, but also to encourage it. The data-driven approach to obtaining game advantages pervades throughout every aspect of the organization, from ownership and football operations to the analytics division and coaching staff. In particular, the organization determined that fourth down drives held opportunity for extending a play, ultimately leading to a potential touchdown or field goal. Years of play-by-play data were used to develop predictive models through which hundreds of thousands of simulations were churned, resulting in decisions that increase a team’s likelihood of winning.
The analytics approach helped the Philadelphia Eagles to optimize fourth down decisions more effectively than any other team in the NFL. In the 2017 season, the Eagles led the NFL with 27 fourth down attempts. The team scored a touchdown or field goal in 13 of 18 fourth-down attempts, resulting in 85 points (4.7 points per drive). From roster management to in-game strategy, the application of analytics helped to propel the Eagles to a 13-3 record for the 2017 season and a championship in Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots.