David Fleming takes a wonderful look at the progress and state of analytics in the NFL in this ESPN The Magazine piece that is well worth your while.
One especially interesting element covers how an analytics department like the one in Jacksonville is working to be integrated into the operation.
One member of an NFC front office told Fleming: "These guys are convinced the data should sell itself. It won't. They either have to learn coachspeak or get used to being ignored."
Tony Khan, son of Jaguars owner Shad Khan, and the Harvard alum he hired, Daniel Alder, have done increasingly good work in that area. And most importantly, their work flows two directions. While they can take stuff to coach Gus Bradley, Bradley or a member of his staff is now just as likely to make a request.
"All we've ever asked for was an audience," Adler says. "We've got that. Now the challenge isn't to come up with the perfect football stat -- that would be impossible and paralyzing -- but to challenge the conventional wisdom while maintaining people's trust."
Here is a coach coming to Tony Khan and Adler:
Before camp started, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch asked the analytics department about practice schedules: Did the amount of time the team dedicated each day to individual game situations correlate to how frequently they come up in actual games? For example, were they burning 20 percent of their practice time on fourth-and-goal when it occurs only 1 percent of the time in games?
In his hands a few weeks later, Fisch had a report detailing every NFL play of the past five seasons. The first thing he noticed was the frequency, and importance, of second-and-long, a game situation that is often overlooked. So Fisch adjusted his planning, hoping to improve tempo, efficiency and performance.