Bear Bryant Big Data Genius

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Updated: December 10, 2013
The Genius of Bear Bryant

Bear Bryant was a legendary hall of fame coach. However,many people don’t know that he can also be argued as one of football’s first”Big Data” analysts. To many of our readers, this might be your first experience with Big Data in football and we figured we would let coach Bryant give you a brief overview of the subject.



What is “Big Data”

Big Data is the processing and analysis of very large volumes of data. Unlike traditional analysis, “Big Data” tries to find the connections between what may have historically seemed to be unrelated data points. At :10 when coach Bryant talks about “maximum ability”, he is metaphorically talking about a wide rangeof variables that culminate into a score of ability between 1-100. While he may be talking about ability as a score, he is actually offering an example of Big Data’s potential. While he may still be concerned with touchdowns,vertical jumps or other specific factors, in this case he offers insight into previouslyimmeasurable things may be quantified and converted to a numerical weight.

Gaining insights through data

Just as coach Bryant was objectively quantifying his players, Big Data allows coaches to gain a much clearer perspective on the overall ability of a player. Coaches intuitively rank and scout players based on a predetermined list of characteristics they have seen in successful players throughout the years. The problem is that this “with my own eyes”approach doesn’t scale. However, creating a meaningful and effective way to communicate the overall “optimal ability scale” would allow coaching staffs to process a much greater pool of candidates. Using objective measuresto quantify any aspect of a football player is the first step in creating aneffective talent identification strategy.

What is the Athletic Standard Index (ASI)?

The ASI is a data point which brings coaches one step closer to objectively quantifying athleticism. The ASI gives any agent, coach or scoutthe ability to get a global, standardized ranking of a player’s athleticism. At every level the sport of football, forexample, is getting faster and faster and the athletic demands are gettinggreater and greater. With most high school players scoring between 600-800 on the ASI scale, Division III players score between 800-1000, Division I athletes around 1500 and NFL players average a jaw dropping 1700. It’s no wonder so few make it to the top. The fact is that all NFL players are exceptional athletes compared to the normal population and it’s easy to forget what normal is:

Calvin Johnson (Not Normal)

(6’5,239lb, 42.5inch vertical – is not normal)

What does Big Datamean for you?

By quantifying and combining large amounts of player data, coaches and agents can effectively cut through the noise and identify easy opportunities to capture quality prospects. With the NFL injury rate out of control, the ability to effectivelyidentify the hidden gems in the college ranks could be a modern gold rush. At the date of this posting there have been274 players on IR or PUP list or roughly 16% of the league has been injuredbeyond repair for the remainder of the season (1). This is Roger Goodel’s worst nightmare and agents dream. This season has just initiated the greatest demandfor NFL talent the sport has ever seen. Using data to leverage this situationcould yield huge dividends for those that identify usable talent.

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It’s all about the data.

1. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/injuries/pup - 12/16/2013 Injury Report

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