Alec Halaby and the Rise of Analytics in the Eagles’ Front Office

Alec Halaby and the Rise of Analytics in the Eagles’ Front Office

As analytics become increasingly mainstream in professional sports, it should come as no surprise the Eagles have embraced the movement. Everything about the franchise these days speaks to an open-minded approach toward the game, from something as simple as strength and conditioning programs to the complexities of offensive and defensive schemes.

The shift toward analytics is not something that starts with Chip Kelly like many changes however. That’s where Alec Halaby comes in. As special assistant to general manager Howie Roseman, Halaby has been incorporating analytics in his approach to player evaluation since his first stint with the organization as an intern in 2007. As a result, the 26-year-old Harvard grad is quickly climbing the ladder in the Birds’ front office.

According to Philly Mag’s Sheil Kapadia, who was among the reporters to chat with Eagles scouts on Wednesday, he has the ear of the person who matters most.

Like most NFL teams, the Eagles are reluctant to cite specific examples of how they use analytics. But Roseman referred to Halaby as a “safeguard” of sorts. If Roseman sees a player he likes on tape and is giving serious consideration to drafting or signing him, he’ll often call on Halaby for a different method of evaluation.

And Halaby will sometimes come back with answers Roseman doesn’t want to hear.

“He’ll come back with the research and I’ll be disappointed. I’ll go, ‘I really like this guy.’ I’ll try to convince him, and he’ll say, ‘You can do whatever you want obviously, but the chances are we’re playing very highly against the odds.’ I’ll take 24 hours and I’ll realize that’s the right decision and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

“Alec’s taken on a bigger role here in the last couple years and become a bigger voice,” Roseman said. “Part of that is because [we're] going back and looking at his track record.

Halaby does get into some details about what he does for Roseman and the Eagles, but Sheil says the team is guarded about specific instances where analytics were helpful. One point I thought was interesting was a sort of old-school guy like Andy Reid was actually on board with Halaby’s approach as well.

While Halaby’s role on the team is not quite as unique or mysterious as that of sports science coordinator Shaun Huls, it’s certainly interesting to hear how new data and statistics are being applied in Philadelphia. Check out the full read over at Birds 24/7.

>> Meet Alec Halaby, Roseman’s Analytics ‘Safeguard’ [Philly Mag]

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.

NFL Notes: LeSean McCoy doubtful for Bills; Matt Jones out for 'Skins

NFL Notes: LeSean McCoy doubtful for Bills; Matt Jones out for 'Skins

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills look to be short-handed on offense in a pivotal divisional matchup against the New England Patriots.

Bills running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring) is doubtful and not expected to play. Wide receiver Robert Woods (foot) is questionable, and receiver Marquise Goodwin (concussion) is out.

Buffalo (4-3) is home against New England (6-1) at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

McCoy has not practiced all week due to a hamstring injury. He originally injured the hamstring on Oct. 19, leading up to Buffalo's Week 6 game against Miami before suffering a setback against the Dolphins.

"Obviously, he never practiced so you can guys can figure that out," Bills coach Rex Ryan said.

McCoy has been the driving force on offense for the Bills this season. He is fourth in the league in rushing with 598 yards and six touchdowns.

Backup Mike Gillislee is expected to start in place of McCoy. Gillislee is questionable with a foot injury but expected to play. He's performed well with limited reps and had a 44-yard touchdown against San Francisco in Week 6.

Redskins: RB Matt Jones out
LONDON — Redskins running back Matt Jones says he will not play in Washington's game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium on Sunday because of a knee injury.

Jones, who has 99 carries for 460 yards and three touchdowns this season, says he has "a bruise and some cartilage damage" after getting hurt in the second quarter of the Redskins' 20-17 road loss to the Detroit Lions last Sunday.

He has not practiced at any point this week and was the only Redskins player who did not participate Friday at Twyford Ground in Acton.

With Jones out, the Redskins will turn to Chris Thompson, who ran for a career-high 73 yards against the Lions, and rookie Robert Kelly. They also signed Mack Brown off their practice squad, cutting safety Josh Evans.

Browns: Josh McCown to start vs. Jets
BEREA, Ohio — Josh McCown will start at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns against the New York Jets on Sunday.

The 14th-year pro has been sidelined since Sept. 18, when he broke his left collarbone in a home game against Baltimore. McCown began the season as the backup to Robert Griffin III before both injured their non-throwing shoulders.

McCown was medically cleared to play earlier in the week, and coach Hue Jackson formally chose him as the Sunday starter following the team's morning walkthrough.

The winless Browns have used six quarterbacks in their first seven games, including starters Griffin, McCown and rookie Cody Kessler.

Third-round pick Kessler suffered a concussion last week at Tennessee and remains in the NFL's head trauma protocol. He had been Cleveland's starter since Week 3 (see full story).

Broncos: No timetable for Anderson's return
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — C.J. Anderson tweeted early Friday that his knee surgery was a "super success" and he was in "great spirits" but he added there was still no timetable for his possible return to the Broncos lineup.

Anderson had surgery in California on Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

He got hurt Monday night on his second carry against Houston but returned to the game and ran 14 more times for 84 yards and a touchdown, finishing with 107 yards in his best performance of the season.

Rookie Devontae Booker will make his first start Sunday when the Broncos (5-2) play the Chargers (3-4), with Kapri Bibbs backing him up.