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]