NFL Teams Are Analyzing Everything From The Salary Cap To Fan Loyalty

Carl Bialik: Did you know the history of analytics in the NFL before you joined the league?Paraag Marathe: I definitely did. When I came into the league in 2001, analytics was certainly more prevalent in baseball. It was just starting to become prevalent in basketball. The NFL was sort of the latest adopter. You see it a lot more now. Unlike baseball, where it’s all around player evaluation, the NFL is more complicated. It’s much more of a team sport, with much more covariance between positions. Is a running back’s success due to his ability to break away, or his line’s ability to run-block, or his quarterback’s ability to pass, which makes the run easier?But the NFL also has two other areas where analytics plays a big role. The first is game management: How you manage the clock, when to go on fourth down, the run/pass play selection, those sorts of things. The second is the salary cap. With the advent of the salary cap in 1994, and where I made my mark with the 49ers and the NFL, is managing the salary cap much more analytically, similar to how a portfolio manager would manage a stock portfolio, managing risk.CB: I’ve read that you’ve applied analytics to fans. How does that work and what have you learned about what they want?PM: Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it’s not just what they want, as in, what are their desires when they come to stadium, in terms of what they want to consume — content, beverages, coming closer to the game — but also the lifetime value of a fan. When you capture a fan’s loyalty, someone who becomes a fan at an early age, they will stay there. There’s a lot of loyalty. For professional teams 20 years ago, maybe as recently as 15 years ago, the vice president of marketing was all around what’s the cheerleader uniform and what’s the rallying cry for team. Now it’s all around what’s the content for the website, what’s the lifetime value of a fan, and so on. It’s much, much more analytical.CB: How did you first connect with Bill Walsh?PM: I was working at a consulting company, Bain and Co., on a bunch of sports-related projects. Bill Walsh and Terry Donahue were looking at drafts — not the players themselves, but draft slots. Is there a better algorithm, a better way to do the draft chart? It was a three-month project. I was the junior guy on the team. We sort of hit it off, and they asked me to come on board full-time.CB: How often, while you’ve been on the job, have people asked you if you’ve played football? How did you answer?PM: They either asked me, or they just assumed I didn’t. If they did ask me, I didn’t play college football, and I barely played high school football. I played baseball growing up, mostly. If you’re asking, did I feel like an outsider from the beginning when I started, I certainly did, but times have changed, and you earn respect with the work you do.CB: What was the status of analytics at the 49ers when you arrived?PM: It was a one-man show. To be fair, I never really did that much. It wasn’t so much on evaluating player talent on the field. It was a lot on the salary cap and how to be more efficient on managing the cap.CB: How about now?PM: We’ve got four or five folks, whether helping scouts better evaluate players, helping coaches, as well as the salary cap.CB: Has the whole organization bought into analytics?PM: Yeah, I’d like to think so. It’s definitely more accepted around the league. The Ravens just hired a head of their analytics department in 2012. You see it all across the board now. Clubs are trying to look for any competitive advantage they can. It’s not just, spend $1 more than the next team, it’s, what’s every competitive advantage you can squeeze out of this product?CB: Is it tough to find good people, with so many teams hiring?PM: No, I wouldn’t say that. There are so many good analysts across traditional industries, and sports is still such a sexy field, that there is no shortage of good talent. There are a lot of people who want to work in sports. Just go to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference every year.CB: How important is it to be able to communicate the findings to people who aren’t technical?PM: At the end of the day, it boils down to this. The information is only as good as it is to the person receiving it. I’ll take a C+ piece of analysis communicated perfectly over an A+ piece of analysis that’s not communicated well. Only a small portion of the work is the analytics itself. The rest is putting it in a practical format so the salary-cap person and the coach can appreciate it and use it. Instead of trying to go overboard with analytics, focus on the practical: Focus on the things that have the highest impact on your organization.CB: Because of the importance of retaining a competitive advantage, do you generally not disclose specifically what you’re looking at, and what you’re finding?PM: Generally speaking, we don’t really talk about a lot of those things. But it’s not just analytics. In nutrition, sleep studies, and psychological aspects, people are looking for advantages every place they can.CB: Can you detect the spread of analytics in the league from how hard it is to get certain players in the draft, or from tactics of opponents?PM: It’s mostly through conversations. I’ve been in the league now 14 years, and just having conversations with people in every level, I’m starting to see changes. Not starting to see — there’s been a lot of changes.CB: Is analytics work being done within teams better than the work done outside it?PM: Yes and no. That’s a tough question to answer. There are only 32 teams and there are seven billion people. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not even published that’s probably really good. The difference between what’s happening with teams and what’s happening in the ether, is what’s out there is pretty theoretical, whereas what teams do has to be pretty actionable. The most actionable things are being done in clubs, but I’m sure there are some excellent things being done out there.CB: Which analytics publications do you read?PM: Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus, different blogs, even you guys do some awesome stuff. All the stuff that’s done is really good.CB: You said in 2005 that even at 45 or 50, you’ll never be a football guy. Do you still feel that way?PM: That was almost 10 years ago. What I meant is, not having played or coached the game, it’s just different. I don’t understand the nuances of the Xs and Os, nor do I try to, in terms of schemes and things like that. There’s no point in me trying really hard to be average at something. It’s important to focus on the things I know I can do well, like manage the salary cap. I won’t be a coach or GM, nor do I aspire to be.CB: Does the NFL support analytics sufficiently? For instance, you’ve criticized the rule barring computers from the coaches’ booth.PM: They’re still getting better. There’s the rule against laptops, even calculators. It’s difficult for an offensive coordinator to even capture simple things like average yards per play on a drive, or how successful a certain play has been, in terms of even crunching it in Excel. They have to do it on a notepad. Things like that are frustrating. I wish they would react a little faster to technology changes. They’re getting there. Now they’re allowing tablets on the sidelines, so you don’t have to have the binder full of photos of plays. The FiveThirtyEight film “The Cowboys and the Indian,” which debuted last week, tells the story of A. Salam Qureishi, who brought computerized player analytics to the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s. At the time, few other pro sports front offices used advanced statistics to make decisions about player acquisition and game management.By 2001, that wasn’t the case in baseball, but the NFL hadn’t progressed much since Qureishi’s days. That year, Paraag Marathe joined the San Francisco 49ers as a one-man team with goals similar to Qureishi’s: improve player acquisition.Marathe, like Qureishi, is of Indian descent. Unlike Qureishi, he knew a lot about football before working in the NFL. Marathe grew up in the Bay Area town of Saratoga, California, as a big fan of the 49ers and other Bay Area teams. He worked for the 49ers first as a consultant, on a three-month stint from the consulting firm Bain and Co. Then San Francisco executive Bill Walsh offered him a full-time job. “It was a no-brainer for me,” Marathe said in a telephone interview last week.Today, Marathe, 37, is one of the elder statesmen of NFL analytics. He oversees it for the 49ers as team president. He sees more of his competitors using similar tools, looking for every competitive advantage they can find. (We spoke last week amid a late-season slump that has eliminated the 49ers from the playoffs after three straight conference-championship-game appearances.) In the following transcript of our interview — lightly edited for brevity and clarity — Marathe explains why it remains easy to hire talented analysts, why communication is more important than statistical rigor and why plenty of good work is still being done outside the league. San Francisco 49ers President Paraag Marathe speaks at the annual Bay Area college football media day at Levi’s Stadium on July 30 in Santa Clara, Calif. Alex Washburn / AP read more

The Beginning of a New Company for Cygnus

first_imgJohn French joined Penton Media in 2006 following its acquisition by Prism Business Media. He resigned as CEO in July 2008.Now, French [pictured] has been named chief executive at fellow trade publisher Cygnus Business Media, a company that emerged from bankruptcy protection this week. Cygnus said it expects revenue to fall by $35 million to $71.4 million this year.FOLIO: caught up with French to discuss why he took the job and what he sees as his biggest challenges in turning the company around. FOLIO:: Cygnus, like many other b-to-b publishers, has experienced a tough 2009, with revenues expected to fall to $71.4 million, compared to $107 million last year. According to the bankruptcy documents, Cygnus forecasts revenue will be $75.5 million in 2013. Do you think that’s reasonable? How do you expect to turn the company around?French: Generally, Cygnus Business Media has performed the same way as other b-to-b companies. Our declines have kept pace with our industry peers. In fact, we have even fared better than some, but I’m not happy with any declines and have several initiatives in digital, tradeshows, data and even print that we are very excited about implementing. Staff has worked aggressively and a large percentage of our media has remained number one in their markets even today.FOLIO:: The documents also indicate the print revenue is forecast to make up 49.6 percent of revenue ($37.4 million) in 2013. Meanwhile, interactive revenue is expected to jump from 12.5 percent in 2009 to 24.4 percent in 2013. How do you see interactive operations evolving at Cygnus over the next few years?French: That’s a long answer. Again, we have exceptionally strong brands that provide us with online and custom online opportunities that are endless.FOLIO:: What’s your plan for market position? How do you see Cygnus’ products now and where would you like them to be (in terms of first tier, second tier, etc)?French: Several Cygnus brands are already in number one positions and are demonstrated leaders.  Over this difficult time, they have maintained those positions. For those that are number two, we plan to get them to number one.FOLIO:: What are your thoughts on editorial quality? I remember the cover of the May digital edition of Aircraft Maintenance Technology raised some eyebrows, looking a lot like the Cessna ads on the following pages. What are your thoughts about that and will practices like that continue?French: I am not aware of the AMT May issue, however, there is no question that editorial is to remain independent.FOLIO:: What about personnel? Do you anticipate having to reduce workforce again before the end of the year/into 2010?French: We have no plans to reduce workforce, but no CEO can say that layoffs may be required in the future. I don’t foresee it at this point.FOLIO:: Jim Ogle is no longer CFO. What’s the process /timeline for naming a replacement?French: We are deep in a search for a new CFO. I’ve had several interviews with unbelievably qualified and talented candidates who are excited about Cygnus and the opportunities here. Jim Ogle has done a tremendous job; he is a personal friend and we owe him our thanks for his work.  FOLIO:: Cygnus, like others, has been forced to make a significant amount of job cuts and salary reductions/freezes over the last several months. What are your thoughts on helping to restore morale?French: Perhaps surprisingly, morale is not as bad as I expected considering the economic climate and what Cygnus has endured over the past year. The best way to raise morale is through communication, communication, and more communication. Over the next few weeks, I will be meeting with as many Cygnus employees as possible. Meetings to date have been upbeat and employees are excited about the future.  Yesterday, September 21st was the beginning of a new company for us.FOLIO:: As part of the reorganization plan, Cygnus’s debt went from $180 to $60 million. Is that manageable?French: Yes.FOLIO:: Looking forward, what do you think is your biggest challenge about leading a b-to-b publishing company like Cygnus today?French: In the last five to six years, manufacturers have spent more money on their company website and search and marginalized b-to-b media in terms of reaching their customer. We need to get back to that compelling position so that manufacturers see us as a partner in increasing their sales, not in a duplicate role.The way to do that is to mine new customers and new opportunities through all the various platforms that we offer. The secret will be in delivering new and unique prospects, rather than just providing the same names. A successful b-to-b company in the future needs to use great content and editorial to drive audience development in finding new markets.  Developing a plan that is compelling is key to addressing this issue. Those companies that don’t will get left in the dust. We will not be one of those companies.last_img read more

5 Things To Do In Wilmington On Wednesday May 22 2019

first_imgWILMINGTON, MA — Below are 5 things to do in Wilmington on Wednesday, May 22, 2019:#1) Free Ice Cream Truck At New England Dental GroupNew England Dental Group (206 Ballardvale Street) is hosting an Ice Cream Truck Event from 11am to 3pm with free ice cream and a chance to enter a free teeth whitening raffle.#2) Book Store Next Door OpenThe Friends of the Wilmington Memorial Library’s Book Store Next Door (183 Middlesex Avenue) is open from 10am to 4pm. All books are $2 or less!  Every penny of every sale benefits the Wilmington Memorial Library. Learn more HERE.#3) Wilmington School Committee MeetingThe Wilmington School Committee meets at 7pm in the High School’s Large Instruction Room. Read the agenda HERE.#4) Music & More At Wilmington LibraryThe Wilmington Memorial Library (175 Middlesex Avenue) is hosting Music & More at 6:30pm. Bernadette Baird presents music and movement for toddlers and young children through age three. Sing, play musical instruments and dance. Ages 1-3. Register HERE.#5) Teen Board Game Club MeetingThe Wilmington Memorial Library (175 Middlesex Avenue) is holding a Teen Board Game Club Meeting from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. Looking to learn, play, or create fun board games? Bring your favorite game or latest prototype and we’ll play together. Students and their adults welcome. Limited space. Grades 6 – 12. Register HERE.Like Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com.Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… Related5 Things To Do In Wilmington On Wednesday, August 28, 2019In “5 Things To Do Today”5 Things To Do In Wilmington On Wednesday, July 24, 2019In “5 Things To Do Today”5 Things To Do In Wilmington On Wednesday, July 31, 2019In “5 Things To Do Today”last_img read more

A fine selection

first_imgThe Imperial presents the Sunday brunch with some new offerings this time. Live seared foie gras, display of raw seafood and fish like rainbow trout, clams, mussels, squids, perch, mackerel, scallops (steamed, baked, grilled etc.) are included in the menu.Home cured and preserved cold meats, home smoked duck and home smoked salmon complement the innovatively laid out non alcoholic hangover shots to get over the heavy head from last night’s party. That’s not all hand-made pasta made live and filled with the goodness of whole wheat, home-made fancy cup cakes and vegan ice creams, liquid sandwich/ sugarfee desserts, dainty french pastry – Macaroons, Eclairs, millefieulle, home grown microgreens  – wheat grass, lentils, green peas, red amaranthus, mustard cress, raddish cress etc, are truly a feast to satiate you heart and tummy at the same time.The feast also offers selection one special starter served on your table. Adding to it The Imperial also brings you to some  unbelievable choices of world cuisine, all under one roof.last_img read more