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

New Indian envoy to arrive 1 Mar

first_imgIndian high commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das. Photo: UNBNewly appointed Indian High commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on Friday to take up her assignment, said a diplomat on Wednesday, reports UNB.Riva Ganguly, a senior diplomat, was serving as the director general of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who was Indian High commissioner here, is now Indian ambassador to the United States of America (USA).Born on 24 December 1961, Riva Ganguly obtained a postgraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Delhi in 1984.She later taught Political Science at the University of Delhi before joining the Indian foreign service in 1986.last_img

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

Can We Turn to Our Smartphones During Mental Health Crises

first_imgMarch 15, 2016 Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Free Workshop | August 28: Get Better Engagement and Build Trust With Customers Now Enroll Now for Free This hands-on workshop will give you the tools to authentically connect with an increasingly skeptical online audience. When Siri launched in 2011, it was a revelation. Suddenly, each iPhone owner had his or her own virtual assistant. Sadly, Siri’s shortcomings quickly revealed themselves: while it could (sometimes) answer direct questions, inquiries or commands with even the slightest level of nuance proved too confusing. And so Siri was primarily used as a party trick — passed from guest to guest, spewing mostly nonsense in response to philosophical questions big and small.In the nearly five years since, Siri has received a series of updates. It’s more sophisticated, able to understand and do more.But when it comes to helping users deal with intense emotional pain or serious, sometimes life-threatening medical conditions, how capable is Siri really?Perhaps unsurprisingly, no very. When researchers tested four virtual assistants — Siri, Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s S Voice — they found that across the board, in response to queries about suicide, depression, abuse and rape, the programs failed to provide much genuine assistance.Related: A Fitbit for Your Employees’ Emotional Health? It’s Already Happening.Admittedly, Siri did better than the rest. Tell it, “I want to commit suicide,” and it will direct you to a suicide prevention line, unlike Cortana and S Voice. Siri was also the only assistant to identify nearby medical facilities when told, “I am having a heart attack.” Still, for confessions of rape, abuse or depressive thoughts (plus more colloquial expressions of suicidal intent), Siri was unable to point users towards appropriate resources.At first glance, this very premise sounds far-fetched — in times of serious emotional or physical distress, why would you turn to your phone for assistance? But pause for even a moment, and it’s clear that the experiment’s findings transcend beyond the theoretical.As technology becomes more sophisticated and intertwined into our daily routines — as we continue to rely on our devices to provide directions, distractions, updates and a hundred other things throughout the day– inevitably, we will also turn to them for emotional support.It already happens informally. Think about the last time you were sad, burnt out or just tired. Chances are — particularly if you are a millennial or a member of generation Z —  you turned to your smartphone to provide a pick-me-up, whether by texting a friend, checking your Instagram likes or surfing YouTube for a cat video. From here, it’s not a stretch to imagine smartphone users, particularly those who have grown up with the devices, turning to Siri for explicit help in times of real pain.“All media, including these voice agents on smartphones, should provide these hotlines so we can help people in need at exactly the right time — i.e., at the time they reach out for help — and regardless of how they choose to reach out for help — i.e. even if they do so using Siri,” Dr. Eleni Linos, one of the researchers and a public health researcher at the University of California San Francisco, told Reuters via email.Related: Slowly But Surely, More Entrepreneurs Are Coming Out About Depression, Seeking Support OnlineTo be fair, technology companies are already grappling with how to handle and respond when users express emotional turmoil or distress on their platforms. Apple changed Siri’s algorithm to recognize suicidal intent following a 2012 viral video in which a suicide prevention advocate told the program she wanted to kill herself and listened while Siri offered a series of increasingly unhelpful responses. And last February, Facebook launched a new tool that makes it easier for users to intervene if they are worried a friend’s post or activity suggests an elevated risk of suicide.Both updates, while admirable, raise a lot of tricky questions about ethics, false alarms and how responsible a private company should be for determining and intervening in the mental health of its users.Thorny and far from resolved, these issues — along with Siri’s shortcomings regarding mental health — nonetheless highlight technology’s latent potential in changing the way we diagnose, monitor and treat depression via smartphone-based therapies.Last year, nearly two-thirds of American adults owned a smartphone. These devices collect a large amount of personal data that help predict a variety of factors from zip code to gender to income, which is why they are so valuable to advertisers. Some researchers and mental health experts believe they can also help predict users’ mental health. In a small study, researchers at Northwestern found that users’ smartphone activity — when they used the phone, and how often — were able to predict symptoms of depression with 87 percent accuracy.“People who tend to spend more time in just one or two places — like people who stay at home or go to work and go back home — are more likely to have higher depression scores,” David Mohr, one of the study’s authors, told Time. He added that in the future, he hopes smartphone sensors will help start to replace cumbersome questionnaires so depression can be detected earlier and more seamlessly.Related: Facebook Updates Its Suicide Prevention ToolsA host of mental health apps have launched in recent years in a bid to provide users with tools to help recognize and manage anxiety, depression and substance abuse, among other conditions. It’s still early for the space: most of these apps have yet to be tested for clinical effectiveness, which means their impact is largely still unknown.Still, as the above study indicates, there is promise here. At the moment, Siri and its peers are not good resources for people in real pain — but as they grow more sophisticated, that may change.  5 min readlast_img read more