Moneyball's Growing Relevance in Football
Moneyball is a growing phenomenon in football. The first GM to really start using it was Thomas Dimitroff and its starting to trickle into other teams and their philosophies.
Several GMs have said they are starting to create statistical departments in their organizations that use moneyball tactics to identify potential players both in free agency and the draft. Profootballfocus and footballoutsiders are now being used by many teams as a means of statistical analysis of players.
Moneyball is an interesting topic. I think there are both pros and cons to it and you have to be careful with how deeply you involve moneyball in your scouting process.
The pros are obvious. You identify players who have certain characteristics that strongly fit your scheme for a cheap price. By doing this, and not caring for what they do poorly, only focusing on what they do well and how that fits in your scheme, you can generate some great production out of what is perceived to be an average player.
For example, if you're a heavy zone scheme on defense with a lot of emphasis on 4 man rush, then naturally you can use moneyball to identify mid level free agents who fit your scheme, who play zone really well for example but are terrible man coverage defenders who would come cheap yet become effective for your team. You can also identify guys who may not be the greatest run stuffers up front, perhaps undersized or slow, but production wise, generate a lot of hurries in the pass game and develop a cheap effective pass rush this way.
By using moneyball to fill out the backend of your roster, you can really take develop an effective method of building depth for your schemes at a cheap price. And with substitutions and specialized player roles becoming more prevalent, the use of moneyball to identify specific characteristics necessary for your team and getting players to fit that role has more of an impact now than ever before.
However, moneyball has its faults too. Clearly, when you only look for certain characteristics in players and do not care for their weaknesses, you will eventually come across a team that can attack those weaknesses. Also, you make your team as a whole too dependent on a singular way of winning. Because you identify players who can do 1 thing very well, if they're needed to get out of character and do something else, they will fail miserably.
Ultimately, nothing beats the eye test. Ideally you want a great team loaded with depth all over that has the ability to be multiple in their capabilities.
But in a realistic world, you're not gonna have that. So I believe moneyball has it's place in this league, but only if you're filling out your roster with it. You should not use this statistical analysis in building your starting lineup. You should look for guys who are more than just specialists in certain areas when identifying your starters.
Let's look at Atlanta for example. The results are undeniable. Atlanta is a team that for the most part, really wasn't all that talented until arguably this year when they put it all together. Even now most of us don't view them as a very talented team. Just look at how overlooked they are all year. All year they were the 1 seed, yet none of us ever gave them a chance to go to the SB. Most people expected Seattle to beat them. This week, they're underdogs in their own house vs the 49ers. Why? Simply because we do not view them as a very talented team. We see the talent on the other teams and believe they have more talent and should win.
And to be fair, we're correct in our assumptions. Atlanta barely won their first playoff game. They were 0-3 in the playoffs prior to last week. When the cream rises to the top in the playoffs, Atlanta can't hold up. And that's because of their moneyball philosophy. It just doesn't add up vs the other top tier talents in the league.
But let's also view their success. They were the 1 seed in the NFC twice in the past 3 years. While the talent doesn't match the production, this is ultimately a production league. And that's impressive production. It's been done with a team that was largely built on moneyball.
But what set them over the top? A power play move. Completely opposite of the moneyball philosophy, Dimitroff knew that he couldn't win with just moneyball players and made a power play for an impact player like Julio Jones and it paid off.
It was that move that set them over the top and made them a legit contender.
So what's your take on moneyball? It's an interesting dynamic that is gaining momentum in the NFL among scouting circles. I'm curious to hear everyone's opinions on how much involvement you think it should have in your team's scouting department, and how strongly you feel about it's effectiveness.