Report: Elway Shakes up Front Office Further, Parts Ways With Broncos' Analytics Guru Mitch Tanney
Just a few weeks removed from firing cap wizard Mike Sullivan, GM John Elway has reportedly shaken up the Denver Broncos' front office again.
Per 9NEWS' Mike Klis, the Broncos have "mutually" parted ways with Director of Football Analytics Mitch Tanney. Tanney originally joined the Broncos' front office back in 2015 and has spent the last five years helping the team to become one of the NFL's paragons of analytics.
Where does that leave the Broncos' analytics department? Klis touched on that in his report.
To replace the well-regarded Tanney, a source close to Elway said the team is expected to reshape its analytics department from within. Scott Flaska, who had been Tanney’s top assistant, could have an increased role. Flaska is respected in the analytics community, in particular among other NFL teams.
The Broncos’ analytics department also employs data scientist Emily Kuehler, a Stanford University graduate who joined the Broncos last season.
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Although the exact nature of football analytics is a bit mercurial, one way that Tanney directly influenced the product on the field was on gamedays. If the Broncos faced a crucial fourth-down or two-point conversion decision, head coach Vic Fangio would radio up to Tanney, who would extract the odds of success based on the exact down and distance.
And Fangio would take that information and make a split-second decision. For what it's worth, Fangio succeeded far more often than he failed in such circumstances last year.
Klis did about as a good a job as is possible outlining what Tanney did in Denver for five years.
Tanney had been the Broncos’ analytics guru the past five seasons. His job entailed providing objective research and analysis that influence football decisions for personnel executives (in particular evaluating draft prospects and free agents), coaches, trainers and strength-and-conditioning coaches.
Anyone who's watched the movie Moneyball understands how advanced analytics have reshaped American pro sports. The NFL has trended toward analytics over the last 10 years, as evidenced by the proliferation of outside organizations like Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders. PFF, as an example, went from being a media-based subscription website to a resource some NFL front offices now utilize for personnel evaluation.
Tape remains the No. 1 evaluation tool, but advanced analytics can help suss out the complete picture on any college prospect or even free-agent targets. It's becoming a way of life in the NFL and the Broncos have been one of the league's trailblazers in this department, thanks to Elway's vision and the work done by Tanney and his group.
Only time will tell how Tanney's departure could affect the Broncos. Whereas the Broncos had an immediate replacement for the jettisoned Sullivan in former CAA player agent Rich Hurtado, if the team chooses to fill the spot vacated by Tanney, it sounds like it'll be Scott Flaska, Tanney's top assistant.
Elway is expected to address the media on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. Perhaps we'll get more context into his thought process with regard to Tanney's departure.