Long time coming: CFL partnership with PFF

Chris Collinsworth was a leader in analytics when he acquired Pro Football Focus in 2014.

But the Emmy-winning football analyst said it wasn’t until 2018 that he really started to believe the numbers. That’s when the Philadelphia Eagles, as they usually do, defied convention and went fourth down for a Super Bowl title.

“That was the Eagles’ M.O. and it was all year they went for it when other teams didn’t,” Collinsworth said in a recent interview. “They understood the odds of making a 4-and-4, but also what happens when you kick the ball back at Tom Brady.

“I still kind of laugh when football purists say, ‘Obviously, you’re going for first base with four outs.’ Don’t act like you were.” It’s fun for me to see the whole evolution. ”

Earlier this month, the CFL announced a partnership with Pro Football Focus. The deal will help expedite the availability of analytics for his nine franchises in Canada, all of which he used PFF last season.

It also provides player analytics tools for media and fans.

The PFF, located in Cincinnati, provides data for all 32 NFL teams and 102 American College Football teams. Its scoring system evaluates every player on every play during a match, converting the data his points into each player’s grade and comparing it to his peers across the league.

The CFL has begun sharing PFF insights with its renewed Top Performers of the Week. Rather than spotlighting three players, this year’s format will feature the highest rated players at each position.

“Partnering with Pro Football Focus will help our league better understand the dynamics of play,” said Greg Dick, CFL Chief Football Operations Officer and Head of Gray Cups and Events. said. “We are removing the micro-focus on the individual and trying to look at the big picture in the long run.”

The two have been working on a partnership for some time.

“It will probably take four or five years,” said Ryan Smith, PFF’s director of agency services. “We started working with some of the individual CFL teams and did some visits, but they’ve used it primarily for NFL scouting after the preseason cuts were made and how many It was like scouting some players and hopefully adding them to the roster.

“Now that we can dismantle the CFL and help plan their weekly games, things have changed beyond just scouting.”

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has asked both the media and fans to be patient as the CFL is currently dealing with glitches in match statistics and the disappearance of player profiles from its website. But the deal with PFF shows that the CFL is looking to improve or increase that number.

Smith said CFL player ratings are similar to what the PFF does for both the NFL and the NCAA. However, the nuances of Canadian football – long and wide fields, 24 players on the field, three downs and open field kicks – caused some early problems.

“We had some technical challenges to overcome, but the season has started and I think we are in a good position for this year,” he said.

Collinsworth said players are well aware of their PFF rating. The 64-year-old has spent eight seasons (1981-1988) as a receiver for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, and he knows his players well.

“We’re not telling how great the player has been historically, but where he stands in relation to other players at that position in the league.” Collinsworth said. “Sometimes when I go out to watch practice, the big guys walk up to me and they panic and ask me if I have to run or if he’s going to hug me. I’m trying to remember what the PFF grade was”.

“It’s a powerful thing. Believe me, I understand personal things. They also give Emmys every year. I get it, I get it.” .”

PFF’s data and rating system provides additional information to professional football stakeholders and streamlines the rating process.

“Some time ago I heard from an NFL team that using the PFF saved 10,000 man-hours in the scouting process for the draft,” Smith said.

That’s a plus for the CFL’s HR department, which is significantly smaller and less funded than the NFL’s HR department.

And what the PFF is doing is very helpful to Collinsworth as an analyst.

“Honestly, I don’t know how I could work without it,” he says. “By Monday afternoon, I’m in a meeting where members preview the 20-page notes and film they’ve researched over the previous week (with the two teams scheduled to play Sunday night).

“Tuesday we do all of one team’s film and Wednesday we do the other team film. I’ll watch more movies on Friday, go talk to one team on Friday, talk to the other team on Saturday, and then call the game.”

PFF is also useful during the Collinsworth broadcast.

“At halftime, analysts send me a report on what they’ve observed based on performance,” Collinsworth said. “So if I miss something or they reinforce what I’ve been talking about, I’ll address that later.

“So it’s a wall-to-wall, seven-day work week. Some of our employees probably work eight days a week, but that’s what it looks like every week.”

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