NBC Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth is also the majority owner of Pro Football Focus, a site featuring in-depth statistics and player ratings that have drawn a considerable amount of controversy during its 10 years of existence. (Collinsworth became the site’s majority owner in 2014.)
Coaches such as the Bengals’ Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer of the Vikings, along with players like LeSean McCoy of the Bills and the Lions’ T.J. Lang, have been among those particularly outspoken about the ratings system created by data analysts and numbers gurus who don’t necessarily know, what, for example an offensive lineman was tasked with on a certain play. Yet 30 of the 32 NFL teams employ Pro Football Focus for its data and film marking system of the All-22 tape that coaching staffs and players study.
Collinsworth uses PFF’s scouting and rating information during the Sunday Night Football telecasts, giving the site and its data a high-profile spotlight. But in his role as an TV analyst on the biggest NFL telecast of the week, he also hears plenty from coaches when the NBC broadcast team visits them in preparation for the week’s broadcast.
As the Washington Post‘s Dan Steinberg writes, one of the coaches who gave Collinsworth a particularly hard time was Chip Kelly, now an analyst himself for ESPN. He would frequently disagree with the PFF data and grading process, and let the company’s owner know about it in meetings.
Collinsworth may have had the last laugh with Kelly, however, along with several other coaches. PFF has invited coaches to study its process, to meet the analysts who watch that film and determine those ratings. Kelly was so impressed, according to Collinsworth, that he bought a share of the the company.
“I think there’s a lot of players and coaches that feel the same way,” Kelly said. “You can do whatever you want with it. It’s like me going into a bank and grading a teller because they gave me a lollipop. I gave them a 94.3.”
“Every single coach that has ever walked through our doors has come out of there with their mouth open going, ‘I cannot believe what those guys know, I cannot believe how thorough and detailed and informed those guys are.'”
How much does Collinsworth use PFF data during a Sunday Night Football telecast? According to Steinberg, he uses 15 analysts from the company who watch each individual matchup to provide grades and analysis that can be used at halftime. In Collinsworth’s view, it’s real-time analysis that not even coaches could provide because they’re involved with the actual game, rather than focused on individual plays.
Steinberg’s article includes plenty more, such as the results of a position coach comparing his evaluations to the PFF grades, how many employees the company employs, and just how much film do those people watch.
Collinsworth and his PFF data will be in the booth Sunday night for the Washington Redskins-Oakland Raiders telecast on NBC.