THE EAGLES INSIDER Q&A
In this edition of the Eagles Insider podcast, presented by Lincoln Financial Group, Dave Spadaro sits down with Eagles vice president of
football operations and strategy Alec Halaby. The two discuss the team’s approach to analytics along with his journey to the world of sports
data. Check out the full interview below.
2019 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES GAMEDAY MAGAZINE 23
DAVE SPADARO: What is analytics?
ALEC HALABY: “Something involving structured data, involving
objectivity, and involving numbers would fall under the rubric of
analytics. As someone who has nominally done that for 10 years, I
don’t know exactly what is analytics and what isn’t.”
DS: What did you major in at Harvard?
AH: “I was an English major and an econ minor. Unusual path for
an analytics guy.”
DS: How did you decide that numbers and data would be
AH: “That came very early for me. It was through newspapers.
When I was 7 or so, and the only thing available was the sports
page and box scores, that was a natural place for me to understand
what happened in a game. It was pretty natural for me to look at
what data there was and watch the games. Also, I realized at 15
my playing career would end on Friday nights, but I loved thinking
about football. The way I saw the game was partly through numbers
and partly through watching the game. I realized there might be a
path for me there.”
DS: How did you get the attention of NFL and the
AH: “For me, I didn’t want to work in sports. I have a particular
passion for this game. I love football. If I weren’t doing football, I
would probably be doing something completely different. It was
something where I felt I could think about this all day, every day.
I worked for a football website when I was in college and did a lot
of football research in high school. To do the work there, I sent out
emails to Football Outsiders and from there found a couple of email
addresses in the league. I sent out 32, 64 emails, didn’t get many
responses. The Eagles had always been thinking about how to do
something different. I got a response from the Eagles and came in
2007 and returned when I graduated.”
DS: How does analytics help evaluate players coming from
college into the NFL?
AH: “A lot of the most understandable forms of analytics are
when you are trying to identify this player is strong at this, he’s
weak at this. The other part, the harder part, is more predictive.
What do we expect this player to do in the future? That is the more
challenging, the more interesting problem.”
DS: What statistics are the most important when evaluating
AH: “I think that is something every team plays close to the
vest because you have priority beliefs and you have what the data
is telling you. It is something we study and try to figure out on a
DS: What do you do once a player is in the NFL and the
Philadelphia Eagles system?
AH: “You are looking at and trying to understand their strengths
and weaknesses. Also, thinking about how they fit in the context of
the team. We’re always dealing with trade-offs and choices. Then it
is, how do you maximize the quality of the roster, the quality of your
team with constraints. You don’t get a player in a vacuum. You get
them compared to another alternative.”
DS: What do you do during the week as the team prepares for
a big game?
AH: “Part of the week is opponent preparation. We’ll work
with our coaches on any questions that come up, analyzing the
opponent. The other part of that is working in a front office role.
A lot of the game preparation stuff is done early in the week. Then
we shift to thinking about things for the roster in the short-term.”