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Seahawks dive deeper into analytics to help team play better

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Becca Erenbaum, left, a senior football research analyst, and Peter Engler, a football research assistant, hold laptop computers as they pose for a photo on Aug. 3, 2022 at the Seattle Seahawks' NFL football indoor training facility in Renton, Wash. Coming off their worst season in head coach Pete Carroll's tenure, the Seahawks aimed to supplement their analytics staff -- that before this season was on the smaller side compared to other NFL teams -- with the hiring of Erenbaum and Engler, who will be called upon to take various data streams data and create a statistical analysis of situations. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Ted S.
Becca Erenbaum, left, a senior football research analyst, and Peter Engler, a football research assistant, hold laptop computers as they pose for a photo on Aug. 3, 2022 at the Seattle Seahawks' NFL football indoor training facility in Renton, Wash. Coming off their worst season in head coach Pete Carroll's tenure, the Seahawks aimed to supplement their analytics staff -- that before this season was on the smaller side compared to other NFL teams -- with the hiring of Erenbaum and Engler, who will be called upon to take various data streams data and create a statistical analysis of situations. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press) Photo Gallery

RENTON — Of all the moves the Seattle Seahawks made before the start of this season, the acquisition of a pair of analytical 20-somethings flew under the radar.

But they’re hoping Peter Engler and Becca Erenbaum will have a huge impact on the organization.

Their job is to make sense of numbers and systems. They run code and develop programs and live in a world of language that if interpreted and translated correctly can be a differentiator between success and failure.

Coming off their worst season in coach Pete Carroll’s tenure, the Seahawks aimed to supplement their analytics staff that before this season was on the smaller side compared to other NFL teams.

Enter Erenbaum, 22, and Engler, 24.

They’ll be called upon to take various data streams and create a statistical analysis of situations.

They’re not the ones calling a 10-yard slant, choosing which player to blitz off the edge or making the call whether to go for it on fourth down or punt. But their work helps determine if those are the correct decisions.

“We have to continue to challenge ourselves to use the information properly and appropriately so that we can make sure that we’re getting the most out of it,” Carroll said. “And it’s not for any kind of lack of data. We have all kinds of stuff.”

Erenbaum and Engler joined a team that’s been headed by Patrick Ward and Brian Eayrs, who have been with the Seahawks for nearly a decade. Erenbaum will work primarily with football operations and player personnel. Engler will be focused on working with the coaching staff.

Ward said there are teams with more staff but the seven total Seattle has — including developers — is “pretty healthy.”

“We had some openings to get some headcount and get some help to answer some of the questions that you’re trying to get after,” Ward said. “There’s no shortage of questions and there’s no shortage of data.”

Data and analytics. They are all encompassing concepts that often struggle to have definition with how they’re put into context and used to the benefit of a team or individual.

Erenbaum has worked in the NFL and NBA, and is still finishing up her graduate degree at Columbia.

Engler’s background is almost entirely in football. Both have NFL connections from working for “The 33rd Team,” a football think tank co-founded by former NFL executives Mike Tannenbaum and Joe Banner.

“I always knew I wanted to be in football, especially on the team side just because of the competitive aspect,” Engler said. “I grew up playing all these different sports and so I want to be able to win things.”

When asked in prior years about how the Seahawks use analytics, Carroll was usually coy, mostly just acknowledging that Seattle used analytics. Seattle has an analytics team on the business side of the franchise, but getting a handle on how it’s used on the football side has proven a challenge.

Now, the oldest coach in the league who will turn 71 in September, is a little more open about it.

“We start from the basics charting our own stuff, and then analyzing our own so we know what our tendencies are, know what our opponents tendencies are, all that normal, typical stuff,” Carroll said.

“Although we do it better now and we can do it more specific ways. There’s really no limitations. Only in our ability to come up with ideas and how we want to look at stuff because the data is in there.”

Carroll said the idea of bolstering staff was part of the message from owner Jody Allen during meetings following the end of last season.

“She made a point a while back that let’s make sure that we’re staying at the cutting edge, and I said, ‘heck yeah,’ whatever that may be,” Carroll recalled. “She was the first back in February to make a statement about it so people jumped at it. … We made room and we created the opportunities for people and she was totally behind it.”

Erenbaum was working as an intern for the New York Knicks while taking classes at Columbia, but knew she preferred working in the NFL. She estimates sending 60 or so emails to various front office staffers in the league and as she said, “expecting not one person to answer me.”

Erenbaum believes she and Engler complement each other.

“You’re gonna have strengths and weaknesses no matter where you go. You just have to adapt to who you’re working with, because not everyone is going to be able to read a regression model or be able to code,” Erenbaum said. “We both have different coding skills.”

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