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Russ Brandon bringing “Moneyball” to Bills

Russ Brandon

Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon gestures during a news conference announcing details of a 10-year lease to keep the NFL football team in Orchard Park, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)


The Bills can not sell winning tradition, or good weather.

So they’re going to start looking for efficiencies in the market.

Bills president Russ Brandon said Tuesday he wanted to steal a page from baseball and implement a “Moneyball”-style analytics department.

“We are going to create and establish a very robust football analytics operation that we layer into our entire operation moving forward,” Brandon said, via Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. “That’s’ something that’s very important to me and the future of the franchise.”

The Bills aren’t the first to use advanced stats to assist their evaluations, as not every team feels compelled to announce they’re marching boldly into the 21st century.

But it is an important step, and one that could shift the future of the franchise.

Brandon said he’d work on the plan with general manager Buddy Nix, assistant GM Doug Whaley and football administration senior vice president Jim Overdorf, his contracts and cap guy.

“You know, obviously, I’m old-school in more ways than one,” the 73-year-old Nix said with a laugh. “It’ll be something I’ll have to get used to because I go a lot on feel and what I see.”

This isn’t to pick on Nix, there are a league full of “football guys” who don’t trust any degree of change to the routine they’ve enjoyed for generations. They rely on their eyeballs and instincts, and sometimes both can deceive. And they also will scoff loudly at “numbers guys,” the same way newspapers used to scoff at “that internet thing” as a means of self-delusion in the guise of self-preservation.

Using numbers is simply adding a tool to the toolbox, no different than transitioning from sweep-second stopwatches to digital in hopes of making a more accurate measurement.

Taking a closer look at the numbers might prevent the Bills from making an emotional “I know it when I see it” mistake like paying quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick during a 4-2 start in 2011, and realizing later their eyeballs and instincts cost them millions of dollars and cap space.

Any effort to add a level of analysis is smart for the Bills, who need to upgrade their talent base across the board.