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Elway continues changes to Broncos' personnel department by reshaping analytics following Tanney departure

Elway source: Team to restructure analytics department from within.
Credit: AP
This is a 2015 photo of Mitch Tanney of the Denver Broncos NFL football team. This image reflects the Denver Broncos active roster as of June 8, 2015 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS — John Elway continues to make changes to his football personnel department.

Elway, the Broncos’ general manager, and Mitch Tanney, the team’s director of football analytics, have mutually decided to part ways, sources told 9News.

Tanney, who over the past five years helped build the Broncos’ analytics department into among the league’s best, leaves a month after Elway replaced salary cap manager/contract negotiator Mike Sullivan with former Creative Artists Agency representative Rich Hurtado.

To replace the well-regarded Tanney, a source close to Elway said the team is expected to reshape its analytics department from within. Scott Flaska, who had been Tanney’s top assistant, could have an increased role. Flaska is respected in the analytics community, in particular among other NFL teams.

The Broncos’ analytics department also employs data scientist Emily Kuehler, a Stanford University graduate who joined the Broncos last season.

On game day, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio could go with the current trend and hire an experienced football coach for game management decisions. Longtime NFL and college coach Jedd Fisch performed a similar task for Los Angeles Rams’ head coach Sean McVay in recent years.

Tanney had been the Broncos’ analytics guru the past five seasons. His job entailed providing objective research and analysis that influence football decisions for personnel executives (in particular evaluating draft prospects and free agents), coaches, trainers and strength-and-conditioning coaches.

Measuring a sport and evaluating a player through analytics is a movement started by Oakland A’s baseball executives Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta in 1999-2000. Analytics strategy – which at its root is supposed to take emotion and hunches out of calculated decisions such as challenging an official’s call and whether to go for it on fourth down or the 2-point conversion -- started trickling into the NFL a decade ago with the Cleveland Browns going all in when they hired DePodesta five years ago.

To Tanney’s credit, he helped usher in a full-blown analytics program for the Broncos when Elway hired him in March 2015. Although Elway does not believe analytics should be the be-all/end-all to player evaluation and in-game decisions, he is big on studying numbers and trends and does believe in analytics as a supplement.

9News has learned Tanney had also drawn interest from multiple NFL teams and a Power 5 college football program, league sources told 9News,and is not expected to be on the market long. He is attending the NFL Combine here this week.

Tanney, like Sullivan, is a former college quarterback who found his way to the NFL through the football personnel department.

Tanney is a former Monmouth College quarterback who was runner-up as NCAA Division III’s Player of the Year in 2005. He also found time to graduate Summa Cum Laude in math and Spanish and he later received his MBA with distinction from the University of Iowa.

His brother Alex Tanney has been an eight-year NFL backup quarterback, including this past season with Pat Shurmur’s New York Giants.

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