New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has come up with a plan to develop the next generation of NFL quarterbacks.
Speaking Friday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Payton pushed the concept of virtual reality training for signal-callers, not unlike the methods used by airline and military pilots.
"The challenge we have all the time is that it's the one position where there's only one of them in the game the entire time. ... How do you get those guys snaps, real-time snaps?" Payton said, per ESPN's Kevin Seifert. "... Much like we develop pilots -- they do a lot of simulator work -- I think the opportunity exists (in football). Especially when you're able to accurately show movement with chips, exactly how it unfolds with the defense."
Some of that work is already being done. The league gathered real-time data during 130 games last season using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, something they also leaned on during last week's NFL Scouting Combine.
During games, the league -- partnering with Zebra Technologies -- inserted chips into shoulder pads to chart player movement and create profiles for each athlete. Teams are still figuring out how to use that mountain of data, but Payton said the Saints leaned on the numbers to both analyze their on-field tendencies and monitor practice workloads.
While the league is currently working on ways to thrust passers into a virtual environment, Payton already sees the effect on his quarterbacks when analytics pay off during game day.
"You become a more confident play-caller," Payton said. "I think you have to rely on your gut, but I think during the week that data can shape ultimately the way you feel and what your gut is."