Podcast Episode 7 - Virgil Carter

Joining the show this week is Virgil Carter, the man many consider to be the founding father of advanced football statistics. Dave, Brian and Virgil look back at Virgil's playing days when he was suiting up at quarterback for the Bears while studying for his MBA at Northwestern in the off-season. It was there at Northwestern that he published his first paper, Operations Research on Football. That paper introduced the idea of expected point value based on game situation, an idea that is still at the core of advanced football analysis. Virgil also talks about what it was like to play under head coach Paul Brown, and why if it weren't for him, Bill Walsh might have never needed to create his "West Coast" passing offense. 

If you want to learn more about Virgil and his fascinating career both on and off the field, check out the following links:

-Sports Illustrated article from October, 1972: "Handy Pair of Brainy Bengals
-Virgil's graduate research paper: Operations Research on Football
-Pro-Football-Reference Player Page: Virgil Carter

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5 Responses to “Podcast Episode 7 - Virgil Carter”

  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Nate says:

    - QFT

    Amazing podcast.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Fascinating talk. A lot of interesting nuggets here (several of the tactical issues are discussed around here on ANS I gather):
    - He made the Bengals team as Paul Brown gave IQ tests to prospective players, Carter promptly beat out some other guy.
    - Part of Brown's success, his acumen, was in pre-designing for all the little contingencies, event trees, that could loom on a given play.
    - Suggests as general strategy going for 2 point conversions all the time.
    - Clearly better to be 1st & 10 at the opponent's 15 (Brian says it's a bit less than 15), than 1st & goal at the 10 . . . so ideally you'd try to pre-program your receivers/runners for this. Generally, a team could improve its chances if it could pre-program decisions for myriad situations, not huge individually perhaps, but often decisive in aggregate.
    - I believe the suggestion is a special teams team for 4th and short situations
    - In OT, obviously you got to elect to kick-off, if you get the choice,
    - Right-foot punters punt to the left, ball goes out of bounds. Punt to the right, ball goes straight. (Then seems pretty obvious that receiving teams should shift punt receiver accordingly . . . wonder if they actually do?)
    It all makes me there were, somewhere, a compilation of his newspaper columns from his early days.
    Also, nitpicking, I sure do wish there was a go-back-10-seconds button on this podcast player, like they have on NFL gamepass.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I always look forward to the podcast and this one was exceptional. Great job and thanks for all the hard work.


  5. Richie says:

    I loved the story about Carter being the designated pooch punter. Too bad Brown abandoned the plan before it got started. That's a fascinating idea, to basically always have the QB out there for punts in opponent's territory. That seems like a way to create some nice mismatch opportunities.

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