By Nate Horgan
Special to Stlouisrams.com
From the press box to the sidelines, there is an infinite amount of work that goes into the well-oiled machine that is an organization in the National Football League. In contrast to the fame of the St. Louis Rams that take the turf, tucked away in a corner office sits Brian Wright. Though Wright humbly describes himself as simply “a computer person,” he plays an enormous role in acquiring every player on the team.
Wright’s official title is the Director of Football Systems which entails overseeing and managing all of the data and technology that relates to football within the organization.
“It’s collecting information about players at the college level and at the pro level,” Wright described, “and basically sorting and sifting through the information that is collected by the organization to provide a means for the scouts to analyze and make better decisions.”
The Rams’ player personnel department consists of 18 scouts and player analysts that collectively travel the country, from coast to coast, to analyze the skills of players in both college and professional football. That analysis is put onto paper in a summary report that is about 5,000 words long. That report multiplied by the 15,000 players in the Rams college system every year equates to a bank of information that would take approximately 4,167 hours to read.
Wright’s job is to dive into that data and make it so that the player personnel staff is able to easily navigate that information and make choices that will lead to long term success on the field.
“Our database has hundreds of thousands of players in it,” Wright said. “My job is to manage all of the performance and evaluation data on every player.
“In the ‘heat of battle’ we often have to sift through data in a very rapid way in order to answer a question at the moment.”
Though Wright, husband of Trish and father to daughters Chelsea and Malissa, is going into his 13th year of working in the NFL, it was an interesting route that led him to his career in professional football. Wright was one of three brothers that went into the Armed Forces, as he joined the Navy right out of high school. He didn’t know at the time, but the same comfort he felt while he was in the Navy he would eventually revisit when he worked in football.
“I’ve often said many times that the reason I enjoy working in the NFL is because it shares some of the same camaraderie and disciplines (as the military),” Wright said. “Certainly, it’s different, but it shares the same teamwork element.”
While in the Navy, Wright was part of a special program at the University of Southern California Film School to train screenwriters and cinematographers.
“It was right about the time when video was making a transition from video to digital,” Wright said. “Tying video in with data was a natural thing and my skill set allowed me to work with the databases while I worked with the digital video.”
That interaction with digital files and databases went on to become a full time career, in which he spent time working with IBM/Intel technology to develop software for a number of corporations. In 2001, however, Wright took his first job in the NFL with the Chicago Bears in an assignment capacity.
“It was supposed to be a short term thing,” Wright said. “I never expected that I’d end up full time in the NFL.”
In the 2000s, teams suddenly needed to keep up with the times and update their databases that had become obsolete. Wright’s well-rounded experience with such systems allowed him to answer the door when opportunity knocked.
“I was the right person at the right time when the technology arose,” he said. “I was able to develop systems that used those technologies and it’s really worked out well because as we’re using the internet and internet-based tools more and more and the new devices that have come about since.”
Despite the challenge of staying ahead of forever changing technology and the pressure of making sure that the player personnel department is operating as efficiently as possible, Wright couldn’t be happier in his second year with the Rams.
“I enjoy being part of a team that works together and is united towards a common goal,” Wright said. “At the end of the day, you may be exhausted from a long day of work, but it’s hard not to feel good about what you’ve accomplished and the people that you’ve worked with. Really that’s what drives you every day.”
In combination with his love for football, according to Wright, the Rams foster an enjoyable work environment, which allows him to successfully fulfill his role.
“The Rams are really a top quality organization and are really doing all the right things, in terms of technology, to improve everything and every aspect of the organization,” Wright said. “It’s an exciting time to be here.”