As a three-time Pro Bowl receiver and longtime star TV analyst, Cris Collinsworth already knew football. But recently he became majority owner of Pro Football Focus, a subscription-based analytics service founded in England in 2007 that studies and grades every player on every play in every game.
So now he knows more than ever, or at least has access to more information than ever. The trick is integrating that into a prime-time telecast -- such as the one he will work Sunday night on NBC when the Giants host the 49ers -- causing viewers' eyes to glaze over.
Not to worry, he said, promising that NBC will "always be about storytelling" first and foremost.
Still, the network already has used some of his company's data in on-screen graphics this season, perhaps with more to come this weekend.
"I'm really proud of the guys; I work them like a dog," Collinsworth said of the video analysis team. "It's embarrassing how hard they work compared to what they get paid -- to have somebody that has seen every single play in the NFL and NCAA Division I during the course of every single week."
There is much to digest.
"I'll tell you the truth, I'm still figuring out how to use it," he said. "Every time I run it, there's another drop-down box I haven't seen."
At the least, it has streamlined his preparation for NBC games.
"I can just type in '99' of the New York Giants and I only see all of Cullen Jenkins' graded plays," he said. "All you have to do is punch in '99' and you're going to see his entire season in an hour."
Collinsworth used to be a customer until he decided he liked the company so much, he bought it. It began with a phone conversation early in 2012 with Neil Hornsby, who founded the site in 2007 and whose work was a key tool for the Giants in their Super Bowl XLVI run. "I typed into the 'contact us' section, 'Are you guys coaches? Who are you?' " Collinsworth recalled. "Three minutes later, I get a call from this Brit, Neil Hornsby. As soon as he started talking, all I could think of is, I can't believe I got hustled out of $26.99 by some con man from England."
But soon enough, Hornsby was answering technical questions about inside linebackers and guards. "I just shut up and started listening," Collinsworth said. "He knew more about it than me . . . It's a pretty amazing story."
It did not take advanced analytics for Collinsworth to form opinions about the two quarterbacks he will see at MetLife Stadium in the first meeting between the Giants and 49ers in the 10 seasons of NBC's Sunday night game.
Collinsworth raved about Eli Manning's control of the game in the Giants' victory over the Bills last Sunday. "I've had so many conversations over the years with Phil Simms about just grinding it out and winning ugly," he said. "What he did to protect his offensive line in that game was so impressive. Superman couldn't have gotten any pressure on him that day. He just caught it, got the ball out and made good decisions.
"Eli, when he's at his best, is playing that kind of game. Statistics will never tell the story of what Eli accomplished in that game for his football team . . . Those guys are frightening coming after the quarterback.
"The offensive line played well, [Rashad] Jennings made some plays. They just did what they had to do to win the game, but Eli just really made sure that they never got out of that game. I thought it was one of the better games I've ever seen him play."
Meanwhile, in San Francisco . . . things have been going less well for Colin Kaepernick, who lost to the Packers, 17-3.
"The weird part is it's easy to contrast what Kaepernick is doing to what Eli did because Kap is going to hold the ball, he's going to scramble, he's going to run," Collinsworth said. "He's a complete opposite quarterback of Eli Manning. So it's impossible to compare those two.
"But in that same game [Sunday], Aaron Rodgers, if you put on the tape and watched them back-to-back, there wasn't a whole lot of difference in the style of play. Aaron Rodgers was on the move throughout that game. He was scrambling around and moving. So you can't say that you can't win football games like that.
"I think with Kaepernick right now, there were some throws in that game where he kind of had the yips on a couple of them. That was the hard part to watch. There were a couple of one-hoppers on relatively short throws. And I've seen him do too many great things in his career that I don't know if he's just thinking about it too much or the change of offenses or change of offensive lines or whatever it was.
"But I've also seen him look bad and then come back and play well. I think there is pressure on everybody out there."