Maybe a good analogy would be the role Peter Brand (a composite character played by Jonah Hill) played for Billy Beane in the “Moneyball” movie.
Brand took an analytical, evidence-based approach to statistics and sabermetrics to help Beane field a roster for the A’s.
Cunningham actually used the analogy when describing his role to detroitlions.com on Tuesday. He plans to use data, statistics and video analysis to help game plan against opponents.
“I’m a crazy man when it comes to numbers," Cunningham said. "There is something in the numbers that can help us in football.
“What I do is look at the numbers in all different ways and it all revolves around the teams we’re going to play.”
He’s delving into game film and statistics looking for tendencies to come up with a detailed analysis that head coach Jim Caldwell, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin can use to help them game plan from week to week.
“The numbers can give you an edge if you use them the right way,” Cunningham said. “That’s the process I’m in.
“What I’d like to do is go to Joe Lombardi and say 'that corner is giving up 65 percent completions on these three routes and the offense has won 33 percent of the time running these routes.' Now that’s a lot of work because you have to break it all up.”
Cunningham might be 67 years old and have 40-plus years of coaching behind him, but there’s nothing “old school” about the five computer screens on the desk in his new office in Allen Park or the television screens mounted on the wall or even the espresso machine in the corner.
He’s met with websites like ProFootballFocus.com and footballoutsiders.com, taking a closer look at how those NFL stats-based websites are run and how they come up with some of the numbers they do.
“I love it,” he said. “I know it’s helped me as a coach. That’s what I want to look at. Who’s got chinks in their armor.”