Warren Sharp began his career as a licensed engineer, then began to use his critical thinking and problem-solving techniques to address his passion, football. In addition to sharing his analytics through SharpFootballAnalysis.com, Sharp also consults for NFL teams and bettors.
We caught up with Sharp for this week’s Friday Five…
Who is your biggest mentor?
I try to compartmentalize what I do, so I have had several trusted mentors over the years in different aspects of my life. The best resource historically in my career has been my dad, who was an entrepreneur and owned a business for decades that put food on our table. He always presents a thoughtful, pragmatic perspective in our discussions and they benefit me greatly to this day. I’m also thankful for several mentors coming up in both the sports betting space and NFL front office & coaching communities. The one thing I can say about all of them is that it is comforting to have mentors that become true friends and I’ve been fortunate in that regard.
Your career literally took a sharp turn. When did you first realize you might have a career as an NFL analyst?
Years ago, when I first got my hands on play-by-play data and started processing it, I realized I was able to uncover some truly unique insights. Publicly sharing these insights coupled with game prognostication created interest from NFL teams, primarily because of the depth of analysis and different elements I was factoring into my process. One of the first teams that reached out told me they appreciated the diverse background that I brought to the table. Ever since, it’s been a truly enjoyable process being able to share insights and identify competitive advantages in coaching and on-field execution to help teams win games on a weekly basis.
You promote your 2021 NFL preview book as having everything you learned from the 2020 season. What was the most notable thing you learned from last season?
It’s painfully clear how important good coaching is. Everything from schemes to strategies to personnel usage to play calls. It’s a big reason why the 2020 Browns recorded their first winning record since 2007. It’s a big reason why the 2020 Bills won their first division championship since 1995. The same quarterbacks, largely the same teams, and neither of those teams make those leaps without great coaching. It’s why Frank Reich can field competitive teams that can win despite cycling through Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, Jacoby Brissett, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers in a four-year span. It doesn’t just impact records, it also impacts perception of players. Although I think of him as very limited, I think Drew Lock looked even worse last year due to the play calling. It’s why, after last season, the public perception of Tua Tagovailoa is so low right now, but I think he has a much higher ceiling than most anticipate in 2021 due to a new staff. You will never be able to completely separate the impact and influence a play caller has on his quarterback, but most often, we look only at a quarterback and judge if he’s good or bad. Usually, great quarterbacks have the support of great coaching. Coaching is more important than most NFL fans believe.
What do you expect to happen this season that will surprise most fans?
Even though the buzz is all around the Rams landing Matthew Stafford, the 49ers, off a 6-10 campaign, could be the team to talk about. Not just in the NFC West but in the Super Bowl. The Vikings, after no home-field advantage last year, will be excellent in their games at home, particularly against the spread. People fail to remember, this team had the best cover rate with fans in the stands (70%) since they moved into their new stadium. Without fans last year, it plummeted. It should regain form in 2021. Lastly, don’t be surprised if the Dolphins offense, thanks to new coaches and improvement from Tua, exceeds expectations, particularly from those people who wanted Ryan Fitzpatrick as their QB.
If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would they be and why?
The first meal would be with my grandparents in their old house. I’d sit at the table with my grandpa and talk while my grandma cooked one of the meals we loved so dearly. Visiting them at their house was one of my fondest memories growing up and I’d be so thrilled to do that again. Those would be the first two people. The third would be a working dinner with Bill Walsh in San Francisco in the ‘80s, as he gameplanned for an opponent. Just to be a fly on the wall and watch him strategize during a season before a big game and then ask questions would be an incredible experience.
Check out all of our Friday Five features — including Troy Aikman, Adam Schefter, Andrea Kremer and more — in the Friday Five archive.