Hall of Fame basketball player Don Tanney ’79 must be a pretty proud parent, as two of his sons are now in the NFL. A few weeks after Mitch Tanney ’06 was hired by the Chicago Bears to man the newly-created position of director of analytics, his younger brother Alex Tanney ’11 signed with the Dallas Cowboys to compete for one of the backup quarterback spots.
After passing his physical in Oxnard, Calif., on July 21, Alex has officially been added to the Dallas Cowboys' roster and will wear jersey No. 7. He was one of three quarterbacks who worked out with the Cowboys recently, but the only QB to receive an offer. The NCAA's all-time touchdown passing leader will be the fourth quarterback on the Cowboys roster during the camp with veterans Tony Romo and Kyle Orton and Nick Stephens, who is entering his second NFL season.
Alex – who spent last season on the Kansas City Chiefs injured reserve list – could have a special connection with ninth-year pro Miles Austin. The wide receiver also has Monmouth roots, playing his college ball for the Hawks of Monmouth University in New Jersey. It's likely that would be the first time players from both Monmouths were on the same field.
Dallas will open their preseason games at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against Miami on Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.
As for Mitch, it was his abilities off the field -- rather than what the former MC quarterback displayed in action – that were the deciding factors in him landing his job with the Bears.
A summa cum laude graduate with degrees in math and Spanish, Mitch will be in charge of analyzing and breaking down data to give the Bears the best options in each situation for every player. In other words, he will be compiling the equivalent of baseball's sabermetrics. While he'll never take a snap, he will be calling the signals to some degree on Sunday afternoons. The Bears will use Tanney's reports for individual game situations, scouting and player development.
Mitch led the Fighting Scots to a Midwest Conference title and their first NCAA playoff appearance in 2005. His academic and athletic background made him uniquely qualified for the position.
"There are very few people who have a competitive football background like Mitch does at a key decision-making position as well as the math background he has and the experience in this field," said Bears general manager Phil Emery. "What you're trying to do is figure out the probability of success of taking the chance or not taking the chance in terms of a successful outcome not only in that given situation but what it could mean in terms of the overall game."
Tanney experienced plenty of success on the field. As a senior he set the NCAA record for completion percentage (73.6) on his way to a 19-2 record. In 2005, he was named a finalist for the prestigious Gagliardi Trophy.
As impressive as Tanney was on the gridiron, he was equally impressive in the classroom, even before the transfer student had attended his first class at Monmouth. Tanney's advisor, retired math professor Lyle Welch, quickly noticed a remarkable trait in his advisee.
"Mitch was the type of student that didn't need my help very much," explained Welch. "I met him in the summer for an advising session before his first semester at Monmouth. He came having studied the course catalog with a complete list of courses he needed in the next two years to finish his math and Spanish degrees. All I had to do was tell him which semesters in the next two years the classes he need would be offered. He clearly has the ability to earn a Ph.D. in math, but given his current status, it's hard to argue his decision to enter his chosen field."
After playing for various arena league teams following his career at Monmouth, Tanney earned his MBA from the University of Iowa and had been the manager of football products and sports analytics for STATS LLC. Among his duties at STATS, Tanney performed historical research and comparison data projects.
Tanney becomes the second Fighting Scot to land a high-level position with the Bears. Ken Geiger, a 1953 Monmouth graduate, was a scout with the Bears when they won the Super Bowl in 1985.