A year ago, we heard a lot about the Chicago Bears working with virtual reality to get their quarterbacks, Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez, and Mitchell Trubisky up to speed. The virtual reality trend isn’t going anywhere. IN fact, as technology improves it becomes an even more viable way to safely train quarterbacks.
I recently had the chance to talk with Ted Sundquist, former general manager of the Denver Broncs, and currently the CEO of QBSIM: a new virtual reality company. I found out more about the practical use of their technology and how it can help quarterbacks. The video clips available from QBSIM are impressive, as is the brain trust behind this new company. They’ve yet to finalize any deals with college or NFL teams on their product, but they have several teams they have been speaking with.
Here’s what sets their product apart from the competition.
The game-changing technology is the ability to track the movement of a real ball in real time. Systems on the market today are essentially enhanced game film. You have 360-degree video of a play and the QB can move in the pocket, but all the other players in the video will act the exact same way no matter what the QB does (because it’s video). With QBSIM, the movement of the player avatars responds to the movement of the QB and the ball, meaning the rushers will pursue you and your receiver can try to adjust to a throw (reach back for the ball, or jump ahead, etc.) The behaviors are governed by data from real NFL and college games, and you can segment the data so your QB is playing against a specific team’s defense.
Besides Sundquist, QBSIM has a group of sports advisors insuring they get the feel of the virtual reality just right. Included in this group are former NFL quarterbacks, Jake Plummer and Jeff Garcia.
The practical uses for this goes beyond just getting more reps for quarterbacks, it also allows then to get the reps in a safe environment. “We also provide a platform through the QBSIM to rehab players (especially QB’s) in situational aspects and real game situations without putting them at risk of physical contact,” Sundquist says. “A player like Andrew Luck could have been running full game simulations in the QBSIM to not only keep his mind game ready, but also to measure whether his body was performing at levels it had before the injury.”
I had to get Sundquist’s take on how this product could relate to the Bears’ quarterback situation and he rifled off a few thoughts.
“Chicago’s QB situation is a bit different from most with their two backups having more experience than their starting QB. However the ability to continue to stay game ready is difficult in the NFL when the majority of repetitions are reserved for the starter and especially with such a young player in Mitch Trubisky. The staff will want to accelerate his learning to ensure he’s as prepared as he can be each and every week. The mental side of preparation will be solid for Chase Daniel, but maintaining game speed timing and quick twitch reaction will be difficult. The QBSIM provides a simulated game environment to keep those skills sharp both mentally and physically.”
I think there’s a good chance the Bears roll with only two quarterbacks on the active roster, so virtual reality would be a good way to get a developmental guy some reps.
“Tyler Bray has most likely used up his Practice Squad Eligibility and I’m sure a young QB will be brought in to fill that role (if Bray doesn’t take Daniel’s backup spot). That player can be more than just an arm and the Bears can begin to develop him within their own system by utilizing the QBSIM to teach their own offensive scheme to any young signal caller. We use Pro Football Focus data to populate our Artificial Intelligence that runs the simulation and then we have the ability to measure and assess the data that can otherwise not be captured in realtime game situations.”
The coaching groupthink that the Bears have on the offensive side of the ball could benefit from virtual reality as well when designing new plays.
“Lastly our QBSIM provides coaches with a gameplanning tool never before seen in the past. The Bears can draw up any defensive scheme or offensive play and run it through our predictive analysis to see the chance of success, then ask their QB’s (on the offensive side) to jump in the QBSIM to see if they’re comfortable with running a particular play before they ever have to take it to the practice field. They can also alter and edit on the fly in simulation to measure potential outcomes.”
QBSIM was set up at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and fans had the chance to step into the sim to feel the game around them. It might even be the future of training quarterbacks.