Jul 17, 2007 – The Mental Performance Index or “MPI” is the first ever measure of mental performance used in sport (in this case American Football).
The index was developed by Dr. John F. Murray, a licensed clinical and sport performance psychologist in 2002 to demonstrate the importance of mental factors in football such as “pressure management,” “focused execution,” and “reduction of mental errors.”
In 2007, Dr. Murray began using the MPI in a 41-week study to determine the most domintant team in Super Bowl history, and to discover the factors most highly correlated with winning (e.g., offense, defense, special teams, pressure offense, pressure defense, total pressure, or other factors). Weekly reports and analyses are provided at MentalPerformanceIndex.com.
A comparison of teams across weeks or decades was made possible with a scoring system that standardizes relative team performance as a “degree of perfection” analogous to a baseball player’s batting average on a scale of .000 to 1.000. Scoring reflects both physical and mental performance, to support Dr. Murray’s contention that the MPI reveals “actual performance” much better than final scores and traditional statitistics which fail to account for all the plays in the game and do not capture important mental elements or situational meaningfulness.
The MPI uses a very objective scoring system based on team execution play by play, but with an added professional interpretation component to account for the realities of a game and require expert analysis (e.g., pressure, mental errors).
To test the accuracy, reliability and practicality of the MPI, Dr. Murray has spent the past 5 years before every Super Bowl on television and radio, discussing the MPI statistics and giving an intepretation on how the teams are performing entering the game. In the first three major public tests in media worldwide, the MPI almost perfectly estimated the ultimate performance of the teams in the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXXVII 2003, Super Bowl XXXVIII 2004, and Super Bowl XXXIX 2005), beating the spread each time, going counter to public opinion, and correctly estimating the ultimate course of the games.
In 2003 the Oakland Raiders were favored to win (estimates ranged from 4 to 9) over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The MPI showed that Tampa Bay, by contrast, was far superior.
In 2004 and 2005, the MPI analysis showed the teams to be relatively equal and forecasted a very close contest even though the New England Patriots were predicted to win by at least 7 points in each game. The 2004 game was tied with 4 seconds remaining (3 point New England win) and the 2005 game was the first game in Super Bowl history to be tied entering the final quarter of play. New England won by 3.
In 2006 (Super Bowl XL), the MPI accurately forecast that Seattle would perform better on offense and defense and worse on special teams than the Pittsburgh Steelers. The MPI forecast that Seattle would perform better overall was correct, but the lower performing team on the MPI won. At least 20 newspapers wrote about the success of the MPI before the game, and ABC TV in West Palm Beach interviewed Dr. Murray from his Palm Beach office about the system. Bloomberg Radio interviewed Dr. Murray about the Super Bowl four years in a row. Seattle Coach Mike Holmgrem stated after the game that his team had to face two opponents, the Steelers and the officials. It was an extremely unusual game filled with mistakes, and a few huge plays (a flea flicker, long pass, and record breaking 75 yard run from scrimmage) accounted for all of Pittsburgh’s points. Seattle missed countless opportunities to put the game away despite performing better by all accounts. The MPI forecast against the spread fell to 3-1, but accurately showed Seattle’s superior performance.
The forecast rose to 4-1 against the spread in 2007 Super Bowl XLI as the MPI perfectly estimated the relative performance of the teams as well as the Indianapolis Colts easy defeat of the Chicago Bears. The pre-game forecast, published and broadcast widely, showed that the Colts in the playoffs had performed better on the total score, offense, defense, special teams, pressure offense, pressure defense, and total pressure situations. The MPI forecast indicated that a 2 or 3 touchdown victory was imminent when the Cols were favored by 7 1/2 points. Precisely as forecasted, the Colts dominated in all seven categories and also won the game by two touchdowns, 29-17. The accurate forecast was published in the Los Angeles Times, in a front page story in the Palm Beach Daily News, in the Indianapolis Star and in several other major newspapers before the game. Dr. Murray also appeared on FOX national television the week before the game.
The 4-1 success of the MPI was also covered after the game and the MPI will continue to be used each year to forecast the performance of the teams entering the Super Bowl.
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.