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Browns embracing analytics under Banner

Joe Banner AP

The concept of analytics can be intimidating to mainstream sports fans.  Put as simply as possible, it refers to the use of specific categories of esoteric statistics for assisting in the making of personnel and coaching decisions.

And Browns fans had better get used to it.  New CEO Joe Banner is bringing the concept to town.

“Numbers to some people are like technology to some people,” Banner tells Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  “They feel foreign, they feel scary.”

In reality, analytics are an extension of mathematical analyses in which the NFL has engaged for a long time.  “Remember when you use to see the coach holding the piece of paper that told him when to go for two?” Banner said.  “This is multiple layers of sophisticated analysis beyond that.”

More teams are now using analytics, but few are completely deferring to statistical trends in all situations.  Unlike baseball, which ultimately comes down to pitcher vs. batter with eight bystanders who chew and scratch and adjust until something happens, football is a 22-piece symphony of conflicting unpredictability, complicated by the bouncing of a misshapen ball on an often uneven field under periodically erratic weather conditions.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t an edge to be gained in crunching numbers and analyzing percentages.  Still, the things that happened in countless past football games only go so far when attempting to predict what will happen among any given group of 22 players on any given day under any given set of circumstances.

While the outcome of a game, a drive, and a play will slide into the database, relying on stats when the time comes to call a play or a defense is ultimately no different than relying on percentages when the time comes to blow onto a pair of dice and roll them down the table.

It has its place, but it also has its limits.

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36 Responses to “Browns embracing analytics under Banner”
  1. sgtr0c says: Mar 3, 2013 6:41 PM

    It worked so well in Philly…

    Sure this was most of the reason they let Dawkins get to Denver.

  2. mpcny says: Mar 3, 2013 6:42 PM

    I think where this could be most used is in position, age- salary.

    For example our D line starters should equal 25% of salary cap and ave 26 yo. That is the mean ave of the last 5 super bowl winners ( made up facts)

    QB should cost 18% of cap-28-32 yo, Pass rating of 92 or better and so on.

  3. thegonz13 says: Mar 3, 2013 6:46 PM

    Here’s a number Banner should crunch: Zero… as in zero playoff appearances.

  4. captainwisdom8888 says: Mar 3, 2013 6:49 PM

    The Browns should pinpoint the antithesis of what what they’ve been doing for the past few decades….and embrace that.

  5. snakeman40 says: Mar 3, 2013 6:59 PM

    Look, I don’t care if Banner was throwing darts at a board blindfolded. After Policy, Davis/Garcia, Savage, Kokinis, Mangini, and Heckert (the only one in the group that had somewhat of a clue….), I am ready for anyone and anything.

  6. bengalsstillsuck says: Mar 3, 2013 7:00 PM

    Idc what he does as long as we start winning and he brings us from the laughing stalk of the NFL something gotta give one of this days we cant suck forever.

  7. cornellsteelers says: Mar 3, 2013 7:01 PM

    I’ll be impressed if he can find an advanced statistic that makes the Browns look like anything other than a perennial bottom feeder.

  8. JSpicoli says: Mar 3, 2013 7:05 PM

    Baseball players need 4 or 5 skills to succeed.

    Other than QB, football players need one or two.

  9. jcmeyer10 says: Mar 3, 2013 7:08 PM

    Gotta give the guy credit for trying something different.

  10. zengreaser says: Mar 3, 2013 7:28 PM

    Browns fans:

    Prepare yourselves for a revolutionary new approach to the same sorry results you’ve been tormented by for decades. I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: Banner became the dominant decision maker for the Eagles shortly after Andy Reid took a brief offseason leave of absence following the arrest of his two sons. The result? Discarding one of the franchise’s greatest players (Brian Dawkins), and the embarrassingly bad draft classes of 2010 & 2011.

    As fans of one of the oldest franchises in the NFL, you all deserve better than what you have been getting – and what you’re about to receive.

  11. cmahdavi says: Mar 3, 2013 7:36 PM

    It amazes me that the Browns have been so bad for so long, that the team needs to use ambiguous terms people don’t really understand as a way to suggest they are doing something different (In order to get people to come to games and buy Browns stuff)

    To paraphrase Banner:

    “It’s ok everyone, keep buying season tickets, we’ll be keeping track of stats now and use those to help with the decision making process…It’s called analytics”

    Now to me I see this as one of a few bad possibilities:

    1) Everyone uses the relevant statistics when making decisions so in reality the Browns are doing nothing really different but have been so bad that they need to create the impression they are doing things different, which COULD concede that they are not really doing anything different and will continue to suck since they’re not really changing anything.

    2) They are using stats that other teams are NOT using, in which case, seeing as how most teams are pretty thorough, they are spending time, energy, and ultimately money on irrelevant info and will therefore continue to suck

    3) Are hoping that people who went to see a movie (about baseball mind you) will hear a word they saw in a movie they liked, remember the positive feeling of liking something, hear the Browns using the word, and via classical conditioning associate Browns with something they like even though the Browns will continue to suck.

    Pavlov’s dog pound….

  12. paulz624 says: Mar 3, 2013 7:45 PM

    This is gonna be a disaster as it was in Philly, does anybody realize how many good players the Eagles didn’t draft because Banner thought they weren’t worth paying because of this nonsense? He had the D-Line on a higher bracket then the D-Backfield, this is how that thought pattern played out, when the Eagles traded up in the draft ,Banner took Brandon Graham over Safty Earl Thomas cause D-line was worth paying that high and Safty wasnt, Thomas has been a pro bowler for the Seahawks every year he’s been in the league and Graham is a decent player, good luck with that concept Brown fans, your gonna need it.

  13. jfr11 says: Mar 3, 2013 8:14 PM

    Is that why we never had good linebackers in Philly?

  14. acmepackers says: Mar 3, 2013 8:15 PM

    And they’ll still be a bad team

  15. thegreatgabbert says: Mar 3, 2013 8:24 PM

    “Remember when you used to see a coach holding a piece of paper telling him when to go for two? ………..Well now, they have to hold a whole sheaf of papers…….
    Then, of course one of these gorillas comes by and knocks your briefcase on the ground, just when the wind is blowing, and there you are in your suit and dress shoes running around the field trying to pick up the papers. Half the time they’ve soaked a patch of grass and you fall on your ass. Or your shoelaces are tied together, or they’ve got your belt hooked to the bench somehow…….Har de har har… Christ, I hate analytics sometimes….”.

  16. cbwilson25 says: Mar 3, 2013 8:29 PM

    Was at the Sloan Sports Analytics conference this weekend where Alec Scheiner, new Browns front office employee, sounded very educated about analytics. I’m cautiously optimistic there will be actual thinking done in Cleveland and Barea this year

  17. ianijm says: Mar 3, 2013 9:16 PM

    captainwisdom8888 says:
    Mar 3, 2013 6:49 PM
    “The Browns should pinpoint the antithesis of what what they’ve been doing for the past few decades….and embrace that.”

    Also known as the George Costanza Method. I approve.

  18. stephenolszewski says: Mar 3, 2013 9:21 PM

    Not sure how to feel about Banner yet I’m on the wait and see approach I’ve heard mixed reviews on him just hope someone can do something to get this team better

    It helps bringing in Chudzinski Norv and Ray Horton, then they go along and hire a guy like Michael Lombardi lets see what they do with this draft I guess

  19. thegregwitul says: Mar 3, 2013 9:51 PM

    Why the heck not? The Browns have embraced losing for over 15 years, I’d embrace just about anything at this point.

  20. chrisk61 says: Mar 3, 2013 10:00 PM

    analytics schmanalytics. and this is coming from a univ of chicago mba. it might have a role, a limited role, in managing the cap. but on the field you have to stop the run, establish the run and use the run to set up the pass. pretty simple really.

  21. chrisk61 says: Mar 3, 2013 10:02 PM

    cleveland had a good defense last yr. if they can play defense like that consistently, that will be the basis of a good team. but they still have many holes, most notably at QB, on offense. but a good defense is a very good start.

  22. officialgame says: Mar 3, 2013 10:27 PM

    That’s the problem with Joe, he takes the human element out of the game. It is also why is Joe is universally disliked by many.

  23. goldenperspective says: Mar 3, 2013 10:31 PM

    Hiring Charlie Sheen is the only shot they have at winning . Zing!

  24. ytownjoe says: Mar 3, 2013 10:31 PM

    It looks like a few more tough years for Browns fans with Banner and Lombardi running the show. When will it end?

  25. coop16 says: Mar 3, 2013 10:34 PM

    This is the first really positive sign I’ve seen from the new regime. I used to be a baseball fan (until the lack of a salary cap completely destroyed the competitive balance and the fun), and I was one of the first to jump on the Bill James bandwagon. Some other guys made fun of me back then … now every team in baseball uses advanced analytics pioneered by James, because without those analytics, they’d have no chance to compete.

    As far as the woebegone Browns go, something desperately needs to change. Maybe this new approach will be the key. It also explains why the new regime is so down on Brandon Weeden, because the websites that rate NFL QBs using advanced analytics tend to show him as hopeless.

  26. thefhaloanguy says: Mar 3, 2013 11:45 PM

    I don’t know if anyone remembers the old saying “GIGO”?? It stands for garbage in garbage out. Numbers to people are usually very subjective. Now if you’re talking the stats used by Football Outsiders and such that is a bit more numeric. But using numbers for draft picks just invites personal opinions.

  27. goldrush36 says: Mar 3, 2013 11:53 PM

    Marathe has embraced the analytics aspect for quite a few years in San Francisco. New Rams exec is as well. Look at the key people SF has brought or kept, and the new pieces Fisher’s crew is bringing in. I understand Browns fans hesitation, but more teams are leaning this way because it seems to be very efficient. I would be cautious but very optimistic as well

  28. metalhead65 says: Mar 3, 2013 11:54 PM

    great first they ruin baseball with this garbage and now they are going to ruin football for the average fan. there is nothing wrong with the stats and methods used to gauge how good players are. plus there is the one important thing all these saber metrics and analytics geeks ignore and that actually watching the guys play the game. if he gained 10 yards running the ball or threw it for 20 I don’t want hear how he could have ran 15 and threw for 30 using that crap. they can use it all they want but I will do what I do when I watch baseball and that is ignore it completely. all I care about is what the game has used for a 100 years before and that rbi’s,batting average, wins and losses and era. I have no idea what they plan on using in football nor will I embrace it. how many world series did have the moneyball A’s won using it?

  29. joewilliesshnoz says: Mar 4, 2013 12:03 AM

    They should embrace each others hand, then jump into Lake Erie together.

  30. crubenst says: Mar 4, 2013 7:53 AM

    Nothing personal against the Browns, but as an Eagles fan, I hope he bombs horribly.

  31. rodericksilva says: Mar 4, 2013 7:56 AM

    It’s funny to hear people, that know nothing about analytics, talk about how futile it is.

    The last thing analytics should be used for is capology.

    The Eagles won 100 games in that 10 year span. Only 2 other teams won 100+. Banner did some things right.

    If we analyzed YOUR last 10 years I’m sure we’d find some mistakes.

    Analytics will be used to drive and confirm football decisions. They will not click a button and draft a second sting OL from Utah.

  32. wswalcottmedshow says: Mar 4, 2013 8:31 AM

    I don’t recall Paul Brown ever using analytics when he coached the once-mighty Cleveland Browns organization. Art Modell bought the team for a song and destroyed the best football organization in the 50’s and early 60’s over the next thirty years using his own analytics belieiving who knew more about football then legendary Paul Brown. Modell forced Jim Brown into retirement, won an NFL championship in 1964 with the Paul Brown team (and assistant coach to Paul Brown, Blanton Collier intact, and from then on the Browns died a slow death while only rising to the surface twice under Sam Rutigliano and Marty Schottenheimer. You can’t balme the Browns for sucking these last 15 years because they never had the real opportunity to rebuiold a team out of nothing, as Modell was fortunate enough to do with the sweet package he got from a city that should have known better than steal a team from another city.

    I believe the new Browns owner will put a winner on the field, albeit I am not happy with the hiring of Banner and the Philly bunch. When is the last time Philly won a Super Bowl? Cleveland has the best fans in the country and they deserve not to be dicked around any longer. We in Cleveland are cautiously optimistic, but what else can we be? We love sports in NE Ohio. It is in our blood. What are we supposed to turn to without football? Figure skating on Sundays?

  33. hodag54501 says: Mar 4, 2013 8:40 AM

    I love metrics. It easily identifies the human beings within the genetic pool who should never reproduce.

  34. bamboozle99 says: Mar 4, 2013 9:04 AM

    So the Browns are re-inventing the wheel.

  35. bumbleb572 says: Mar 4, 2013 9:07 AM

    Bottom line you better win and that’s all that matters or Banner and his approach will be out the door like countless others in the Browns front office before him.

  36. kingkornkahn says: Mar 4, 2013 9:16 AM

    This game isn’t played by robots. You can’t just add the speed, power, inertia, etc and come up with a winning team. It takes more creativity and emotion than that. Furthermore, football statistics are very misleading. A player may accumulate many tackles or interceptions because he sucks and the offense is going after him. A quarterback could be throwing interceptions that bounce of receivers hands or the receiver could have run the wrong route, etc. The point is, you have to watch the games. I am not scared of number, however I understand their limitations. Look how it worked for McNamera.

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