Browns hire former MLB GM Paul DePodesta

Getty Images

Two days after hiring a non-football person to run their football operation, the Browns have hired another executive who’s never worked in the NFL.

Paul DePodesta — he was the model for the Johah Hill character in the movie Moneyball — has been hired as chief strategy officer. Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, DePodesta will fit in the organizational structure behind only team owner Jimmy Haslam and team president Alec Scheiner.

After firing head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer on Sunday, Haslam announced that Sashi Brown, the team’s general counsel, had been promoted to executive director of football operations and given full control of the roster.

The hirings of Brown and DePodesta indicate the Browns will rely heavily on analytics as they remake the roster. The team is expected to begin interviewing coaching candidates this week.

DePodesta was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ general manager in 2004-05. He comes to the Browns from the New York Mets, where he’s been the vice president of player development and scouting since 2010.

“Paul will help members of our player development, high performance and analytics departments maximize their efforts,” Haslam said in a team statement announcing the hire. “There are many areas that we have not fully capitalized on that will enhance the growth and performance of our players over time.”

102 responses to “Browns hire former MLB GM Paul DePodesta

  1. Wow, this is a cluster you know what. Yikes. Sometimes you wonder how some of these guys like Haslem and Stephen Ross hold in the crazy long enough to fool the other owners to buy teams.

  2. Good for them. The Browns don’t know a lot about running a football organization, as well. I like their thought process

  3. Don’t care about the Browns one way or the other but man…. haven’t they learned ANYTHING? Now isn’t the time to “tinker”. They need good solid and CONSISTENT leadership at the helm and need more than a year or 2 to achieve something. We’ll be back here in 2 years, stay tuned. Again…

  4. As a Browns season ticket holder, I can honestly say that we’ve never been more screwed than we are now. What in the HELL Haslam is thinking is beyond anyone with a rational mind.

    Generally, when you’re trying to be the smartest guy in the room, you’re the dumbest. Quit trying to re-invent the wheel. The hell with analytics… go out and spend your money on FOOTBALL people. Like Herm Edwards said… you need a coach and GM, and everyone else get out of the way. It’s that simple.

    But of course, not in Cleveland…

    We are so screwed.

  5. If this is purely for analytics it is a good move for the Browns. Guy was excellent at finding pro prospects for the Mets. Would I let him make the final call on drafting guys? Probably not. But he’s valuable to have in the front office.

  6. WOW….blows the mind!! They should consider hiring Mickey Mouse as Director of Entertainment!!

  7. Well, it isn’t like the previous strategy was working. This might work (key word: might). The tricky part with analytics and football, at least on the player evaluation criteria, is that the available statistics vary wildly from position to position, especially when you compare it to baseball. In baseball, you only have ten positions (counting the DH), and there are only two data sets (with some overlap, but when was the last time since Babe Ruth could a pitcher really hit? (And if he could, why is he pitching?). Counting kickers and punters but not counting special teams specialists, you have 24 positions on a football team, with seven data sets, and how do you accumulate statistics for offensive lineman? Number of holding penalties?.

  8. Mitch Kupchak will be available soon… How about Scotty Bowman???

    Did anyone tell this goof anybody can run a truck stop but it takes football people to run a football team!

  9. “Damn You! Damn You All To Hell!”

    How about hiring a football person, a half-way competent one? Oh course, who would want to go there?? Remember that train wreck that the poor fans had to put up with?? I hear another one coming down the tracks. The fans deserve better.

  10. Frankly, with as bad as things have been they can’t be worse. So turning things upside down may be the best approach since traditional hires have not worked.

  11. As an A’s fan, DePo is the man. Don’t be surprised if he helps turn this thing around.

  12. Also hired — Chief Consultant to the Owner: some homeless guy

    Next up: Will the Browns offer rebates to season ticket holders and then pay pennies on the dollar until they get caught?

  13. This is such a bad idea perfectly befitting of something the Cleveland Browns would do…

    Baseball is a technical game, stats make all the difference its the nature of the game. Football is not, you cannot use analytics for football on any level. A line drive to third base is basically the same. A 5 yard pass in football can be so completely different and look 100 different ways. This will fail.

  14. So: the front office will be analytics, the coaching staff will be a traditional style coaching staff reporting to the owner. The GM will be the bridge between the two groups. The coaching staff will handle tradition methods of scouting and game planning, supplemented will sabermetrics style information. This could very well work, and at worse, what have they got to lose!

  15. You can’t make this stuff up!! HELLO…..this isn’t fantasy football or a friggin’ movie!

  16. The idea is that an analytics man can analyze the numbers of anything, and figure out how to make it work. It’s not a terrible idea. And it’s fair to say that the previous approaches in Cleveland haven’t exactly worked out.

    But outside the box thinking needs time to work, and Haslam never seems to give anyone time. I bet that in two years, DePodesta is back in baseball.

  17. jkautz11 says:
    Jan 5, 2016 12:14 PM
    Not a Browns fan. But geewhiz23, I bet you’re A LOT better at running a football organization right?

    Right from your couch?

    I’m guessing step 1 for me would be “hire football people to make football decisions”

  18. Not a Browns fan, but people are missing something in this hire – there is a team with a very influential analytics guy in their org, and that team/coach rely on him very heavily.

    Ernie Adams: Patriots.

    Mysterious dude who was a sports analytic before there were sports analytics. So, in some odd and strange way, this might very well be a move in the positive for the Browns.

  19. For everyone saying the Browns need a “Football” guy to come in and run the organization they’ve tried that and still lost. Didn’t work with Holmgren, didn’t work with Farmer so why not try something new. If they want to rely on analytics give them credit for hiring one of the best in sports at it.

  20. Haslam has gone from asking the homeless to pick qb’s to watching movies to build the rest of his roster. This guy is ridiculous. Worst owner in the NFL and that’S in a league that has Jerry Jones and Jim Irsay. The other owners should hold an intervention with Haslam.

  21. So they hire an analytics guru when the sport with the greatest pre-draft numbers generally have the worst pro careers. Sounds like the workout warriors have a home. Al Davis and his team of 4.40’s would be proud!

  22. I’ll bet most of these commenters, if there had been a ProBaseballTalk back in the day, would have been equally apoplectic about the moneyball approach.

  23. I’m beginning to think it’s actually possible that Jimmy Haslam might be clinically insane?

  24. None of this stuff matters as long as they hire the right personnel guy. A good personnel guy will come in and punch this guy in the mouth if he tries anything too stupid. That’s the Browns’ only hope. So Haslam better hire a tough SOB to run personnel.

  25. A lawyer, a gas station owner and a baseball executive walk into a football stadium…

    Wait, stop me if you heard this one before.

  26. Moneyball? That garbage is guessing through statistics. Wow… Haslam really is blind as a bat as an owner.

    What’s worse is, certain statistics do a better job then others as a predictor. They are ALL guessing, but the NFL is harder to predict then MLB.

    They all think it’s science, instead it’s just playing with numbers…and is NOT I repeat IS NOT scientific….

    Going all in on analytics. In other words EXACTLY HOW YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO USE ANALYTICS.

    Use your brain and see if analytics raises a question you missed. THAT’S THE CORRECT WAY.

    Using the 2008 Wall Street meltdown….we relied on the faulty numbers way… that’s the RELY ON ANALYTICS way to make decisions.

    I hope the Browns do well, but seeing this approach they are focusing on, the only thing I can see for their future is more sadness.

    Do people forget the A’s never used analytics to win anything. They last won it the old fashioned way, with BRAINS, via Tony LaRussa, some arms…Stewart, Welch, Eckersly, and some roid tainted bats of Canseco and McGwire.

    Good luck Browns fans, you’re going to need it!

  27. “In professional football, the goal is to win. It’s a bottom-line profession. My contention is there’s a higher ground, there’s a greater purpose, and that purpose is team.”
    Tom Coughlin (3 SB rings, 2 as HC. Future HOFer)

    “Stats are for losers”
    Bill Belichick (6 SB rings, 4 as HC. Future HOFer)

    “We’re hiring the moneyball guy”
    J. Haslam (dumpster fire owner)

  28. Phil Emery was/is an analytics savant and he managed to wreck the Bears in just 3 yrs. The roster, AND the culture. Just sayin.

  29. So, in some odd and strange way, this might very well be a move in the positive for the Browns.

    I’m guessing it has to do with that versus greatest qb and coach right?

  30. For the people saying it might work, no it won’t. Baseball and football are apples and oranges just like basketball and baseball are, which 76er and Rocket fans can tell you. You win football games by finding football players that can play. Ray Farmer found few of those, which is why they’ve gone backward. Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren build the roster up respectably and would have a contending team by now had they been left in place. This is all Haslem’s doing from bringing in the dummies Banner and Lombardi to replace them. Then, somehow he made it worse by replacing them with Farmer to somehow he’s now making it worse by bringing in people who don’t even know anything about football. We had the Millen years and the first 0-16 season in Detroit. I’m afraid the Browns are aiming to top that and are headed for multiple 0 win seasons. Like seriously.

  31. Browns fan here. I will say now what I said when they drafted Manziel:

    I don’t know if this is a good idea, but I am interested in seeing where this goes.

  32. No wonder the Browns are always losing, how can you hire a person as gm with no NFL experience? Part of the job of gm is being able to evaluate talent and make trades to players that will help the team. This franchise needs number 1 , a new owner! No NFL coach of other teams should even consider being head coach of the Browns. Best of luck the city of Cleveland.

  33. My team is the patriots. I’m 33 half my life my team was garbage. I always root for the teams that were like my patriots pre Tom and Bill. Browns fans deserve a winner. Hiring non football people or guys who are nobodies in the game to lead your team is a disaster in the making. Who knew the Browns leadership could devise an even worse plan? And they just did…Sorry Browns fans. You deserve way better gang.

  34. It will be interesting to see how analytics works in football. In baseball, players who play the same position can be relatively compared using this process as they are asked to do the same things defensively and offensively. In football, players who play the same positions are asked to do completely different things (TE comes to mind, blocking vs catching etc) and most often the only people who know what they are tasked with doing are the players and coaches themselves. There’s a reason why most coaches in the NFL hate sites like PFF and I’ll be intrigued to see if this cat can use his math skills to put this historic, but for the past 5 decades inept, franchise back on the right track

  35. As a browns fan, we are used to all sorts of craziness, types of things that only could be written by a movie screenwriter, For example your Qb , dressing in disguises, hiring a lawyer, and a baseball analytical guy to run a pro football operation. Now all they need to do is hire Verne Troyer as the next head coach, and draft a kicker with the 2nd pick in the draft, and they will be ready to rock and roll into 2016. The fun never ends in Believeland.

  36. In DePodesta’s defense, just because he worked in baseball, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t know a lot about football. I’m sure the Browns interviewed him before they hired him. That being said, I think Phil Jackson might be considered for their GM spot.

  37. Actually not a bad idea. I think the Dolphins should run down Biscayne Blvd and hire Pat Riley as a consultant. Avoid anything Marlins of course.

  38. “Hey, why not, how has the traditional road worked?”

    Seems to work just fine for teams like the Patriots, Packers, Seattle etc

  39. I understand his first move will be to revamp the Browns farm system.
    “I’m not sure what it’s like at this point but considering the lack of talent on the big club it must need an overhaul”

  40. Jim Schwartz was a big advocate of analytics in football (started doing it for Belichik when he was with the old Browns). Look at him as a possible candidate for HC.

  41. What did he have to pay … imagine what the Mets were paying this guy, what other teams in the league would if he decided to leave the Mets.

    My father often says, “A Fool and his money are soon parted”

    Wow. Haslam had a short small role in the Steelers organization. It would appear he learned …. absolutely nothing.

  42. So they hire a stats guy for a sport that has a lot to do about intangibles from a sport where his philosophy isn’t widely accepted?

    Short Johnny Football really is gone.

    His analytics dept for his gas stations got him in trouble with the feds.

  43. Oooooh, a Browns story:

    1) Factory of Sadness – check
    2) Hire the Homeless Guy – check
    3) Hire Movie Actors – check
    4) Dumpster Fire – check
    5) Haslam should sell the team – still available

    This hire is a home run. Of course they need touchdowns though…

  44. One of the basic principles of Moneyball is that it doesn’t matter how ugly the guy’s measurables are as long as he gets on base. Maybe it all can be quantified, but it seems like football (11 on 11) has a lot more variables than baseball (pitcher vs batter).

    That being said, the Browns needed to do something to shakeup their team culture. The only thing to do now is to watch this play out. I doubt DePodesta will be hypnotized by someone’s performance at the NFL combine, which will be a refreshing change.

  45. Yeah…but can this guy play quarterback?

    Hmm…it appears that Jimmay is making hires based on his favorite movies now. I wonder if he’ll hire Matthew McConaughey to coach the team…or maybe dust off Dennis Quaid to play a rookie…or Kathy Ireland as our new kicker…Keanu Reeves as our new Quarterback?

  46. If the NFL had a REAL commissioner, he’d take this team from Haslam. And dawgpoundjedi, you paid for season tickets to this annual train wreck??? I have some prime beachfront real estate in Siberia I’ll give you a deal on..

  47. Haslam is a genius! Who else in the NFL has a Chief Strategy Officer, let alone one from baseball, and an attorney as the head of football operations. He must know something the other 31 do not.

  48. Instead of looking for players that can do all things somewhat well…he’ll probably draft players that do ONE thing REALLY…REALLY…well. It might work. Anything is better than having zero players that can’t do anything even half-way well…unless it involves Instagram.

  49. To my earlier point why just looking at numbers with football players doesn’t work is because of the short careers. Football careers average about 3.5 years. Compare that to baseball and how you can get a guy after he finally hits free agency and still have him for 15 more years, and you see why trying to take the approach in football is asinine. Scott McCloughan was available this time a year ago. All Jimmy had to do was pick up the phone and call him. Just a few tweaks to that roster, and he got that team with that QB and that coach into the playoffs and only better is coming. Just ask the 49ers and Seahawks. It’s not rocket science, but what do you expect from a guy who thought Ray Farmer was a good idea on the heels of thinking Mike Lombardi was a good idea in picking your players?

  50. As a Dodgers fan, DePo was brought in to find the cheap way around things. So when Adrian Beltre finally had the year we all were waiting for, at age 24, DePo decided to lowball him. Ask those who have watched Beltre play, he’s a potential Hall of Famer, and the Dodgers have gone through 10+ 3rd basemen since.

    DePo sucks.

  51. Drop your season tickets, it’s the only way to get someones attention… Someone from the league office please step in

  52. jkautz11 says:
    Jan 5, 2016 12:14 PM

    Not a Browns fan. But geewhiz23, I bet you’re A LOT better at running a football organization right?

    Right from your couch?

    I get where you’re coming from, but have you SEEN that organization since they “returned/expanded” to Cleveland. He couldn’t do any worse.

  53. I’m done. I’m almost 70, and too old to wait any longer.

    If I were any player drafted by the Browns, I would opt out for the CFL. Take your lumps, get some experience, and come back as a valued FA in a few years. I’m serious, every drafted kid should refuse to sign w the Browns.

    Paul Brown must be turning over in his grave.

  54. So, when do we learn what Johnny Football’s WAR is compared to Tom Brady?

    Definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Definition of Browns insanity, blow up what isn’t working before giving it a chance to work and move completely in a new, radical direction … only to achieve the same results.

  55. First question poised by Depodesta: “What are those things……..” Answered by Scheiner: “I think those are called Goal Posts….” Confirmation given by Haslam: “Yes they are….I knew I was getting smart people…..”

    I wonder what Jim Brown thinks? Haven’t seen anyone ask him about these recent moves…….

  56. Look at the last ten Super Bowl champs. What do they (yes, even the 06/07 Colts) have in common? They had great coaches, and great front offices. And (the same Colts notwithstanding) solid ownership.

    It isn’t a coincidence.

    Cleveland, sorry to say, you don’t have a great front office.

    Heck, Haslem couldn’t even scam his own Flying J customers properly. Still surprised how he got out of that as sweetly as he did.

  57. When people call the Browns ticket office how hard is it for these people to stop from breaking out laughing at the person wanting to buy season tickets. Which brings up another question, who is buying season tickets anyway for this dumpster fire?

  58. I guess Jimmy has an affinity for lots of rungs on the ladder of corporate structure. Maybe it’s worked for him before?

    Look, this visionary leader makes very little sense, particularly one with such a focus on statistical analysis. Baseball is a game of stats. Football is not. Just ask ESPN how their total QBR stat machine panned out.

    An averge hitter in MLB may get 600 at bats per season, such that every trip to the plate is a 1/1000 factor in his season batting average. That’s minutae.

    An average NFL receiver may be targeted 100 times in a season, so each play is 1% of his performance. That’s not minutae.

    Plus, strict reliance on data and statistics makes your strategy predictable which dooms you in the game of football. Coaching football is strategy, innovation, guerilla tactics and leadership.

    Managing baseball is a different animal and my guess is the model won’t transfer.

  59. Didn’t they just hire Haslam’s attorney buddy to be some top executive a day or two ago? How many cooks do they plan on cramming into this dysfunctional kitchen? And they all seemingly report directly to Haslam. The backstabbing has probably already started.

  60. This guy? A nerdy geek and an attorney. What are they doing? It is bad enough to have an owner with no football knowledge (Steve Ross of the lesser dumpster fire) But to load the FO with these types?

  61. It’s boggling how many non-fans and “fans” are lambasting this hire. He’s not the GM or coach, he’s been employed as front office personnel. After a decade plus of hiring well known and coveted “gurus” who’ve not improved the product one iota, Haslam goes outside the box and does not hire a retread or a member of the Ol’ Boys Club. Considering the team took a huge step back from the 7-9 team of last year due to Farmer’s bad moves and Pettine’s stubbornness, why not find something new.

  62. campcouch says:

    He’s not the GM or coach, he’s been employed as front office personnel.
    That’s a really good point, and one that I missed. DePodesta was hired as “Chief Strategy Officer.” Wait to see who your team hires for GM and Coach before quoting Johnny Lydon and saying there’s no future, no future, no future for you.

    The things that being said about DePodesta now sound exactly like what the good ol’ boys in baseball were saying about him way back when — before he won division titles with five different teams. The guy is not a loser.

    It’s not like you guys hired Kevin Costner as the GM and Dennis Leary as the Head Coach.

  63. Is it boggling? Haslem has done a terrible job and shown zero patience. People are really beginning to enjoy the trainwreck aspect of his tenure. Even if this is a smart hire, he comes from baseball. The jokes pretty much write themselves.

  64. I’m all for analytics but football is much much harder to model than baseball. If they start basing personnel decisions solely on numeric equations it will not end well.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.