The guy portrayed by Jonah Hill in Moneyball has spent four years with the Browns, occupying a big title while never actually relocating to Cleveland. So what does chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta actually do?
“My kids ask me the same question because they want to tell people at school,” DePodesta told reporters on Tuesday at the press conference that introduced the team’s latest new coach, Kevin Stefanski. “What is it that you actually do? Look, Kevin talked a lot today about a shared vision. I think my role really first and foremost, is to not only help us create but also implement that shared vision and then ultimately make sure that we stick to it, really relentlessly and that is really my role. I look at all the processes that are within a football operation. Whether that, again, whether that is hiring someone, whether that is how we do scouting, whether it is how we look at things with numbers. I sort of dig into all those processes and make sure that they align with our vision and that we all as a group continue to stay aligned and be on the same page as Kevin said.”
It hasn’t really worked so far, in part because DePodesta in the past has lost plenty of battles with traditional football types who weren’t ultimately on the same page with the former baseball wunderkind. However, given that Sashi Brown and John Dorsey are long gone, DePodesta has won the wars, even without living in the locale of the primary battleground.
“I have seen a report that I live in San Diego,” DePodesta said. “I think my wife and kids would take issue with that characterization. Look, I have been here every week since the beginning of training camp. Ten years ago, when my wife and I first moved to San Diego, we have a large extended family in San Diego. That is incredibly helpful and incredibly supportive. These jobs, this industry is tough and we decided that at that time, that we wanted our kids to be able to grow up in that environment. If it meant that I would have to take on the burden of travel to do my job, then that is what I was going to do. This was before I even went to the New York Mets and that is the way I did that job for five years and now I have continued on with Cleveland. Look, I do not think — it has not been an issue. Like I said, I am here every single week and we get our work done.”
There were rumors during the season that DePodesta could have gotten a promotion in Cleveland, but that he ultimately opted not to move there. Regardless of whether the rumor was true, DePodesta continues to have major influence with the Browns, despite not being there on a full-time basis.
Full-time or part-time, DePodesta remains a major player in Cleveland’s NFL franchise.
“I expect to be here,” DePodesta said when asked about his contract. The fact that he has survived as long as he has with an owner who has soured on every other key employee within three or fewer years of hiring them says something about DePodesta’s staying power. That staying power will be tested now that he has finally gotten the man he wanted to be the coach last year, when Dorsey got his way on hiring Freddie Kitchens.
If it all works, that will be great for Cleveland and for the Browns. If it doesn’t work, DePodesta may end up looking for work with another NFL team. Or he can go back to baseball. Or, I suppose, he could give basketball or hockey a whirl.