As Eliot Wolf leaves the Browns, Ron Wolf blasts “out of control” analytics

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The Browns and assistant general manager Eliot Wolf parted ways today, and in related news, Wolf’s father had some harsh criticism for the Browns’ analytics-heavy approach to building their team.

Ron Wolf, the Hall of Fame former General Manager of the Packers, told Chris Mortensen of ESPN that he disdains the way analytics have affected both football and baseball. Wolf said the Browns and other teams that embrace analytics are “out of control.”

“When something goes wrong, who takes responsibility?” Wolf said. “Their answer: ‘Well, that’s what the data told us.’ What a crock. That’s what got ’em 1-31.”

Ron Wolf certainly has an old-school approach to the game, and it served him well during his tenure in the NFL, which spanned most of the second half of the 20th Century. But in the 21st Century, analytics are an increasingly important part of the NFL. The Browns’ failures don’t negate that.

75 responses to “As Eliot Wolf leaves the Browns, Ron Wolf blasts “out of control” analytics

  1. Nothing like hearing the rantings of an out of touch old man. Sounds like Mr Wolf should consider a sending career in politics. Then he can tell us more about how it was back in “his” day.

  2. There’s a Social Hysteria over Big Data but often makes people focus on minor details to a point where the Big Picture is completely lost.

  3. Old man hates analytics while exercising nepotism to get his son into the business? I, for one, am shocked

  4. Eliot Wolf was a bright guy for the Packers who was just a little too young for GM/Head of Football Operations role at the time, and obviously Gutekunst has been a fantastic selection for GB and helping orchestrate their turnaround. Now he’s lost the battle again, only to analytics. Can Eliot Wolf find greener pastures on his 3rd crack??

  5. “But in the 21st Century, analytics are an increasingly important part of the NFL. The Browns’ failures don’t negate that.”

    And analytics surely don’t explain it either. Dumb picks and decisions and an owner who has not hired the right people. There. No analytics about that.

  6. Some analytics in football is okay but when you heavily depend on it to be the focal point of all your football decisions then you’re destined for failure. Case in point the Cleveland Browns

  7. I work for a large corporation that has always been statistic heavy in its decision making. And there is some success that comes from it. But what is now being identified is there is also a plateau that comes with it. In a world of people numbers will only get you so far. Then to achieve true excellence a focus on people is required to push success.
    That is what you hear when players talk about the great teams that are always successful. Culture, good locker rooms, etc.
    It’s not Madden. People arent a formula.

  8. He’s right. Numbers can guide your gut/eyes/IQ and it can reinforce those same things as well. But ultimately sports are played by humans. They are unpredictable no matter how many variables you are able to fit into an equation. I wouldn’t let analytics make any decision solely by themselves and I probably wouldn’t make a decision without referencing analytics either. It’s the balance and mindset to not let any one method or way of doing things become your dogma.

  9. Analytics has it’s place and it’s value but the be all end all is a big mistake, especially in football which is a much more emotion driven sport than baseball.

  10. Until someone figures out how to quantify the moron factor, which seems to run rampant with some owners and GMs, into the analytics that works the analytics at best will be misguided but should count on being blatantly wrong most of the time. The Browns are the prime example.

  11. NFL has always used analytics. Kicker that only makes 50% of his kicks gets cut. Receiver that drops 3 out of 10 passes without 4.3 speed does not go in the first round. Another buzz word for looser teams to express effort toward a turnaround.

  12. Analytics won’t tell you what to do if your right tackle keeps getting beat by the DE.

    Analytics does not take into consideration every factor that matters.

    Not a complete waste of time, but not the best use of time either.

  13. If the Browns trade down from pick #10, then chances are they still can’t properly evaluate talent and will take the analytical (easy) way out of grabbing an extra pick that they’ll blow again later.

  14. What that tells you is that apparently multiple personnel types like Eliot Wolf are getting consistently overruled by Moneyball. and George Paton was likely told that Moneyball is going to have some kind of power or ability to overrule him as well. After all, why would you do 2 interviews only to pull out, unless you found out something u didn’t like. and based on Ron Wolf’s frustration that is likely their reliance on a baseball analytics guy. I think the extent of analytics should be PFF, don’t listen to baseball people…

  15. Thank you Cleveland for still being Cleveland. Analytics show you have been the same forever. Is it me or does anyone else sincerely feel sorry for Browns (and Lion’s) fans? How truly inept can you be? DePodesta was in the front office of the Indian, A’s, Mets,Dodgers and Browns using his amazing cutting edge analytical data. Due to this those teams racked up massive amounts of championships I suppose.

  16. Analytics is one’s interpretation, assessment and philosophy of data presented. It really depends upon how much one values and trusts of another’s analytical skills.

  17. Ron Wolf might be an old tired guy and protecting his kid but he is also correct. There is a place for analytics in football; however unlike baseball football is a team sport. Football requires systems and players moving together. Baseball is pitcher versus hitter and moving your defense. You still need the football guys which the Browns are throwing out.

  18. I like the old fashioned “gut feel” approach. Analylitcs don’t can’t measure a players attitude or heart…..

  19. PeDodesta and his anaylics all put into an algorithm spell a few things for the Browns.
    No Super Bowl, a continued decade long rebuild, high draft picks, and the short life on any coach that steps foot on Brown soil.

  20. Can’t make decisions solely on analytics. They don’t tell you the full story and in football they tell you even less. Football is still about lining up and winning your match ups. If you can’t do that no number crunching can help.

  21. I would like to see a computer model that projects how much longer the dumpster fire will burn.

  22. Ron Wolf certainly has an old-school approach to the game

    He was far better at his job than most. Today or yesterday.

  23. Analytics told the coach’s to bench good players after coming off an injury and slowly work them in. Browns fans are livid that Higgins and Njoko were consistently healthy scratches. Analytics are valuable but common sense has to prevail. Get you best players on the field if and when they are cleared to play.

  24. I wonder what analytics would say about the success of teams that rely heavily on analytics?

  25. bluecat013 says:
    January 29, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    The Browns wanted Wolf to stay, but he decided to leave on his own.


    Most likely they want him to stay but it would have been with less authority. As a result, he is free to leave – even with a contract.

  26. NFL has always used analytics. Kicker that only makes 50% of his kicks gets cut

    That’s analytics In it’s most simplistic form. You don’t need an analytics dept to determine whether a 60% kicker gets fired. That’s basic management 101

  27. There is no nice way to describe the Browns owners, Jimmy and Dee Haslam..
    Under Jimmy Haslam’s 8 yrs as the owner, the Browns have 33 wins-94 losses-1 T

    In 2016/2017, Paul Depodesta was in charge of the “team strategy”, aka “Moneyball”…the Browns had 1 win 31 losses.

    A wise NFL coach once said to his team..”you are what your record says you are”
    Those responsible for running the Cleveland Browns are what their record says they are… “losers”.

  28. Analytics don’t work as well in the NFL as the NBA and MLB because the sample size for the season is so much smaller. There is so much more room for variance. In the MLB, a good team can start 4-10 and have time to rebound. If you start 4-10 in the NFL you’re never going to make it no matter how good you are.

  29. The Browns analytics department is solely dependent on a 100 year old abacas and a broken compass…….they should really invest

  30. If anyone says that the NFL uses analytics then they are lying to you. In an offensive era, teams are still putting PRs back to muff punts/fumble the ball away. PRs are absolutely useless in an era that relies on ball control/having the ball to score and not pissing it away.

  31. Most folks responding to this article probably have no idea about data analytics & likely have never been exposed to it. Analytics is only a tool that uses a lot of data from various situations to help predict an outcome for a specific type of situation. This tool is always used along with common sense & gut feel by the person using it. Analytics is used in almost all industries & several sports & does have a place in football as well.

  32. Analytics are changing sports. In football I think it helps mostly with game plan and play calling rather than player selection like baseball. The team that figures out how to marry analytics with old school talent evaluation will be ahead of the curve. Also, Ron Wolf is just sour because his son got fired.

  33. Analytics are only one part of the equation – so if any team lets that be the whole reason for running their team – from selection down to play calling then you can call them the Browns. You need a QB who is tall and if it comes to drafting a new tall guy and rejecting a Brees type of talent – then go with the analytics – NOT. The same as a 2 point conversion and when to go or not – fact in the analytics but great coaches go with their gut. Small guys like Hill Sproles have gone against analytics because will and talent overule the average.

  34. There isn’t one approach to analytics. What we should be doing is scenario based statistical modeling and sensitivity analysis. There are 50 different ways I can model a comparison of passing versus running for a 1st down on 4th and 3. At the broadest level, the outcome can be misleading, hiding the importance of many variables.

    I would perform a principal component factor analysis on scenario-specific data from the Elias Sports Bureau. This would help me identify the important variables. Multiple regression would also help quantify the relative contribution of each variable to the outcome.

  35. What is the chance THIS PLAY GETS 8 YARDS. THIS PLAY IS 100% WILL, OR 100% WON’T. NEXT GEN STATS ARE A FRAUD. The chance Aaron Rodgers will complete a 35 yard out on 3 and 22 playing the Redskins is not the same if it is Dwayne Haskins completing a 35 yard out on 3 and 22 against the Packers…Stats have a place but they have to be considered with variables, and that comes with human knowledge and experience. And they are a universal, but on that play is 100% or 0%, as you can’t be 38.7% successful on one play.

  36. I do agree it is much more salient in Baseball as stats are more meaningful over a long period of time..and over 162 games they will prove true, but in the NFL 4 or 5 plays per game in a 16 game season is the difference between 12 and 4 and 6 and 10.

  37. Packer fans are forever in debt to Ron Wolf.
    Something to say for good scouting, efficiency, putting together solid staffs, having vision, being bold, and making good choice.
    If analytics can you help with the above, go for it… is not a substitute as a lot of teams find out

  38. Analytics are an important tool every team should embrace. With that said they can’t make up for bad leadership, a losing culture, lack of motivation and awful decision making. The best analytics in the world won’t help a mismanaged team of mediocre players. Like any tool it comes down to the person (or people) utilizing them.

  39. Back in 2016, the analytics-minded front office for the Browns wanted to hire Sean McDermott as the team’s head coach, but owner Jimmy Haslem ultimately intervened to bring in Hue Jackson instead. The results speak for themselves. McDermott has taken the Bills to the postseason twice in his three seasons as head coach in Buffalo, with an overall record of 25-23; Jackson went 3-36-1 in his two-and-a-half seasons with the Browns.

  40. Bet Ron Wolf wouldn’t keep a QB who completed 32% of his passes or a RB that averaged .5 yards a carry. Folks have been crunching numbers since American football began. Or maybe junior is unemployed and will be laying on dad’s couch all summer.

  41. Too late for baseball.
    It’s dead.
    Don’t let it happen to the NFL.
    But probably too late.

  42. Did analytics tell the Packers to draft a injured Rashan Gary at #12 in the 1st round of the 2019 draft? They propaply could have used a 1st round pick on the defense in the NFC Championship?

    Eliot Wolf is being compared to peers when considered for jobs. Maybe he does not have the correct work experience or abilities to ascend to a GM position at this time.

    Maybe Eliot Wolf should stick around and see how the analytics process is done. And learn that process too?

  43. “Nothing like hearing the rantings of an out of touch old man.“

    That old man is still wise, and the facts support his observations. Those facts are glaring: multiple losing seasons, multiple restarts (“from the ground up”), and foolish decisions and interference from an unwise and impatient owner. You can analyze that as easily as Mr. Wolf has.

  44. The “analytics” guy wanted to hire Sean McDermott in 2015. How different are the Browns if THAT happened?

    The “analytics” guy wanted Stefanski in 2018 instead of Kitchens. How did Freddie work out?

    The new GM is a more a football guy than an analytics guy.

    This sounds like sour grapes from a guy who has seen the game pass him by and whose son was passed by as well.

  45. There is absolutely nothing wrong with analytics. They can be very helpful if used correctly. Now, if you have the wrong people in control and/or they do not make use of the correct analytics, that is when it doesn’t work on the field. But, to say they are out of control, or even to blame analytics alone if something doesn’t work, both of those are short sighted.

  46. C’mon, Ron!

    How many crap organizations have you seen in your lifetime?

    Haslam runs one of them.

    Your son will land on his feet. The Browns will keep losing. Nothing to see here.

  47. I get where Ron is coming from. Analytics definitely have their place, but can be overused too. If I were Eliot, I’d be happy to be out of that mess.

  48. I do believe that analytics has a place as a piece to the puzzle, but please remind me who that relies solely on analytics has won anything recently, or for that matter ever!?

  49. I think the problem with analytics is that front-offices can take a catch-all approach to them. Situation ABC might call for a certain play or type of play to be run because of the odds from all these decades of data. But in the moment you have a specific set of players with specific skills on your team. Not some general amalgamation. If the data calls for you to run some sort of play type but your team isn’t great at it..why would you over-ride common sense for ‘analytics’? Unfortunately too many teams (like the Browns) do this.

  50. The guy who built the team that lost its first 26 games in 1976-77 would certainly know what qualifies a team to go 1-31.

  51. Eliot’s greatest asset is also his largest obstacle – his last name. For the malcontents that are commenting about Ron Wolf being out of touch, they simply don’t understand how excellent he was as player selection and risk taking in conjunction with or in spite of numbers. There are intangibles. He gave up a lot to get a QB that Jerry Glanville thought was a sideshow freak. He hired Holmgren, brought in Reggie White and a lot more. His induction into the Hall of Fame says it all.
    Eliot is well respected in his own right as a hard working, intelligent chess player in evaluating talent. His time should come at some point to be given a crack at GM. W It was clear when Gutey got the Packers gig that Eliot would move along and, of course, Dorsey scooped him up. I’m surprised it took this long after Dorsey was removed.
    It will be interesting to see if with Cobb and McCarthy in Dallas, if there is a place for Eliot to fit in for a year or two if not more. Jerry has the money and I’m sure McCarthy would like the company of a trusted friend.

  52. Jimmy Haslam said he was going to get experience NFL people to run the Browns instead all the experience NFL people John Dorsey, Elliot Wolf, Alonzo Highsmith are gone and Jimmy has the people that were responsible for the one in Thirty-One record running and drafting for the team

  53. Jimmy Haslam said he was going to get experience NFL people to run the Browns instead all the experience NFL people John Dorsey, Elliot Wolf, Alonzo Highsmith are gone and Jimmy has the people that were responsible for the one in Thirty-One record running and drafting for the team

    Who would have ever thought that hasn’t can make art look like a genius

  54. To quote Einstein, and I am a pioneer in sports analytics and one of the fathers of Moneyball, “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”

  55. Analytics is one of many many tools available to a team. It has a time and place but relying on one tool to make all decisions is like using nothing but a hammer to work on your car. Probably not a good idea.

  56. Analytics has been used by bookmakers and race handicappers for decades, with increasing dependence on technology. But analytics are simply the results of statistical analysis. Statistics don’t determine the the outcome of games (or seasons), they simply point to likely outcomes without considering uncontrollable variables.

    The games are played and coached by inconsistent people, in inconsistent weather, and affected by inconsistent referees. The performance of people is unpredictable from game
    to game and season to season – their tendencies can be factored in, but again, it’s people.

    If football games were played in computer memory, analytics would be awesome. Thankfully, they are played by men on grass/turf, and that’s what makes them interesting. IMO, analytics are simply a tool that can’t be used for much more than planning for individual games and measuring weaknesses based on past performance and individual tendencies.

  57. Well, as some seem to suggest, MAYBE “old man Wolf’ could be out of touch with modern times, but considering he was one of a very few people on this planet that ever had the ear of Al Davis, I’d bet on Wolf.
    He helped build the Raiders success in the 70’s and 80’s, took Tampa Bay from the bottom to a Super Bowl contender in 4 years, and resurrected the Green Bay Packers.
    The man knows football!

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