BEREA, Ohio -- In the hours following the conclusion of the 2015 season, the Cleveland Browns dismissed coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer, who combined to post a 10-22 record and won just three of their last 21 games after a 7-4 start and first-place standing in the AFC North Division in late November of 2014.
In the same press conference confirming the firings, owner Jimmy Haslam announced the promotion of former general counsel Sashi Brown to the position of executive vice president of football operations, and in the days following the move, they brought in a career baseball executive, Paul DePodesta, as the chief strategy officer and leader of the analytics department.
Despite the focus on analytics, Brown dismissed the notion that the organization needed to bring in a “football person” to oversee operations.
“We have football people here, but we’re always looking at our staff to figure out where we are, but really pleased with the job that the guys have done,” Brown said.
“Again, if you look at the players we have selected and how early they’re performing and performing well, then I think you can see that this group can evaluate, and will continue to do that coming up in the next draft.”
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Since Brown took control of the 53-man roster on January 3, 2016, the Browns have gone 1-23 with a 14-game losing streak to start the 2016 season, and an 0-8 run through the first half of 2017 after a 33-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham Stadium in London on October 29.
Brown and Co. have turned over the roster by more than 80 percent since taking office, and built a team with 46 of the 53 players having three or less years of NFL experience.
“There’s certainly teams that are out there that are turning it around,” Brown said. “We are going to be one of those teams. We’re confident in what we’re going to do moving forward, but these things will always be second-guessed until we win and we understand that and we certainly have high expectation for ourselves and we’re not going to sit here and cry for ourselves, and no one’s crying for us. This is football.”
Over the last two years, the Browns have traded out of their spots in the first round of the NFL Draft in order to attain more selections.
By trading the No. 2 pick to Philadelphia in 2016, the Browns passed on the chance to select Carson Wentz, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound quarterback whom DePodesta felt that despite being a two-year starter for National Championship teams at North Dakota State, did not have the potential to be a top-20 NFL quarterback.
In 24 career NFL games, Wentz has completed 555 of his 898 attempts (61.8 percent) for 6,044 yards and 39 touchdowns against 19 interceptions. Through the first nine games of the 2017 season, Wentz has the Eagles off to an NFL-best 8-1 start and in first place in the NFC East Division.
Wentz has completed 176 passes for 2,262 yards and 23 touchdowns against five interceptions this season, and is considered a potential MVP candidate.
During the 2017 NFL Draft, the Browns traded the No. 12 pick to the Houston Texans, who spent it on former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, a National Championship winner in his own right.
Prior to tearing the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his right knee during practice last week, Watson completed 126 of his 204 attempts for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions to go along with two rushing scores.
“In all honesty, we’ve got good processes in terms of background on these guys, good systems in place in terms of evaluating and touch points all over the place,” Brown said. “We will get it right. It doesn’t mean we’re going to get every, single one right, but we’re confident of where we’re heading and the group that we have here in place.”