CLEVELAND — Andrew Berry's return to Berea as the Cleveland Browns new GM prompted the front office departures of Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf, widely lauded just a year ago for their football smarts and experience.
The next NFL running back to reverse field as spectacularly as the Browns do every few years will easily set the single season rushing record and might well make Jim Brown in his prime look more like Trent Richardson.
Not long after the latest moves, Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf said analytics-driven organizations in the NFL are “out of control.”
“When something goes wrong, who takes responsibility?” Wolf said, via ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. "Their answer: `Well, that's what the data told us.' What a crock. That's what got 'em 1-31."
Wolf’s take is worth examining away from his displeasure over his son being out of a job. It’s also worth noting that at age 81, he operated organizations one way his entire career.
But those two elements are just context. They’re not reason to dismiss his opinion.
The Browns were in fact slow to assess blame and enforce accountability during the 1-31 stretch. How else to explain how Hue Jackson got a third year?
The extensive analytics-driven roster tear down and rebuild was a mitigating factor for the Haslams, coloring their assessment of Jackson’s tenure. The rest was the Haslams letting Jackson snow them.
Kevin Stefanski inherits a much more talented roster. Unless Paul DePodesta and Berry convince ownership another major roster correction is necessary and draft pick accumulation follows, winning now (or at least soon) is the expectation. Just as it is in other analytics-driven organizations across the NFL.
The Browns have the head coach DePodesta wanted a year ago. Haslam has sided (for now) with DePodesta a year after putting his trust in experienced “football men.”
If it doesn’t work, all fingers point toward that decision to revamp the front office and ultimately toward DePodesta.
I understand Ron Wolf’s point only to an extent. I mean, when has Jimmy Haslam ever run out of people to blame?
- Highsmith had little interest in working with DePodesta. So his departure didn’t surprise me. Wolf looked like a better fit, but attrition is a common byproduct of change.
And if the Browns end up regretting his departure, it won’t be the first time they let one get away.
But enough about Kyle Shanahan.
- Can we all agree on one thing? You can pit front offices against each other all you want — Sashi Brown vs. John Dorsey two years ago, Dorsey vs. DePodesta this time around — but those arguments only let Haslam off the hook.
Both groups might well have succeeded given time. This isn’t a football vs. analytics problem that keeps sabotaging the Browns. It’s an ownership problem.
- Did Dorsey make the most of the bounty left him? Absolutely not.
Was his tenure a colossal failure?
Some of the same people making that case looked at the roster Dorsey, Highsmith and Wolf put together a year ago and picked the Browns to go 12-4, 11-5 or 10-6.
So was it a failure then, or just the way it turned out?
Seems a little too easy now to say he botched a roster that clearly underachieved.
And I say that fully agreeing that the offensive line was a Hindenburg of his own creation.
- Joe Woods, the Niners passing game coordinator/secondary coach, believes it will be a “seamless transition” when he joins Kevin Stefanski as the Browns defensive coordinator.
“Obviously I have a relationship with Kevin,” Woods said from the Super Bowl via cleveland.com. “I worked with him in Minnesota for eight years.”
That’s the word I’ve been looking for to describe these changes in Berea. Seamless.
- Woods on Stefanski:
“He’s going to tell guys the truth. He’s not going to tell guys what they want to hear. He’s going to be very honest, very straightforward with everybody. And I think everybody’s going to see that and eventually he’ll get everybody in that organization to follow him.’’
“He is a real unifier of men and people. He galvanized the offense, he put players in positions to make plays and (he) has a great vision for this organization moving forward.”
That last paragraph was John Dorsey speaking after hiring Freddie Kitchens in January 2019.
- One of these times all the glowing quotes are going to hold up. Law of averages.
- The Knicks didn’t appreciate Jae Crowder attempting a three-pointer late in a game the Grizzlies led comfortably. So push came to shove and there were ejections.
And then things got stupider.
“He plays the game a different way," Marcus Morris said of Crowder. "He's got a lot of female tendencies on the court, flopping and throwing his head back the entire game. It's a man's game and you just get tired of it.
"When you step back and shoot a 3 ... and like rub it in ... he's unprofessional. He's soft. His game is soft. He's very womanlike.”
Come here. Have a seat.
Leave women out of this. This is not anyone’s idea of inclusion.
Not wanting to be part of the kind of nonsense women have watched going back to the schoolyard makes them smart, not soft.
- Morris got the message from someone and apologized via Twitter.
Imagine what he’d have said if he didn’t have the utmost respect.
- Deion Sanders thinks an annual minimum number of entrants into the Pro Football Hall of Fame has devalued the honor.
He has a point. Unless, he’s just working up to saying there aren’t enough dual-sport athletes in the NFL Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Cooperstown, site of the Baseball Hall of Fame, for instance will welcome a class of two this year — Derek Jeter and Larry Walker.
Jeter was named on all except one ballot. Walker finally made the Hall on his 10th and final try.
Said Walker: “Remember those old 45s that we used to listen to (on the record player) and they had the (hit) song on the A side, and then the song on the B side that you really didn’t know about. I’m the B side!”
Kids, look it up.
OK, people under 50, too.
- Richard Sherman isn’t happy about being drug tested twice in a short span of time.
Maybe the NFL just thinks he’s as special as he’s always claimed to be.
- Mike Krzyzewski screamed at Duke’s student section to “shut up” after the Cameron Crazies directed a chant at Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel, a former Blue Devils player and assistant coach.
What terrible thing were they chanting?
“Jeff Capel, sit with us.”
Coach K admitted he might’ve misunderstood what the students were chanting so he apologized. Sort of.
“You shouldn't say that.... In the middle of the first half and an ACC game, this isn't some cutesy little thing," he said.
Now if Duke’s students ever find themselves on Coach K’s lawn, I think they know what he wants them to do.
- Tom Brady posted a grainy pic on Twitter of his silhouette in the tunnel, the playing field in the background.
Bradyologists studying his every possible move and the likelihood that he returns to New England for one more run at a Super Bowl have concluded this latest post could mean he is retiring from the NFL.
Or poised to resume his career.
Hope that clears things up.
- The Kansas University student senate passed a resolution calling for Monday off to allow students to recover from Super Bowl parties.
In a lighthearted (we think) attempt to cover their bases, the students asked for the school to provide barf bags around campus to help deal with hangovers.
“I hate to say this, people were vomiting in their backpacks,” student body president Tiara Floyd told the Kansas City Star about the aftermath of the Kansas City Royals World Series win in 2015. “That is a health issue.”
The No. 2 health issue, at least.
Behind getting drunk enough to vomit anywhere.
- Given the job of picking a Super Bowl winner the Cincinnati Zoo’s Fiona the Hippo appeared to nudge the Kansas City Chiefs logo but then vomited on it.
So what to do with that?
She has a success rate of 50% in picking Super Bowl winners.
Elsewhere in the zoo, the lion exhibit favored the Chiefs while the cheetahs weighed in for San Francisco.
It’s almost as if these annual animal Super Bowl picks are totally random and can’t be counted on when placing a wager.
- Speaking of unpromising Super Bowl picks, Kansas City 28, San Francisco 17.