BEREA, Ohio — Kevin Stefanski, the Browns newest head coach, said some promising stuff at his introductory press conference. Jimmy Haslam said some things, too.
I can’t tell you what.
I mean, I am able to tell you. I’m just not up for it.
You have heard most of it before.
So let’s put aside the latest talk of culture change, AFC North physicality, collaborative effort and the fact that nobody will care who gets the credit—put it over there with the obligatory reference to Jim Brown’s legend—and move on to the man behind the curtain.
Paul DePodesta, who headed up this coaching search and got his man, hadn’t been heard from much in the past few years until Tuesday afternoon.
I know what you’re thinking: "Of course, he hasn’t been heard from much. He’s been swimming with the seals in La Jolla cove."
"My wife and kids would take issue with that," DePodesta said on the topic of whether he spends too much time working remotely from home in California given that it’s his voice steering the organizational strategy. "I’ve been here every week since training camp."
Crazy that four years into it, the first question asked of DePodesta Tuesday (in a nice-ish way,) was, "What do you do?"
That it needed to be asked is on the Browns, who have been otherwise too distracted upending the organization every other year to explain themselves coherently since the initial press conference introducing DePodesta in 2016.
"My role first and foremost is to help us create [a] shared vision but also implement that shared vision and make sure we stick to it relentlessly," he said. "I look at all the processes that are within a football operation, whether that’s hiring someone, whether that’s how we do scouting, whether that’s how we look at things with numbers.
"I dig into all those processes and make sure they align with our vision and make sure we all stay on the same page."
He’s not picking players. He’s not second guessing shovel passes (though I wish he would’ve). Until now, he wasn’t picking head coaches.
Stefanski popped as a candidate during last year’s coaching search, though DePodesta said the name originally came from the football side. DePodesta wanted him. The Haslams hired Freddie Kitchens.
The story of DePodesta wanting Sean McDermott when the Haslams hired Hue Jackson is out there to be refuted but hasn’t been. In this organization, that’s enough for Haslam to have sided with his Chief of Strategy this time around. With the football people in the organization reduced to Eliott Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith (who might well be departing), why not?
DePodesta said he had a similar situation with the New York Mets for five years, as far as time spent traveling coast-to-coast. His "Moneyball" background and work with the A’s and Mets was more numbers-oriented and created the impression he’d bring that to the NFL.
He called his work with the Browns more about establishing "frameworks" to reduce the "uncertainty" that goes into evaluations, including that of players.
"People have a warped view of what analytics is," he said. "It’s not about numbers and spread sheets."
There’s nothing more warped than arguing that DePodesta’s analytics have hurt the Browns while also arguing he should spend more time in Berea. If you believe that, you should want him here less.
DePodesta has been more victimized by change than responsible for it, thanks to the Haslams. Of that change, he said Tuesday there’s "a heavy price to pay."
It’s no wonder DePodesta said the Browns "demystified" analytics (and I assume his role) for all the coaching candidates. Even in the NFL, the Browns approach over the last four years has raised more questions than it’s answered.
Now comes another head coaching change and a GM to follow.
Who knows if any of this will work any better?
What’s clearer than the role DePodesta described Tuesday and the vision he referenced is the added accountability he’ll now shoulder in an organization that can’t seem to get things right.
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