BEREA, Ohio -- For as long as there have been stopwatches to time 40-yard dashes and the NFL Scouting Combine to test other measurables, numbers have had an important place in the game of football.
And with the hiring of Paul DePodesta as Chief Strategy Officer, the Cleveland Browns have embraced the use of analytics in order to help turn around the fortunes of a franchise that went 3-13 in 2015 and lost 18 of their last 21 games overall.
“To me, it’s not really about numbers or algorithms,” DePodesta said at his introductory press conference Thursday. “For me, it’s really just about a mindset and the mindset is about trying to use information to make better decisions, especially in the face of uncertainty, which is what all of these professionals sports are really about.
“This is something that’s been around in football forever. When we time players in the 40-yard dash or we test them in other things at the combine to help us make a better decision in the draft, that’s analytics. When you’re deciding what play to call on third-and-nine based on what the other defense does, what your capabilities are, you’re using analytics to make that decision. I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s truly novel, but we’re certainly going to be seeking out, not only information but better information to help us make better decisions in all phases, whether it’s with personnel, whether its player development, the draft, etc.”
According to Sashi Brown, the man charged with having final control over the 53-man roster in his role as the Browns’ new Executive Vice President of Football Operations, the analytics will be used in concert with traditional scouting methods in order to get the most of the pre-draft process.
“Across the organization, we want to turn over and create every competitive advantage we can,” Brown said. “(Owner) Jimmy (Haslam) talks about turning over every rock. Certainly, we want every piece of information we can as we make our decisions moving forward whether its personnel or as Paul said, in other areas of the organization. We view it as very additive to what we do, it won’t be dictating our personnel decisions, but hopefully, informing them.”
The Browns’ hope is that the use of analytics will give them an opportunity to find a competitive advantage and are able to exploit them on the field come the regular season.
“My job is really to help us create and implement those processes that we think are going to give us a sustainable advantage over time,” DePodesta said. “Has my approach changed? Or will it change from sport to sport? In that sense, no, because that’s what I’ve always done is try to create those systems or those processes that create a sustainable advantage.”
Brown added, “We felt like where we’re heading in our vision, which is to return the Browns to a championship organization.
“Over the course of the first two weeks, three weeks that he’s been here, he’s certainly proven that he’s capable to do that and will provide us great value moving forward. His role is, we don’t see Paul in terms of being limited to analytics. We see his ability to build championship ball clubs, put strategies and processes in place and build a Browns system that can drive us towards winning, and ultimately, championships is his real strength.”
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