CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns are entrusting their latest coaching search to chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, the team’s analytics guru who has been tasked with putting together thorough reports on players since joining the front office in January of 2016.
But while the Browns have him leading the search committee for the fifth coach under the ownership of the Haslam family since January of 2013, DePodesta’s role with the team will not evolve into one of making the personnel decisions.
“Paul’s job will stay exactly the same as it is now,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said in a press conference at team headquarters in Berea Thursday. “He’s in charge of strategy, reports to ownership. Nothing will change. He’ll do everything he can to support the GM and the head coach.”
Despite a lack of experience in the National Football League, DePodesta was hired by the Haslams shortly after the conclusion of the 2015 season, and along with executive vice president Sashi Brown, instituted an analytics-based model for building the organization.
In DePodesta’s first two seasons with the franchise, the Browns went 1-31, including the second-ever 0-16 slate in NFL history. Brown was dismissed with four games remaining in the 2017 regular-season, but DePodesta was retained by ownership even after John Dorsey’s hiring as a general manager.
The Browns traded the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to the Philadelphia Eagles, who spent it on quarterback Carson Wentz, and later, Cleveland selected wide receiver Corey Coleman with a mid-first-round pick. Coleman is no longer with the organization.
“Paul is a very smart individual, very strategic, very disciplined in his decision-making process,” Haslam said. “He’s been a good thought partner for us.”
Before joining the Browns’ front office, DePodesta spent nearly 20 years in baseball.
As the New York Mets’ vice president of player development and scouting for parts of five seasons (2011-2015), DePodesta helped build a National League Championship-winning team in 2015 after the franchise went through six straight years of losing.
Prior to his stint with the Mets, DePodesta worked as the special assistant for Baseball Operations with the San Diego Padres (2006-2008) before being elevated to executive vice president in 2008.
In February of 2004, DePodesta was named general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, becoming the fifth-youngest GM in Major League Baseball history.
DePodesta got his start in professional sports with the Cleveland Indians as an advanced scout and was part of the front office during the team’s run to the 1997 American League Championship. Later, DePodesta joined the Oakland Athletics in 1999, where he became known for his use of sabermetrics and advanced analytics when seeking free agents and draft prospects.
Oakland’s use of sabermetrics was chronicled in Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball, which later became a major motion picture.
In his time with the Dodgers, Padres and Mets, DePodesta had just four winning seasons over a 12-year stretch, but while his work did not yield a World Series Championship in baseball, the Browns are confident his advanced data analysis will yield positive results in the team’s latest search for a head coach and general manager.
“We think Paul is really good at this type of position,” Haslam said. “When you think about it, really all he’s done his whole life is -- or his whole adult life I should say -- is gather data to make good decisions, so we think he’s ideally suited to lead this process.”