CLEVELAND — When it was reported Sunday that the Cleveland Browns intended to hire Kevin Stefanski as their next head coach, the overwhelming opinion on social media was that chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta got the man for the job he wanted all along.
One year after passing over Stefanski for Freddie Kitchens, the Browns circled back to the long-time Minnesota Vikings assistant coach and they were confident he fits into the organizational structure, but what does that look like?
Well, according to a report from 92.3 The Fan afternoon drive co-host Dustin Fox, that structure includes heavy involvement in game plans from owner Jimmy Haslam and the analytics team, headed up by DePodesta.
“Was also told candidates also had to agree to turn in game plans to the owner and analytics department on Friday and to attend an end-of-week analytics meeting to discuss their plan,” Fox tweeted out Sunday night.
Fox’s report followed what Steve Doerschuk wrote about Stefanski for the Canton Repository.
“He made it clear he was willing to yield to certain DePodesta standards, such as an analytics person with a headset and access to the coaching staff on game days in addition to certain Haslam likes, such as hours-long, Monday-after owner-coach meetings,” Doerschuk wrote.
Those reports match what owner Jimmy Haslam said about the role of analytics in helping the Browns build into a consistent contender.
“That’s all we’re trying to do is take facts,” Haslam said in a press conference after the dismissals of Kitchens and general manager John Dorsey earlier this month. “If Baker (Mayfield) is better out of a certain formation or certain play, we’re going to try to put him in position where he can be successful. That’s all analytics is. It’s using data to help you make better decisions.”
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 Dorsey’s hiring.
Although the Browns did not have much success, either in talent acquisition or on the football field, during DePodesta’s first two years, he remains an integral part of the front office, and seemingly, will have plenty of say in what happens on game day.
“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.”