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Roundtable Discussion: John Dorsey made the dumbest statement by a Browns GM since 'Go root for Buffalo'

The DBN staff weighs in on John Dorsey’s recent PR blitz.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Because of the tensions it sparked, I wanted to conduct a quick mini-roundtable discussion with the DBN staff weighing in on new Browns GM John Dorsey's comments yesterday about not having football players. He’s scheduled to have another interview on Bull & Fox later today, and it’ll be especially interesting to hear his follow-up on the matter. I’m sure he’ll be asked about it, considering Dustin Fox’s reaction to it:

I started things off:

Chris Pokorny: “On Thursday, in an attempt to defend Hue Jackson, John Dorsey said that 'the guys who were here before and that system did not get real [football] players.' It stirred up the Browns fandom, with some being drawn in and agreeing with him (including Browns RB Isaiah Crowell), while others called it a dumb statement.

I've often been a person who criticizes people affiliated with the Browns when they make unnecessary statements that could come back to bite you from a public relations standpoint. I’ve talked about the importance of phrasing to soften the blow while still conveying the same thing. For example, in this case, I think what Dorsey really intended to convey was that the team doesn't have enough high-impact players. If he had said high-impact players instead of real players, I think this is barely a story. But I think his words also convey a strong show of support for Jackson, and it's a way to pledge his allegiance to him so the two can work together harmoniously heading into the offseason. What are your guys' general thoughts on the matter?”

Matt Wood: “I think this was the dumbest statement a Browns GM has made since 'Go root for Buffalo.' On top of it being factually incorrect, it served no purpose other than to placate the ‘1-28!’ crowd and probably the dumbass owner we have. As I said, it's incorrect, unless you think [Kevin] Zeitler, [Jamie] Collins, [Myles] Garrett, [Jason] McCourty, [Briean] Boddy-Calhoun, [David] Njoku and others aren't ‘football’ players. I think, and this is purely a guess, that this has more to do with Sashi and company not being football lifers. This is a very tribal group and you have heard Hue mention it too, ‘a football guy.’ It sounds petty, it sounds dumb, but I absolutely think it was a major reason for the comments. There was almost a disdain from Dorsey, similar to what you heard from Hue. These guys are clueless.

Now to other aspect of it, it's a huge middle finger to the locker room. Last week, Hue said ‘I'm doing the best I can with what I have,’ which I thought was a dick move. There is no reason for it. You want to rip your team's ass? Do it in the locker room, man to man. Instead, you have a media sound bite where you pretty much pants the entire team for no reason.

I was skeptical of the Dorsey hire mainly because it all seemed so rushed (and of course that ended up being true because the Giants were interested). The Browns’ most important off-season in years is coming up and we have an incompetent coach and a moron GM. Awesome.”

Zach Miller: “I saw this story pop up yesterday and thought it was the just same old Browns-y stuff that the local beat caught. Then I saw it was the #2(!!) story on P.T.I. Not that that is by any stretch an end all be all indicator, but I was just kind of surprised.

I think the story is mostly nothing. My only concern is that these comments may be foreshadowing to Dorsey blowing up the roster. I certainly hope that’s not the case because I don’t know that I even completely agree with his comments.

You look at some of the players like [Myles] Garrett, [David] Njoku, [Jabrill] Peppers (once he’s in a natural position), [Larry] Ogunjobi, etc. just from this last draft. You can argue those guys already are, or will end up being, ‘real’ players. You could also make the argument that some of the recent players drafted won’t pan out, but Sashi and his staff’s success rate will turn out to be higher than most expected, in my opinion. That’s not even factoring in the free agent rebuild of the offensive line.

I’m of the opinion that general managers, for the most part, shouldn’t be making headlines. The most successful NFL teams’ GMs aren’t out on radio blasting old regimes. It just doesn’t work that way. I get Dorsey is on his PR-blitz since recently being hired, but it’s best to try and not make splashy statements. Ultimately, it won’t matter at all until he gets his own ‘real players.’”

Dan Lalich: “For such a simple statement I think there's a lot to unpack here. First, I think it's interesting that Dorsey mentioned the ‘system’ and not just the people. Paul DePodesta is one of the guys responsible for setting up that system, and he's actually on the same organizational level as Dorsey, reporting directly to Jimmy Haslam. So this wasn't just a shot at the previous regime, it was also a shot at an immediate coworker. I also think Dorsey is just factually incorrect here, but I'm sure other people will discuss that so I'll set it aside for now.

To me the bigger problem here is the pattern of Jackson (multiple times) and now Dorsey publicly calling their players garbage. That's not something good leaders do. I'm not sure if it made national headlines, but earlier this year, new UT coach Tom Herman said something like he couldn't just ‘sprinkle fairy dust’ on the team and make them better. He rightly got blasted for it, and this feels very similar. Whether or not the statement is true is basically irrelevant. It's just kind of classless to say something like that in the media. And this isn't just a PR thing, it might actually make it harder to attract players here. Apparently agents are already saying behind the scenes that they will steer their clients away from this environment, which looks pretty toxic. But I think what is most troubling about this is that it confirms a lot of the rumors about why Dorsey was fired. It was strange that a guy who seemed to be doing a decent job was let go, but people were saying he was hard to work with (read as: he's kind of an ass) and often changed the plan everyone had agreed on at the last minute. That's not a good long term strategy for running a football team.

There's a lot more I could say about Dorsey but I want to take a second to talk about Crowell too. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was just clumsily trying to get across that the team knows they aren't playing well. But I really don't think he thought that through. He just said roughly half of his teammates weren't ‘real players.’ Obviously an NFL locker room is a very different environment, but if one of my high school teammates had said that in the Chagrin Valley Times I don't think they would have been welcome in the locker room the next day. There's a big difference between ‘we know we aren't meeting expectations’ and ‘these guys suck,’ and I think Crowell needs to know that.”

Josh Finney: “This is so incredibly spot-on from Matt and Dan that I’m going to co-sign on the entire statements. I don’t care if it’s factually accurate (it’s not) to say that there’s a talent deficit; you’re unnecessarily taking pot shots at your entire scouting/player development staff, at the players in the building, and putting the entire league on notice that the frat boy good ole’ network is back in charge in Berea. It’s incredibly discouraging, and completely unprofessional.

There’s been an enormous pressure to discredit the Browns FO as ‘non-football guys’ to make sure everyone doing traditional scouting (from traditional backgrounds) doesn’t have their cheese moved, so to speak. This is a triumph of that nonsense.

John Dorsey came off as a total prick yesterday, and I’m disgusted by him and Hue.

As much as I love arguing with Matt, we’re a hive mind on this. Find us in March when the great Rosen/Mayfield debate rages on.”

Joe Ginley: “I really want to give John Dorsey the benefit of the doubt. He did solid work in Kansas City, acquired some good players in the first rounds of the draft, and seemed like a good choice to fill Sashi's spot (even though I strongly believe Sashi should still be in charge).

However, Dorsey's comments are inexcusable.

The Browns' #1 problem in recent years is an inability to find a franchise quarterback. The Browns have failed famously and titanically in this area. Dorsey will not last if he also fails to land ‘The One.’ But just almost as big of a problem in Cleveland is holding onto talent.

How many talented players have the Browns lost over the last 5-10 years due to constant losing and dysfunction? Time after time, a new GM or coach comes in needing his own guys, changing the scheme to fit his talents rather than to fit the talents of the players already in place. As a result of the constant roster churn, the Browns have lost a host of talented players to free agency. These players might have fit the scheme, but were simply fed up and ready to leave Cleveland, no matter how much the Browns offered. Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz, Travis Benjamin, Tashaun Gipson, Aytba Rubin, Jabaal Sheard, Buster Skrine, etc.

One of the Browns' biggest problems is an inability to hang onto talented starters and role players. This inability to hold onto starters in free agency forces the Browns to spend draft capital to replace these players. Shon Coleman is great at RT, but it took a 3rd round pick to acquire him to replace Schwartz. The Browns drafted 4 WR in part to replace Benjamin in 2016.

If you're a current young player on this roster, how does Dorsey's comment make you feel? If you're Brian Boddy-Calhoun, set to be an RFA this spring, do you want to sign with the Browns? If you're Danny Shelton or Duke Johnson, coming toward the end of your rookie deal, do you want to sign a contract with a man who said you're not a ‘real football player?’

Dorsey's comments, plus his comments about finding players who fit the talents of Hue Jackson, are quite concerning. Great coaches and GM's don't find players who fit their talents or their systems. Great men adapt their systems to the players around them.”

Robo Dawg: “Dorsey's comments read like a caricature of who we all fear the Browns would hire as GM in response to a failed analytics experience. The problem in this case is, most of us aren't convinced that the analytics experiment failed. It's like a rival political party took office, and this election season the LolBrownz faction won the chief executive position - now the question is, as it always has been, can he deliver on his campaign promises?

Beyond being crass, which I think most of us can withstand, Dorsey's comments belie a sense of profound ignorance regarding the team that he's inheriting. That being said, we must be charitable to what his perception must be taking over the roster of a football team whose record has produced one win in the past two seasons. If his comments reveal anything, they reveal his propensity to blame a roster built by unfamiliar means over a coach who prior to last year, had a stellar reputation. This should not be an unexpected perspective, especially as the cult of ‘analytics’ is alien to staunch "football" advocates, and it is always easier to blame the strange new concept than to accept that the known entity has been misjudged.”

rufio: “First of all, I loved "Go root for Buffalo." It was amazing. It was our GM sticking up for our team and putting a hater in their place. It showed how much he had bought in to our team and how much he wanted to win, just like us. He was sticking up for his team. I'd tell the same hater to f**k off too.

This is the complete opposite. As many have stated, this is blaming the new ideas and innovation brought about by Sashi and company because it wasn't the traditional way of doing things. The NFL is scared of new ideas, it is a good ol' boys club, and this is a prime example. As others have also noticed, this has got to be horrible for team morale. Even if you are going to gut this team in the offseason, do you not want them to play hard and help you avoid going winless this year? I can't believe the team hasn't quit yet, but this might be the thing that puts them over the top.

Blaming others is a losing attitude. It breeds a culture of losing. Having realistic expectations and understanding that one's role in the organization doesn't operate independently from the others' roles (i.e. that the coach can't do it alone) is one thing. This is completely different. If you want to go by the good ol' boy mantra of "do your job," what is Hue's job? It's to take the players he is given and go make them better, make them better together than they are alone, and put them in position to win. It's not to whine publicly. Dorsey's job is to make this roster as good as he can, and he hasn't had much opportunity to make an impact yet. Shitting on your team doesn't do anything to help improve it. And as Matt said, if you need to have those conversations with the team, tell them in the locker room face to face, don't passive-aggressively do it through the media. In addition to being weak, spineless, and loseresque, it's simply not effective.

Let's compare this quote with some from a man who is known for winning, breeding a winning culture, attracting talented players with winning attitudes, developing them not only as players but as men, and sending them to the next level (and attracting and developing coaches as well along the way). Let's compare these attitudes against a man who is a multiple-time national champion and known as one of the best in the world at what he does. I am talking about none other than Urban F. Meyer. After Tom Herman and Will Muschamp made comments to the media with similar losing attitudes (blaming their rosters, blaming their players through the media, blaming the coaches that came before them), here is what Urban had to say:

It's like a new generation of excuse. [Herman] said, 'I can't rub pixie dust on this thing.' He got a dose of reality. Maryland just scored 51 points on you. [...] Players read that [...]That's like, when I got here, everybody wanted me to say Jim Tressel left the cupboard bare. If I heard any assistant coach [say that], they'd be gone. You're done. Those are your players. I hear TV guys [say], 'Wait until they get their own players in there.' They're our players. What do you mean 'their players?' The minute you sign a contract, they're your players. You didn't choose me, I chose you. You're mine, absolutely. I love you, and I'm going to kick the shit out of you, and we're going to do it right …[Blaming players] drives me insane.

That's a man who knows how to win.

When a rogue cameraman injured JT Barrett before The Game this year, Urban was in no way directly involved. He wasn't the cameraman, he didn't physically contact JT Barrett or cause the injury. But what did he say in the post game presser?

I’m just so upset with myself [...] I'm so angry right now I have to move on, that I let that happen

It would be easy to be upset with the cameraman, or with the stadium or the other team for their role in the crowded sideline. And Urban probably was. But publicly at least, he was angry with himself. He knows that everything that happens is his responsibility and he is going to the extreme to find a way that he can get out in front of this kind of problem the next time. When his coaches and players see that, when he truly stands up for that and believes in it, that attitude permeates throughout the organization. And when others adopt that attitude they start working harder and looking for ways that they can be leaders and take responsibility and improve and help those around them improve. And it breeds a culture of success and winning.

What kind of culture do we have in Berea today?

Because we all seem to be on one side of this issue, let me try to get into a more interesting discussion:

Ignoring that this was said in public to reporters and the way it was said, is there a deeper point to what Dorsey is trying to say that is valid? Can we suss out that point in a more nuanced way?

Typically when someone is using the term ‘fooball player’ (usually with some sort of emphasis on "foot" or "ball"; "this guy is just a football player" or a "football player") they are talking about one of two things:

  • A white guy who doesn't seem exceptionally athletic but performs at a high level or
  • A player who may or may not be athletic, but has a high level of skill. Be it having good footwork as a defensive back, using one's hands well as a pass rusher, having a good stance and pass set as a blocker, good hands as a receiver, or something else, it's a guy with great skills and not necessarily the top athlete in the game. Potentially it's a guy who has great strength and physicality to his game.

Ignoring the first of those options as something announcers awkwardly say because they have to continuously keep talking and have run out of things to say, is the second one something that you could say about this team? Do you all agree with that assessment? Would going after less athletic players with a higher level of skill be a good tradeoff for us?”

Dan Lalich: “I could go either way on that. I think too much has been made over the team picking ‘athletes’ instead of ‘football players.’ Yeah, they picked some guys like Njoku or Ricardo Louis or Jabrill Peppers. But they also picked Rashard Higgins and Carl Nassib and a slew of other guys who fit the ‘high skill/less athletic’ profile. Generally speaking, I think in the first two or three rounds of the draft you can find guys who are both good athletes and good football players. Later in the draft, any highly skilled players are likely only still around because their lack of athleticism really is limiting. So I guess later on I would prefer better athletes. This brings us back around to Sashi though. Njoku and Peppers were first round picks, and I think it's awfully dangerous to take guys like that with premium picks. Optimistically, I hope Dorsey steers those earlier picks toward guys with football skills.”

Feel free to weigh in some more in the comments section, DBN faithful! We might have some other staff members check in to the roundtable later on, and if they do, I will update this post with their thoughts on the matter.