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Paul DePodesta talks Browns in lead story of Peter King’s MMQB

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The lead story in today’s MMQB by Peter King focuses exclusively on Cleveland Browns’ Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta. Everyone should check it out for themselves, but be sure to set aside ten minutes to digest it. Here is a cliff notes version of some things that stood out:

  • The story was based on 40 minutes that King spent with DePodesta as the league meetings last week. Afterward, King said, “I don’t doubt his import to the organization and to the cause of rescuing the Browns from a life of awfulness...but I still have no idea what he does.” And DePodesta would rather have it that way, because it helps preserve a competitive advantage they are trying to develop.
  • Reading between the lines, DePodesta’s primary role is to evaluate all of the team’s processes. That includes a wide range of things such, per DePodesta:

“[It includes] how we evaluate players, process for how we make decisions, process even for how we hire people internally, process for how we go about integrating our scouting reports with guys watching tape in the office.”

There is a status quo when it comes to how many NFL processes are done league-wide. DePodesta said that he believes the fact that he was naive to how things worked in the NFL is one of the reasons he was hired, because he has“no preconceived notions about how things ought to be done or how they have been done in the past” and “can look at it with a fresh set of eyes.”

  • I get what he’s talking about, and it’s somewhat of lean operations management, which means you analyze the current process, and find ways to cut out waste while either preserving or improving quality. In the end, he isn’t actually evaluating talent or telling coaches which players need to stay or go. He’s trying to come up with an improved or innovative way of making everyone elses lives easier and more efficient.
  • Comparisons were drawn to Jimmy Johnson with respect to how Cleveland is accumulating a lot of draft picks. DePodesta would only say that he is a big admirer or Johnson’s work, and King followed up with the former Cowboys coach as part of the story. From Johnson:

“Here’s the danger of having so many picks: You think, ‘We’ve got so many picks, let’s move up and take that guy with a little risk.’ You think you’ve got so many picks and you can afford to waste them on guys. I never looked at it that way. You have to look at every pick like it’s the only one you’ve got. Like I’ve told Bill Belichick, ‘You don’t have to use ’em this year. Bank ’em. Trade ’em.’ He knows. One time he told me he had a good team, and he had some extra picks, and he was afraid the guy they’d take might not be good enough to make his team. Fine. You don’t like what’s there? You can always find someone to take your four this year for a three next year. Like I said, bank ’em.”

  • King asked DePodesta why the team let so many of their key free agents walk a year ago. He said it was “a moment in time” and not something they aim to do consistently:

“That was a situation that we felt like we really do need to rebuild the foundation of this organization, and it is almost like redoing a house—you need to rip down all the walls and get it down to the studs. Now, when you do that and you tear out all the walls and the floors and all you have left are the studs, you look at it and go, wow this looks terrible. We never want to go through this again, and I think that is our attitude.”

He pointed to the Jamie Collins trade as a turning point for the organization, showing how serious they are about getting better. The extension of Joel Bitonio and this year’s free agent class re-inforced that.

  • Lastly, DePodesta talked about some of the things that translate between baseball and football.

Check out the whole article and let us know what you thought about it in the comments section below!