Former Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren—a man of many former titles and experiences, though notably a football guy at his core—believes new team general manager John Dorsey is the guy who will finally help turn around their franchise.
He had one pretty significant caveat, though.
“Yeah, they’ll get it going,’’ Holmgren said of Dorsey, per Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “You’ve got to find the quarterback. Once you find the quarterback, you can fix the other things.’’
Holmgren really went out on a limb here by covering his bases with the most significant question every general manager in the league faces: finding an elite quarterback. For the Browns, even finding a pretty good one might suffice, for awhile at least.
As Holmgren has seen first-hand, it’s heaps easier talking about finding the right quarterback prospect than it is to actually do it. And wasn’t he fired by Jimmy Haslam for the same reason? Let’s hope Holmgren’s former understudy is capable of producing more competent quarterbacks than Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy.
Holmgren didn’t really stop there with cautious optimism about Dorsey’s potential as a personnel executive. No, he could have, but the old football guy decided to fire some shots at recently-ousted Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown’s “analytics” approach to roster construction.
“No more analytics. Jiminy Christmas,’’ said Holmgren. “The others are smart guys, they’re good guys and their approach is different. It’s a different game. It’s a different thing.’’
Let’s move past the obvious “get off my lawn” connotation present in that statement, and discuss how finding an elite quarterback, one who will fit in your team’s philosophy, is basically like finding a unicorn.
Also don’t forget Holmgren’s clamoring for more time after he was let go by Jimmy Haslam.
“You have to weather the storm with a couple of tough years if you have good people,” Holmgren said in 2014. “But they have never done that in Cleveland. Every two years they blow everything up and blam off you go.”
So to make sure this is clear: Holmgren believes in continuity, so long as it doesn’t involve “analytics”?
And yes, finding the right quarterback solves many problems. But it doesn’t solve them all, and those guys aren’t usually standing outside the practice facility doors waiving for you to come let them in.
It’s a process. It’s a process without any one roadmap.
So while Holmgren lucked into Brett Favre falling his lap in Green Bay, the Browns haven’t been so fortunate. They’ve been inexplicably bad at finding such a player, thanks at least in part to Holmgren’s tenure in running the team.
It’s odd then, that Holmgren has some disdain for a process aimed at compiling draft picks and then using those picks on productive young players, all while managing the salary cap to keep open the possibility of adding a quarterback in free agency, with one of those high draft picks, or by acquiring a quarterback with a large contract in a trade.
And who’s to say Brown’s staff wouldn’t have found that player in the upcoming NFL draft? The same picks Dorsey will be using are a result of the hard work and short-term sacrifices that their “analytics” based approach netted them.
The year is 2018, data is relevant and it isn’t going away. Yes, there are more factors involved when analyzing human beings. Yes, those factors should not be ignored. Yes, teams are going to continue using “analytics” to improve their methodologies of scouting and selecting players for their rosters. No, teams are not going to ignore “analytics” as Mr. Holmgren suggested they should.
Will Dorsey turn the Browns back into a winning franchise?
Sure, if they find the right quarterback.
*Author’s Note: The word analytics was intentionally placed in quotations to stress the absurdity of the rampant misunderstanding and misuse of this word when it comes to professional sports applications. It is a broad term, and nowhere near a definition of one type of approach to roster construction. To use this single word is not determinative of any type of data-based approach that is actually in use by NFL teams today.