Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey has kept busy reshaping the team since taking over the position late in 2017.
The changes are obvious everywhere you look on the roster: a new quarterback room, a pair of new running backs, a new starting wide receiver and starting right tackle, and an influx of new faces in the defensive secondary.
How well those moves pay off will start to be revealed on August 9 when the Browns open the preseason with a game against the New York Giants. In the meantime, Dorsey sat down for an interview with Kevin Clark from The Ringer where Dorsey laid out his plan to return the Browns to glory.
Here are three takeaways from the interview.
Dorsey believes in (gasp!) analytics
Dorsey is familiar with the analytics side of the game and still meets on a regular basis with the office staff put together by Paul DePodesta, the team’s chief strategy officer. Dorsey also has Cleveland’s research team looking at the salaries of the other teams in the league to determine the best approach to building a roster.
“You can pigeonhole me as a football guy but I’m smart enough to realize that in the 21st century, you can get measurements off of mathematics—absolutes—and the concepts are valid. I’m going to look at everything because it creates broader thinking. … Paul and his staff, there’s validity to the stuff that they bring. Part of making good decisions is having as much information as you can.”
That news has to be soul crushing to the anti-analytics crowd, but the fact that Dorsey understands that every team in the NFL - especially the successful ones - use analytics can only be seen as a positive.
Dorsey values trades over free agency
While he hasn’t been shy about splashing the cash - most notably by handing wide receiver Jarvis Landry a contract extension with $47 million in guaranteed money - Dorsey prefers trading for veterans rather than signing them in free agency.
That is, in large part, because Dorsey wants to avoid overpaying for a player to get him to come to a bad team.
“I wasn’t going to blow up the cap because guess what: We still have the most cap space in the National Football League. I think we prudently addressed the team in a very selective fashion, without spending crazy and going out. Realistically, in free agency, nine times out of 10 you’re not getting what you pay for.”
It is a smart play, as too often in free agency you are rewarding a player for what he did for his previous team, rather than for what he will do for your team.
Dorsey had to venture into free agency this offseason to help accelerate the rebuilding efforts, but overall that is a sound strategy.
Dorsey believes he has time to finish the job
Despite working for owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, who have gone through four full-time head coaches and just as many general managers since buying the Browns, Dorsey is trying to sell the idea that everyone needs to be patient.
“It takes around three years, but you want to build every year, get a little bit better. But you have to think long term. Every decision should include thinking three years out. If you’re making a decision now, you’re thinking of 2019, 2020. In 2019, we’ll be thinking of 2021. The equation is balancing everything out.”
Dorsey is right, of course, and perhaps if he keeps saying it enough, and if the Browns show real improvement on the field, the Haslams will get the message.
Patience is a four-letter word when it comes to the Browns, however, so whether or not Dorsey gets the time that his predecessors did not to complete the job, remains to be seen.