Less than 48 hours after the National Football League’s Cleveland Browns cleaned house by firing general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine on the heels of another last place finish in the AFC North, the team announced the hiring of New York Mets executive Paul DePodesta as their new chief strategy officer.
DePodesta, 43, has his career come full circle, returning to Cleveland where he began as an advanced scout and a special assistant to general manager John Hart with the Cleveland Indians. After three years in Cleveland, DePodesta became the assistant GM with the Oakland A’s under Billy Beane and helped popularize the “Moneyball” concept of using statistical analysis to find undervalued players on the open market, as illustrated in both a book and a feature film.
DePodesta also had stints in the front offices of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres before joining Sandy Alderson as a member of the Mets front office after the 2010 season. Flanked by analytical minds such as Alderson, John Ricco, and J.P. Ricciardi, DePodesta helped cultivate and develop talented pitching prospects Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz as they made their trek up the prospect ladder and into Queens. Flush with a sudden mix of homegrown talent and shrewd trades for emerging imported youngsters, the Mets made incremental improvements before capturing the National League pennant in 2015 and falling in the World Series to the Kansas City Royals in five games.
With other professional sports moving closer to embracing analytics and discovering inefficiencies, DePosdesta takes on his biggest challenge: turning around a Browns franchise that is one of only four to have never reached a Super Bowl and has had just two winning seasons since reentering the league as an expansion team prior to the 1999 season. During their last sixteen seasons of play, the Browns have used a whopping 24 starting quarterbacks and nine head coaches. Hiring a man with a strong track record for efficiency, the Browns are hoping to escape the doldrums of the AFC and have a definitive plan for lasting success.