BEREA—A big topic of conversation has been the Browns newly designed front office structure with Sashi Brown being promoted to executive vice president of football operations and Paul DePodesta chief strategy officer with analytics playing a major role.
Many experts have been skeptical of how analytics will work in the NFL, but Hue Jackson is embracing it.
“I think that’s the beautiful part,” Jackson said. “There’s all kind of ways to make things happen. There’s more than one way to do things and with Sashi and Paul, we’re on point and understand exactly what it takes to put the roster together to give us the best opportunity to be successful. Like you said, analytics is just a part of it.
“Not the whole part of it, but a piece of it and if we can find another way of doing things good to give us an opportunity to have success, we would all do that,” he said. “There’s not a person in this room that wouldn’t do that, so I like being cutting edge. I like to be innovative and cutting edge on offense. We want to be innovative and cutting edge in everything that we do in this building because eventually, everybody’s going to be doing what we’re doing and that’s the fun part.”
Jackson said Brown and DePodesta were big reasons he joined the Browns.
“Sashi and Paul, these guys are tremendous,” Jackson said. “I know everybody’s talking analytics and all those things—I know everybody’s smiling out there— but please trust me, I am going to have the opportunity to work with some of the smartest men in football. I’ve been in a lot of different buildings, but I have never had an opportunity in two settings to sit down with two of the brightest minds in football in doing what they do.”
Jackson downplayed his role in helping find the next general manager, who will be largely in charge of player personnel.
“I know I'm going to have an opportunity obviously to meet that person, know who that person is,” Jackson said. “This organization, I am so comfortable that we're going to make decisions, whether Hue Jackson's involved or whether Hue Jackson's not, that is best for our organization. What I want to do is get the people to help us win, regardless of who it is. But you ask the question, will I be involved? I think I'm involved in all of those things, but am I going to make those decisions? I don't think I need to make those decisions. I just need to know who it is.”
Brown immediately stepped in after Jackson finished and said Jackson will play a larger role in finding the GM.
“We are going to set out in earnest to find our top personnel person this week,” Brown said. “We will start our interviews and hope to have that concluded in earnest. We're excited about our head coach, but we will set out to find that person and Hue will be involved certainly. Again, I think as Hue said, this is going to be a collaborative, very integrated partnership is the way I think Paul, Hue and I think about it with Jimmy, certainly. So he'll be involved as we move forward.”
Jackson said he expects to be involved in player personnel decisions.
“Well, I think when we had the conversation about how that works,” he said. “I think Sashi and Paul were very comfortable with me having an opportunity to give them my input. That means we’re going to work together through this process. These guys are in charge of making sure that those things happen. My job is to make sure that we win football games. All I want to do is win. I’m not worried about who picks this player, picks that player, I want to make sure I know what we’re going to put on our team, but at the same time, get me players, I can coach them. That’s what my expertise is. My thing is to get us to the game ready to play, motivated, fired up, enthusiastic and have an opportunity to win. and that’s what I’m interested in.”
Haslam said he spent the last year talking with other professional teams and feels the front office is set up properly now.
“We talked to baseball and basketball teams and the current theme from every single one of them was alignment,” Haslam said. “You’ve got to get everybody aligned and we—and I’ll take the responsibility—did not do that the first couple of times. I think you’re going to be surprised at how well-aligned we are and these coaching searches are really intense because you’re covering a lot of ground, you’re spending a lot of time together. But it actually worked out great, because Paul joined Sashi and myself and it gave us a chance to spend— you start early, you go late, your’e either on a plane or working together for long hours— it gave us a chance to really get to know Paul, Paul, Sashi and myself to spend time together.
“I feel really good, and Hue alluded to it, we have some really smart people in the building and people with low egos and people who will work together,”Haslam said. “That’s the main takeaway I had from all of those organizations is and I think I addressed it the night in the press conference is, it’s not so much important in how you’re structured. It’s important, but that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is to make sure everybody is properly aligned, understanding their roles and works together and that’s what I took from all of those organizations.”
Brown was asked how Jackson fit into the analytics model. “Hue, the first thing you realize is he's smart and tremendously competitive,” Brown said. “He understands, just like Paul, Jimmy, Dee and the rest of ourselves, everything we're going to do here is going to be focused on winning. We'd like to create every possible competitive advantage we can. If that's from analytics, if those apply, certainly we'll use those in our decision-making to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to win. Acquiring talent, helping Hue on the field with his coaching, it could be player development, but we will look at that. Hue, in addition to being smart and open-minded, he was certainly open to the use of analytics throughout our process.”