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Paul DePodesta takes Browns from 'Draft Day' to 'Moneyball'

From "Draft Day" to "Moneyball."

The Cleveland Browns are either trying to revolutionize the NFL, or they are just so sick of losing they are willing to branch out and try as many different ideas and methods as they can.

Perhaps it's a combination of both.

The hiring of Paul DePodesta as the team's chief strategy officer brings the model for the Jonah Hill character in "Moneyball" to Berea. DePodesta was the guy who convinced Billy Beane that analytics and numbers and run production were more important than traditional scouting methods.
 That approach has caught on in baseball, where numbers are more clearly defined and easier to assess.

While some websites have started using analytics in the NFL -- ProFootballFocus.com is the leader -- the trend still is toward traditional scouting methods that measure height, weight, speed and production. In the NFL, things like heart, desire, toughness and professionalism can't be measured.

All the analytics in the world won't make a team that lacks a quarterback into a champion.

Joe Banner and Alec Scheiner brought analytics to the Browns. Scheiner strongly believes in it. But Banner appeared on SportsCenter shortly after the hiring was announced and said conflict could follow if the Browns go all-in on analytics and hire a traditional coach.

If the Browns are emphasizing analytics to the extreme, they at least will have to find someone who buys into the thinking. If it is one tool in personnel assessment, they will have to find someone who at least believes in it.

A crusty veteran coach like Mike Zimmer in Minnesota probably would lean away from numbers. A guy like Hue Jackson of Cincinnati also seems inclined to the traditional way.

There may be tensions between non-football and football people making decisions. The image is rich of a coach with shorts and a whistle debating an Ivy Leaguer in a suit about which player best fits the rush-linebacker role. But DePodesta could be a wise hire to maximize analytics.

The key is that it's one tool, not the only one.

The team's press release about DePodesta said his skills transcend one sport, and is filled with contemporary business jargon (best practices, strategies, comprehensive resources and optimal decisions are in the first sentence) that, boiled down, means help in whatever way possible.

New football operations guru Sashi Brown, though, said DePodesta has strength in using "data as a tool to produce better outcomes," and that DePodesta will help the "high performance and analytics departments maximize their efforts."

Since NFL analytics are in the toddler stage, DePodesta may bring some refinement and skill to the technique that other teams don't have. Anyone who speaks of him talks about his intelligence, and his people skills.

The key, as it always is, will be finding good players and a good coach.

The Browns already have a football research analyst, a director of high performance and a team psychologist. They've now added a chief strategy officer. They are bypassing the traditional route, and are all-in on new ways to build a team to try to win games.

It certainly is intriguing.