AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND — The Browns have made an out-of-the-batter’s box hire.
Owner Jimmy Haslam has brought in Paul DePodesta, a baseball executive and analytics expert with 20 years of major league experience, to be the NFL team’s new chief strategy officer.
Haslam, who fired coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer on Sunday night following a 3-13 season, pulled DePodesta away from the New York Mets to help his organization with decision making. DePodesta, a longtime aide to Sandy Alderson, had been the Mets’ vice president of player development and amateur scouting. He helped them win the NL title last season.
“We are fortunate to bring in Paul, an extremely talented, highly respected sports executive who will add a critical dimension to our front office,” Haslam said. “His approach and ambition to find the best pathways for organizational success transcend one specific sport and his experience as a high level sports executive make him a terrific addition to the Cleveland Browns. While we are excited about what Paul will provide our organization, we remain fully focused on the critical task of identifying the right head coach and a top talent evaluator who will provide the football expertise needed to be successful.”
DePodesta will also join Haslam’s committee to search for the team’s next coach.
DePodesta began his baseball career as an intern with the Indians in 1996 and became an advance scout and special assistant to the general manager. He worked in Oakland alongside GM Billy Beane, whose “Moneyball” strategies — glamorized in a movie of the same title — helped the Athletics overcome budget constraints and win. In the film, actor Jonah Hill’s character was based on DePodesta.
DePodesta was general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004-05.
“Cleveland and football have always held a special place in my heart,” said DePodesta. “It was 20 years ago this month, after pursing my first love of football and looking at every possible job in the NFL, that I got the biggest break I could imagine — a job offer from the AL champion Cleveland Indians. As excited as I was then, I am even more excited now to return to Cleveland and to try to help the Browns.
“My focus is to bring whatever experience and perspective I can to collaborate with the team, with the intent of helping us make more informed and successful decisions. Admittedly, there will be an awful lot for me to learn, but I want nothing more than to help bring consistent, championship caliber football back to Cleveland.”
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti believes DePodesta will be able to easily transition into pro football.
“Paul’s a brilliant and innovative guy,” said Antonetti, who replaced DePodesta when he left for the A’s. “He’s made an impact on a number of organizations that he’s been with and he’s got a really unique way of looking at things and finding ways and worked through problems and developed innovative solutions. He’s a very capable baseball executive that will have a great impact on the Browns. He’s very passionate about sports. He’s passionate about winning and all of those things transcend any one individual sport.”
DePodesta also worked for the San Diego Padres. He has won a division title with all five teams he has worked for.