Today's Pigskin

30 July 2016: Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson at the Cleveland Browns training camp in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
Cleveland Browns

Browns’ version of ‘Moneyball’ values semantics over winning

Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

Dennis Green used to say “winning is a habit,” and if that’s the case well then the opposite would have to be true as well.

In fact, losing for certain organizations has turned into an addiction, none more so than Cleveland, where the reincarnation of the Browns has been an abject failure since 1999.

You know about the 26 starting quarterbacks over that 17-year span, which has produced exactly two winning seasons and only one postseason appearance.

What’s stunning, however, is the number of different regimes that have contributed to that losing, nine different head coaches, including current mentor Hue Jackson, and management after management figure, the latest being chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, he of the baseball pedigree, and executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown, a lawyer by trade.

It’s an unconventional setup but that doesn’t necessarily mean bad, although people are already jumping on DePodesta’s purported attempt to bring “Moneyball” over from MLB to the NFL.

The early returns aren’t great, and most people center on the decision to bypass on the opportunity to select Carson Wentz, who looks like the second coming at the one position that can turn things around overnight, in exchange for stockpiling picks.

And that might end up being one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history if Wentz’s three-game sample size turns into a 10-year run.

Everyone misses on players, though, and the hope in Cleveland is that the added opportunities to take players, which already started this year with 14 different picks increases the odds of selecting difference makers.

From an analytics standpoint, it certainly does, and we will see how it all plays out down the line.

The bigger issue for me, however, is the self-inflicted stuff and the Browns’ front office cost themselves a football game last Sunday by refusing to allow special teams coordinator Chris Tabor to get the kicker he wanted once Patrick Murray went down with a knee injury.

Cleveland was gift wrapped a road win in Miami when Ryan Tannehill fumbled in the waning seconds but the cheaper option that DePodesta and Brown forced on Jackson and Tabor, Cody Parkey, missed a 46-yard potential game-winner as time expired.

It was the third miss of the afternoon in a game that was tied through regulation from a kicker who has never been the same since suffering a core muscle injury early last season in Philadelphia.

The Miami Herald first reported that Tabor actually wanted former Bears stalwart Robbie Gould as Murray’s replacement and a separate NFL source confirmed that to TodaysPigskin.com.

Parkey was the cheaper option, however, for a team with just under $50 million in salary-cap space and because the statistics say that kickers are virtually interchangeable, Cleveland took the shopping cart down the clearance aisle.

From a statistical standpoint, the larger the sample size grows DePodesta’s belief is likely true but on one Sunday in September of 2016, that belief also cost him a game because it’s hard to imagine an 11-year veteran with Gould’s resume missing three kicks of 42, 41 and 46 yards.

And for that reason, the Browns pushed back at the reports to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer by focusing on the money.

“Money played no role in the decision,” the Browns source told the newspaper. “It’s ridiculous to think that it would.”

Notice the wording there, though.

It’s a classic misdirection because the theory is that kickers are interchangeable and therefore you take the cheaper option because that’s the best business decision.

The Browns’ defense is semantics because money isn’t the prevailing factor behind that belief.

And if the organization was as good at picking football players as playing semantics, maybe it wouldn’t be 0-3 and speeding toward a ninth straight losing season.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.

Browns’ version of ‘Moneyball’ values semantics over winning

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