Paul DePodesta (1.14.20)

On what it was about Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski that convinced him that he can make something out of QB Baker Mayfield:

“I think (Browns Owner Jimmy) Haslam mentioned it first – we looked at all sorts of different coaches, defense and offense. It was not necessarily prerequisite, but when we talked to Kevin, it certainly was an advantage. He has worked with so many different quarterbacks, guys, as he mentioned, with different styles, different personalities and had success with almost every one of them. Certainly helpful to have that in the building.”


On his philosophy of what makes a good coach:

“Sure. I would say this and this goes for a lot of the people we talked to, even our research around the game to get advice on what makes a great head coach, whether it is players or the coaches, etc. I think most of them would actually downplay the importance of scheme. Xs and Os. It really is about leadership. I think more than anything else. Now, leadership has a lot of different components. What kind of communicator is somebody? How collaborate is he? How natural or authentic is he? I think all of those things are important, but they all really point toward leadership. That is ultimately what we are looking for, first and foremost in this process.”


On what intrigued him about Stefanski:

“No and I do not know where some of these reports came from. And obviously last year he did a great job in our process. There were other people who sort of found him. Last year when we went through the process, we did reference work on probably north of 50 candidates. He was one of them and he really emerged, really through that work and said, ‘Boy, this is someone we need to meet.’ And then he did a terrific job in the interview, as has been reported he ended up being one of our finalists. So we felt like it was prudent to bring him back this year. He was the only one we brought back to this year’s process. But, no it was really the work of all of our sort of football people and the background reference work that he had done, that brought him into the pool last year.”


On if he learned anything new about Stefanski after he served as offensive coordinator last season:

“Yeah. I think he did learn something about himself this year. Even being the coordinator, working with (Vikings Assistant Head Coach Gary) Kubiak, they implemented a whole new system there this year. So I think there were definitely some learnings there. But, I think the thing that was reassuring for us, is when we went and met him this year. He is still the same person. He is still the leader we remembered. He is still very comfortable in his own skin, makes everybody around him comfortable sort of right away and I think that made us all feel good about it.”


On what does analytics say about Stefanski being head coach:

“I think people have a really worked view of what analytics is. I think I may have a very different conception of what everybody else has. When I think of analytics, I just think of having sure frameworks to make decisions under uncertainty. I mean, look, everything we do in these jobs, is really built around uncertainty. What players are we going to take in the draft. What we are going to call on third-and-eight. It is all about uncertainty. So what frameworks can you create that at least stack the odds in your favor. Give you a better chance of being successful and whether that is drafting a player, hiring a coach or calling a play. It is not necessarily about numbers and spreadsheets. For us, in terms of what the analytics said about Kevin Stefanski, my answer would be: this is what our references said. This is the personality testing that we did. This is what the interview process was. Those are not numbers or again spreadsheets, or anything like that. But it is the framework we used to try to come up with the best candidate. And ultimately, Kevin checked all the boxes.”


On how much pressure was on the group to get the hire right:

“I am a big believer that there is a real cost to change. Forget about financial cost, there is a cost to turnover. They talked about it in there, the different coordinators that people have had to go through, the different people in the building, the different philosophies, different schemes. There is. There is a real cost to that. We have to get this right. When we embarked on this, what was this, close to two weeks ago now. We talked about what we are looking for: we are looking for someone for the next 10-plus years. That is our goal here. That is what we want and ultimately, if we want to be a championship-level organization which is what we are shooting for, that is what they have. They have coaches that have been in place for a long time. Now, we cannot jump from year one to year 10 in two years, it is going to take a while. But that is really what we are looking for, someone that we thought could give us some sustainable success and some real continuity for a long period of time. Someone who could really be, for lack of a better term, the CEO of the football organization, especially in terms of his leadership and his ability to bring everybody together, both on the field and off the field. I think that is what we have in Kevin.


On what did he change about the process this time around that gives him the belief that this one will succeed:

“Probably will not comment on the last ones, because I do not think that it is necessarily fair. Look, I will tell you, I think we fell we ran very thorough and deliberate process this time. We feel great about the result. At the same time, I do not think that is going to give anybody any comfort, right? We need to go out and win. We need to go win football games. I do not think there is anything I can say today to convince people that, hey, we got the right answer. I think Kevin did a great job and I think his work will speak for itself. But ultimately, the proof is going to be in how we go and play.”


On his contract with the Browns:

“My feeling has been that and I have talked to Jimmy about this, let’s get the head coach in place, let’s get the GM in place, the rest of it will work itself out. I am not concerned about it. I expect to be here.”


On spending time in California and Cleveland:

“Sure. I have seen a report that I live in San Diego, Calif. I think my wife and kids would take issue with that characterization. Look, I have been here every week since the beginning of training camp. Ten years ago, when my wife and I first moved to San Diego, we have a large extended family in San Diego. That is incredibly helpful and incredibly supportive. These jobs, this industry is tough and we decided that at that time, that we wanted our kids to be able to grow up in that environment. If it meant that I would have to take on the burden of travel to do my job, then that is what I was going to do. This was before I even went to the New York Mets and that is the way I did that job for five years and now I have continued on with Cleveland. Look, I do not think…It has not been an issue. Like I said, I am here every single week and we get our work done.”


On what his role with the Cleveland Browns:

” My kids ask me the same question because they want to tell people at school. What is it that you actually do? Look, Kevin talked a lot today about a shared vision. I think my role really first and foremost, is to not only help us create but also implement that shared vision and then ultimately make sure that we stick to it, really relentlessly and that is really my role. I look at all the processes that are within a football operation. Whether that, again, whether that is hiring someone, whether that is how we do scouting, whether it is how we look at things with numbers. I sort of dig into all those processes and make sure that they align with our vision and that we all as a group continue to stay aligned and be on the same page as Kevin said.”


On if he will be involved with draft process:



On his role during the NFL Draft:

“A process-oriented role. I am not going to pick the players but I am going to try to make sure the players we do pick, again, align with our vision of what we believe is a winning franchise. I have had the opportunity to be around some great organizations in multiple sports and one thing that is pretty clear across all of them is that they all have an identity, a way. You hear about ‘The Patriot way’ or back in the day, ‘The Dodger way’, or whatever it might be. The teams that are great are relentless about implementing that way. That is what we need to do here and that really is my charge. My charge is not to watch tape and say, ‘Oh man, this guy has got real good feet.’ We have got scouts that are way better and way more qualified to do that than I am to do that, but when we come down to make a selection, it is my role to say, ‘Okay, are we doing, are we making a decision that actually aligns with our way and that makes sense.”


On having a lack of consistency in their commitments to certain ways of running the organization and how that can change:

“Right, well again, I do not really want to talk about what has happened in the past, but I will say, going forward, just like I just said, we need that shared vision. We absolutely need it. I think it is critical for not only our short term but even our long-term success. I am excited about getting a new GM in here to work with him, to work with Kevin (Stefanski) and really all of our football personnel to create that vision of what is going to make the Cleveland Browns a winner and then go make it happen.”


On his former employers having more consistency in their operations, while he has seen more turnover in personnel and change since joining the Browns:

“As I said before, changes in a productive way. We need some stability to get it the right way and then carry it out over a long period of time. These things are difficult. You do not sort of institute a way and then immediately within six months that is the way it is. They build and build over time, but if you are consistent about implementing it, then I think you will get there. The other thing I will say is, there is not one way. You look at the teams that played this past weekend and the teams that are going to play next weekend, they do not all have the same way. They all do it differently, so there is not just one way of going about it, but we have to create ours and then own it.”


On how much of a factor Kevin Stefanki’s use of analytics was in the hunt for a new head coach:
“To be honest, not that much, because I think all eight of the candidates that we interviewed, I think, felt very comfortable with how we were going to sort of operate and even how they wanted to operate. We were able to demystify it to some degree for them and I think they realized that oh, this is just football. I mean, there was a question earlier about the analytics guy on a headset. As Jimmy said, that is common practice. I think all 32 teams do that. In fact, there are a bunch of head coaches that say, ‘Hey, I am going to need a guy on a headset,’ and we were able to tell him, ‘Oh, we have got a guy, do not worry.’ I think some people are starting to realize what we are doing is really not out of the ordinary. There is just this buzzword that people have used and they expect something to be very different, but in reality, it is not.”


On if he has felt his voice has not been listened to enough during his tenure with the Browns and if that will change moving forward:

“No, no. I mean look, when I first got here in the beginning of 2016, look, I did not know the NFL at all. I should not have had a strong voice in anything that was going on. I was trying to learn and absorb as much as I possibly could and as the years have gone on, not only me, but I think a bunch if people in the football operations have just tried to figure out any way they could help, any way they could help the team be successful, and I think that is still our mindset going forward. Kevin talked about being better this year than he was a year ago. Hopefully, I can contribute more today than I could a year ago, certainly more than I could four years ago. Look, I am far away from having all of the answers, and I think all of us in the building, we do not have all of the answers. I have said this before, the people who work in research, etc., we are probably some of the most uncertain people in the building. I mean, again, that is kind of the foundation of what we do. We are trying to figure out probabilities of different things that might happen or create processes that might stack the odds in our favor. Going forward, we will continue to work on that, but we definitely do not have all of the answers at this point.”


On the futures of Assistant GM Eliot Wolf and VP of Player Personnel Alonzo Highsmith:

“Well I think the GM will certainly have some say in his entire football operations staff, but I will tell you that Eliot and Zo, they were very helpful in the head coach search over the last couple of weeks. They are right now grinding away on the draft and even helping out with the assistant coach work. They have been terrific.”


On what lessons they have learned over the last two general managers and regimes as they head into an new era:

“So I should not use the term ‘real football players’? (laughter) No, like I said, we learn something new every year and I think people may have assumed that we were doing something in 2016 or 2017 that really is not close to reality, but I think we have gotten better and better every year in terms of our preparation for our draft in how we synthesize all different pieces of information. Look, I mentioned earlier the frameworks for making decisions. I think the draft is probably as an advanced hiring process as there is in the world, I mean detailed. Our scouts go out and not only watch tape on all of these guys, they meet their coaches, they meet their teammates, they talk to the trainers. We interview these guys, we test them. I mean, it is exhausting. I look at that as an analytical process, right. I mean, again, it is not numbers or anything like that, but it is certainly an analytical process where we are using information to try to make a better decision. I think we have gotten better and better at that every single year and I think we will continue to get better at it going forward.”