The NFL's Cleveland Browns have hired well-known baseball executive Paul DePodesta (who was a main character in the Michael Lewis book Moneyball and was played by Jonah Hill in the movie of the same name) to become their "chief strategy officer," the team announced today. DePodesta, who will report directly to team owner/truck-stop billionaire Jimmy Haslam, was previously the New York Mets' "vice president of player development and scouting." The Mets won this season's National League championship before falling to the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.
If you reading this post because you enjoyed Moneyball but are not a football fan, here is a little background on the Cleveland Browns:
- The original Cleveland Browns team, which was know for failing in high-stakes games and had never won or even played in a Super Bowl, left the city to become the Baltimore Ravens in 1995. The Ravens have since won two Super Bowls, a fact that does not amuse the people of Cleveland.
- A new Cleveland Browns franchise was launched in 1999. Since that season the new Browns have won fewer games than any other team in the NFL, making the playoffs only once, in 2002. (They lost.)
- The team has been owned by Haslam since 2012. In those three years the Browns have gone 14-34 while Haslam has fired three head coaches and paid $92 million to settle federal allegations that his truck-stop company, Flying J, committed massive, organized long-term fraud . (A number of company employees pleaded guilty to related criminal charges, but Haslam has said he was not aware of any malfeasance scheme.)
- The Browns drafted infamous Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel in 2014; in the pros he has played badly and repeatedly been disciplined for doing things like missing medical treatment appointments because he was (allegedly) partying in Las Vegas while wearing a blonde wig.
So that's what DePodesta is walking into even aside from the fact that he'll be making the seemingly unprecedented move of going from managing personnel in one major sport to managing personnel in a different major sport. He did play football in college, so he's not completely unfamiliar with the game, but he's got a lot of work cut out for him.