The team's quiet approach to free agency hasn't helped, with four key players walking out the door -- an exodus that only turned up the heat on a newfangled front office led by executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown and former MLB executive Paul DePodesta.
The DePodesta hire caused plenty of heads to turn as general managers and scouts around the league asked what the Browns were doing hiring a baseball guy. Speaking Friday at MIT's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, DePodesta said he overheard NFL team officials ripping him and the Browns at the airport after last month's Scouting Combine.
"I was standing right in front of them in line and I could hear them in back of me and they were talking trash about me and the Cleveland Browns," DePodesta said Friday at MIT's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, per Baseball America. "I said, 'All right, this is like 17 years ago in Oakland all over again.' That's part of the fun."
DePodesta's handiwork with the Oakland Athletics, Dodgers and most recently the Mets makes him a well-known face in baseball circles. Not so much in the NFL.
The pressure will only expand from here, with the Browns staring down another potentially dismal season on the field. The addition of coach Hue Jackson helps, but the key for DePodesta in Cleveland is a willingness to see this rebuilding project through. It's likely to get worse before it gets better, but that's something DePodesta is prepared for:
"When I was going to the Browns," DePodesta said, "I had met with the ownership, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, and they asked me, 'What do you want out of an owner?' And I said, 'Well, I'll tell you what I don't want.' I said, 'If you ever take your kids to an amusement park at Disneyland or whatever, they beg you to go on the big daddy roller coaster. They beg you. You say, 'Are you sure?' They say, 'Absolutely, I want to go on this thing.' So you wait in line for 45 minutes, it takes up a good chunk of your day, you finally get to the front of the line, they eyeball it, and they say, 'Uh, I'm not getting on that thing. Not at all.'
Said DePodesta: "And that's what happens to a lot of owners. They would say, 'Hey, we want 'Moneyball,' we want this disciplined approach to what we're doing.' But then when it comes time to making that hard decision, they say, 'I don't want any part of this.' I said, 'I need someone who's going to want to get on the roller coaster with me knowing that it's not always going to be fun. There are going to be parts of the roller coaster that are going to be scary, that are going to be uncomfortable, but hopefully at the end of the ride when we get off, you're going to want to say, let's do that again.' But I think that's how we always got through it, was having that shared vision from the beginning and giving you the conviction to actually go through with it."