Analytics, Browns. Why not, right? As the Cleveland Browns count on a new strategy in effort to become winners, old-guard media members continue to slam team executives for every transaction.
OK Browns fans. Where will you get your bulk of Browns analysis as the team wraps up OTAs and prepares to commence training camp in just a couple of months?
Pay attention, because it’s more apparent than ever that there are going to be two types of viewpoints of the Browns within the media.
The “old guard” NFL media, seemingly bashes every move the Browns make, while analytical websites, such as Pro Football Focus, tends to praise the Browns and the moves of Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta.
Recent examples include ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. giving Cleveland a “C” grade for the draft, while PFF and Pro Football Outsiders generally praised what the Browns picks. PFF graded the Browns draft as an “A.”
ESPN writer Mark Sando published offseason grades for each NFL team, and the analytics bias share by the old guard is even more clear. In Sando’s column, the Browns were given a “D.” The writer came to his conclusion by taking into account the opinion of the men who appear on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” show.
He also was critical of the Browns use of analytics in stockpiling draft picks and not doing enough in free agency. “With the salary cap, if you hit on four draft choices, you typically only re-sign two if you pay a quarterback,” Polian said.
Mark Dominik, a former GM with the Redskins, gave the Browns a “D” based on the free agents the team lost.
“I appreciate the picks they have and the ones they will have, but right now, it is hard not to give them a ‘D’ because they lost so much. The Griffin signing could really pan out, and that keeps the grade from being lower.”
Another former front office man, Louis Riddick, wanted to give the Browns an ‘F’ in free agency, and a “C” for the draft. In his mind, this means the Browns were worthy of a “D” for the whole offseason.
“Go back with free agency and everyone who left, those are all some pretty damn productive players,” Riddick said. “Adding Rahim Moore, Justin Tuggle and Alvin Bailey wasn’t enough. Then you go to the draft, we will find out. I don’t know how many teams draft five wide receivers in a single draft and have it be productive for them. Corey Coleman, I do like him.”
Meanwhile, the staff at Pro Football Focus gave the Browns a B+. While PFF admits there were “hiccups” in free agency, the website praised the Browns for building through the draft.
"“It’s hard to not argue that the franchise is heading in the right direction. The front office is clearly committed to building through the draft and relying on an experienced coaching staff to get the most out of every player. Hue’s system—designed to play to his player’s strengths—will put the team in good situations.”"
A pretty big gap between a “D” and a “B+,” right?
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Remember that story that broke just after the combine…when Paul DePodesta was at the airport and overheard other team executives bashing the Browns? Polian, Dominik and Riddick subscribe to this type of group think.
They believe there’s a way to build a team in the NFL, and because the Browns aren’t doing it their way, there’s no way Cleveland can be a success.
As ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi recently said on the airwaves, “They’re anti-analytics and until the Browns starting winning, those kinds of people are going to be very skeptical of what they are doing.”
For what it’s worth, ESPN isn’t entirely made up of the old-guard types. Writer Bill Barnwell gave the Browns an A- for their offseason. But Barnwell isn’t a former NFL exec.
Grades are silly. Everyone has opinion and they mean nothing. But there’s TV time to fill and blog post counts to meet.
With that said, there’s still something to be taken away from how the media covers this team, because, let’s face it: We’re Browns consumers. If there’s something to read or watch about the Browns, we’re going to be there, front and center.
And now, more than ever, Browns fans should vet the opinion leaders they trust. Wins and losses will be the bottom line on this regime, but until that verdicts is delivered, Browns fans will be challenged with finding a balance.