After yet another losing season, the 3-13 Cleveland Browns took a unique approach Tuesday by hiring New York Mets vice president of player development and scouting Paul DePodesta to be their new executive vice president.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first to report the move, as well as the notion that DePodesta will be third in line in the front office's pecking order. Sherman also revealed that Cleveland's pursuit began shortly after the Mets fell to the Kansas City Royals in the World Series in early November.
The Browns confirmed the hiring with an announcement Tuesday afternoon.
The hiring comes on the heels of the Browns' firing general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine on Sunday.
Team owner Jimmy Haslam explained the rationale for going outside his sport to fill such an important position, via the Browns' official site:
We are fortunate to bring in Paul, an extremely talented, highly respected sports executive who will add a critical dimension to our front office. His approach and ambition to find the best pathways for organizational success transcend one specific sport and his experience as a high level sports executive make him a terrific addition to the Cleveland Browns. ... While we are excited about what Paul will provide our organization, we remain fully focused on the critical task of identifying the right head coach and a top talent evaluator who will provide the football expertise needed to be successful.
According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, DePodesta's official title with the Browns will be "chief strategy officer."
Via ESPN's Ed Werder, an MLB source close to DePodesta was extremely complimentary in describing what he brings to the table:
Ed Werder @Edwerderespn
One MLB source who has worked with new #Browns hire Paul DePodesta describes him as "off-the-charts intelligent and a great guy.''1/5/2016, 4:45:21 PM
"Paul completely reorganized the Mets scouting and player development functions and had an extraordinary impact in both areas, but he was also very directly involved in our trade and free-agent acquisitions," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement, via Adam Rubin of ESPN. "His commitment to excellence and his passion for innovation will be missed by the Mets and all of baseball. I wish him well with the Browns."
The 43-year-old DePodesta has been part of Major League Baseball since 1996, when the Cleveland Indians hired him as an advanced scout.
Most notably, though, DePodesta served under Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane from 1999 through 2004. The Peter Brand character in the popular 2011 film Moneyball was based primarily on him and his contributions.
Since his time with the A's, DePodesta has enjoyed a stint as the Los Angeles Dodgers' general manager and has held front-office roles with the San Diego Padres and Mets.
While DePodesta has never worked in the NFL, he does have a football background, as he played wide receiver at Harvard, as noted by Sherman. He also had a non-playing job with the CFL's Baltimore Stallions in 1995, according to Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal.
The Browns' decision to raid Major League Baseball may seem bizarre on the surface, but Haslam is clearly looking for answers wherever he can find them, as the franchise hasn't reached the playoffs since 2002.
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Cleveland hasn't had a winning season since 2007 and it is slated to pick No. 2 in the upcoming 2016 NFL draft, which begins April 30.
The Browns' situation looks dire on the surface, but DePodesta has been part of some impressive turnarounds over the course of his career, including taking the A's from small-market also-rans to perennial contenders and shockingly helping to lead the Mets to the World Series.
Making the Browns a playoff team may be his biggest challenge yet, but his track record of success in professional sports suggests he is as up to the task as anyone.
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