Browns try to hit home run with Paul DePodesta
The Browns have made an out-of-the-batter’s box hire.
Owner Jimmy Haslam has brought in Paul DePodesta, a baseball executive and analytics expert with 20 years of major league experience, to be the NFL team’s new chief strategy officer.
Haslam, who fired coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer on Sunday night following a 3-13 season, pulled DePodesta away from the New York Mets to help his organization with decision making. DePodesta, a longtime aide to Sandy Alderson, had been the Mets’ vice president of player development and amateur scouting. He helped them win the NL title last season.
‘‘We are fortunate to bring in Paul, an extremely talented, highly respected sports executive who will add a critical dimension to our front office,’’ Haslam said. ‘‘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.’’
DePodesta, 43, will also join Haslam’s committee to search for the team’s next coach.
DePodesta played football and baseball at Harvard before graduating in 1995. He began his baseball career as an intern with the Indians in 1996 and became an advance scout and special assistant to the general manager. He worked in Oakland alongside GM Billy Beane, whose ‘‘Moneyball’’ strategies — glamorized in a movie of the same title — helped the Athletics overcome budget constraints and win. In the film, actor Jonah Hill’s character was based on DePodesta.
DePodesta was general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004-05.
‘‘Cleveland and football have always held a special place in my heart,’’ said DePodesta. ‘‘It was 20 years ago this month, after pursing my first love of football and looking at every possible job in the NFL, that I got the biggest break I could imagine — a job offer from the AL champion Cleveland Indians. As excited as I was then, I am even more excited now to return to Cleveland and to try to help the Browns.’’
‘‘My focus is to bring whatever experience and perspective I can to collaborate with the team, with the intent of helping us make more informed and successful decisions. Admittedly, there will be an awful lot for me to learn, but I want nothing more than to help bring consistent, championship caliber football back to Cleveland.’’
DePodesta also worked for the San Diego Padres. He has won a division title with all five teams he has worked for.
Mike Shanahan, who has been out of the NFL for two years, interviewed for the Miami coaching job.
The Dolphins, who also interviewed Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, are casting a wide net in their search, talking with former Falcons coach Mike Smith on Monday.
Shanahan, 63, last coached the Redskins and was fired after going 3-13 in 2013. He went 24-40 in four seasons with the Redskins and took them to the playoffs in 2012.
Shanahan coached from 1995 to 2008 in Denver, where he had only two losing seasons and led the Broncos to Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998. He has only one playoff victory since then.
Austin has been with the Lions the past two years and coached defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is now with the Dolphins.
The Dolphins will also interview their interim coach, Dan Campbell, who went 5-7 after replacing Joe Philbin. Miami went 6-10 and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase interviewed with the Eagles for their vacant coaching position.
Gase is the third candidate to meet with the Eagles since Chip Kelly was fired last week, following Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
Jaguars sack Babich
The Jaguars turned in three of the worst defensive seasons in franchise history under coordinator Bob Babich.
So firing Babich was the obvious move.
Coach Gus Bradley parted ways with Babich after three disappointing seasons during which the Jaguars ranked 29th in the NFL in total defense and 31st in scoring defense.
The Jaguars made the announcement after Bradley met with his assistants. It was unclear whether Babich was the only assistant let go.
Bradley made similar wholesale changes on the offensive side last year, firing coordinator Jedd Fisch and reassigning quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo.
Bradley hired Greg Olson as offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett as quarterbacks coach, and Doug Marrone as offensive line coach, and the Jaguars made significant strides on that side of the ball.
Finding replacements might not be as easy this time around considering Bradley is entering the final year of a four-year contract, which might make some assistants leery of being in a potential one-and-done situation.
Instead of hiring someone from the outside, Bradley could take over the play-calling duties and return to the role that got him noticed as Seattle’s defensive coordinator.
Meanwhile, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has a broken thumb on his non-throwing hand, an injury that won’t affect his offseason.
Bortles broke his left thumb in the season finale Sunday at Houston.
Bortles completed 17 of 32 passes for 239 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble.
Dalton sheds cast
Andy Dalton’s passing hand was finally free on Tuesday, liberated from the black cast that has covered his forearm and his spirits for the past three weeks. And his coach held out the possibility he might have a backup role for the Bengals’ playoff game.
Dalton ran a couple of plays early in practice Tuesday and threw a pass — with his left hand — before raising his arm in celebration and heading back to the sideline to continue his conditioning work.
What are the chances he could be on the active roster when the Bengals host the Steelers on Saturday night?
‘‘I'd love to be in there playing,’’ Dalton said.
His right thumb will likely prevent it.
The AFC North champions are getting AJ McCarron ready to play against their division rival. Dalton broke the thumb on his passing hand while making a tackle during the Steelers’ 33-20 win on Dec. 13. McCarron went 2-1 as a starter in the past three games.
Although Dalton got the cast removed Monday, he has to rebuild the strength in his hand.
Also, he hasn’t practiced in three weeks, leaving him rusty — a bad combination for playoff time. So the Bengals are heading into the playoffs with McCarron as the starter.
‘‘This team’s built for this kind of stuff,’’ Dalton said. ‘‘AJ’s going to do a good job when things happen.’’
Coach Marvin Lewis indicated Tuesday that there’s a possibility Dalton could be active as a backup, depending upon how his hand feels. The Bengals don’t have an experienced backup should McCarron get hurt.
Receiver Mohamed Sanu has taken snaps in wildcat formations and could be an emergency quarterback.
So McCarron will get a chance to overturn a lot of bad history in his fourth NFL start.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in 25 years, the sixth-longest postseason drought in NFL history. They’re the only team in league history to lose an opening-round game four years in a row.
Redskins sign CB
Cornerback Cary Williams has signed with the NFC East champion Redskins ahead of their wild-card game against the Packers, taking the roster spot of safety Kyshoen Jarrett, who heads to injured reserve because of a nerve issue affecting his right arm.
The addition of Williams, released by the Seahawks last month, and loss of Jarrett were part of a series of moves.
Center Kory Lichtensteiger was activated off IR after missing the second half of the regular season with a neck injury; he is expected to reclaim his starting job from fill-in Josh LeRibeus. Backup center Brian de la Puente was waived.
The Redskins also released linebacker Derrick Mathews from the practice squad and signed cornerback Al Louis-Jean, a Brockton High and Boston College product, to the practice squad.
The Redskins are Williams’s fifth NFL team since he entered the league in 2008.
Washington is coping with injuries to its already depleted secondary, including two in the regular-season finale Sunday in Dallas.