AFC North: Cleveland Browns

Johnny ManzielAP/Aaron JosefczykThe Browns have tried unsuccessfully to reach Johnny Manziel.

The Cleveland Browns have reached out to quarterback Johnny Manziel several times since last Saturday but gotten no response, owner Jimmy Haslam told the media at the Super Bowl.

Haslam spoke to a group of reporters, and among them was Tony Grossi of ESPN-Cleveland. The NFL Network played the video of Haslam.

"Johnny has not responded to us," Haslam said, "but we'll do anything we can to help him personally. And our thoughts and prayers are with Johnny and his family. We're not worried about Johnny Manziel the football player. We're worried about Johnny Manziel the person. And I think that's all we need to say on the issue."

Police were called to the apartment of Manziel's ex-girlfriend Colleen Crowley early Saturday morning. There Crowley alleged that Manziel had physically assaulted her.

Manziel's father made an impassioned statement Friday morning to the Dallas Morning News that his son needs help. Paul Manziel said his son had been twice checked into rehab in the last few days, but left once and was allowed to leave another.

Haslam said the team had reached out "several times since all this came out last Saturday, just like we would any player." But Manziel did not respond.

"I think it's enough said on the issue," Haslam said. "I think it's a personal issue now. It's not a football issue."

Who's next?

That's the question at quarterback (again) for the Cleveland Browns now that they have made it clear they will move on from Johnny Manziel in March.

To answer the question, remember the words of owner Jimmy Haslam the evening of the season finale: "We do have the No. 2 pick in the draft."

There are three quarterbacks considered worthy of a high draft pick. The Browns could stay at No. 2 and take one, or they could trade down and hope to take one. The Browns also have the 32nd overall pick because the Patriots lost theirs, so the team could take a quarterback at the No. 2 or No. 32 slot or use the 32nd pick to move up for one.

Precedent, though, might scare them away from trading up. The past three times they did that for a first-round quarterback, they wound up with Manziel (whom they took with the 22nd pick), Brandon Weeden and Brady Quinn. None worked out.

Here's a look at the three main options for the Browns if they take a quarterback at No. 2, with early February odds on their selection:

Jared Goff

College: California

Size: 6-foot-4, 210 pounds

Comment: Goff seems to have moved slightly ahead of Paxton Lynch as the most NFL-ready quarterback in terms of ranking. He had an outstanding bowl game, throwing for 467 yards and six touchdowns against Air Force. Goff has a strong arm with touch. Problem is he's not considered the second-best player in the draft. Most analysts put him somewhere between No. 6 and 12 in their overall rankings. The Browns really have to believe in Goff to take him at No. 2.

Odds: 4-1.

Paxton Lynch

College: Memphis

Size: 6-6, 230

Comment: Some early projections had the Browns taking Lynch at No. 2. Now some have him in the second round. Such is the life of a draft-eligible quarterback. If Goff improved his status with an excellent bowl game, Lynch hurt his by going 16-for-37 for 106 yards against Auburn. Lynch's positives: He has great size, completed 67 percent of his passes this past season and has excellent mobility.

Odds: 14-1

Carson Wentz

College: North Dakota State

Size: 6-5, 231

Comment: Wentz's stock rose at the Senior Bowl, but he started just 24 games in his career and played in the FCS. He has never faced competition of anything like the type he will face in the NFL. Wentz has a strong arm, and he's the buzz of the draft talk simply because he played in the Senior Bowl. He seems a serious stretch for the second spot but might be worthy of No. 32. The Browns will need to do a ton of homework showing he can make the transition from North Dakota State to the NFL if they want to draft him.

Odds: 12-1.

Releasing quarterback Johnny Manziel is really the only move the Browns could make, and it was made clear on Tuesday that the move will be made in March.

In a sharply worded statement, new director of football operations Sashi Brown said Manziel's "continual involvement in incidents that run counter to (the team's) expectations undermines the hard work of his teammates and the reputation of our organization."

Point made. The Browns will release or trade Manziel in March, after March 9.

It is as close to a no-brainer move as a team can have.

The team's new brain trust of coach Hue Jackson and front-office operatives Brown, Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry deserve a fresh start. In this case, it means as fresh as possible. Wipe the slate clean and start over.

There is nothing good about saddling a new coach with an old problem. And that's exactly what the Browns would have been doing if they kept Manziel. It's better for the Browns and Jackson that the second-year player be released.

It's also better for Manziel. His constant appearances on social media and in the news have turned the fan base solidly against him. The atmosphere in Cleveland had grown toxic, with all but his fervent admirers giving up their support.

There is no need to try to figure the "why" regarding why things went the way they did. Manziel needs to come to grips with what he wants from himself and from football, and approach his job appropriately.

A fresh start with a new team, perhaps as a humbled backup, might lead him in a better direction.

This move does provide the Browns an opportunity for soul-searching. They can discuss their expectations and the level of accountability they demand. With their future actions, they have a chance to make a statement about their team, its players and its role in the community and on the field.

The team came up short with Manziel, often and consistently.

A new regime will have a chance to establish a new era with real standards -- and real consequence, if those standards are not met.

Every player on the team deserves that, as does every fan who pays for a ticket.

The draft-night excitement about the selection of Manziel seems as if it were decades ago. He now will go down as one of the bigger disappointments in Browns history.

It takes a lot for Cleveland Browns fans to lose patience.

So it might mean something that a movement started Sunday on Twitter aimed at getting folks to pledge to a "Johnny-Free February," meaning a month with no mention of Johnny Manziel's name.

The goal, as stated by Twitter user and movement founder @reflog_18, was "not to tweet, retweet or mention Manziel in February, or until he is no longer a Cleveland Brown."

The Twitter user posted early Monday that there "are now over 1000 participants (listed + @Chat_CST pledges) in the @Browns silent movement in Cleveland." At midnight Sunday, the hashtag for Johnny-Free February (#JFF) was the eighth-highest trending item on Twitter in Cleveland.

Of course the very boycott itself led to stories about him, which of course mentioned Manziel's name.

But the feeling was clear: These fans were weary the constant drama that Manziel brings and the many off-field stories about him. The last straw seemed to be the weekend story that an ex-girlfriend called police and claimed Manziel had assaulted her in Fort Worth, Texas, and that she feared for his well-being, which led police to search for him with a helicopter.

The entire Johnny-Free February effort led to some interesting tweets:

CLEVELAND -- Jimmy Haslam did not set out to build a non-traditional front office as he again rebuilt the Cleveland Browns.

It just happened that way.

The hiring of Andrew Berry as the team's vice president of player personnel completes a very intriguing group:

  • Berry, 28, is in charge of all personnel. He has zero experience being in charge of college scouting.
  • Sashi Brown is in charge of football operations and his background is in contracts and the salary cap.
  • Paul DePodesta is director of strategy; he comes to the Browns after spending 15 years in baseball.

Haslam said the structure is not as nontraditional as it might appear. He pointed out that the coaching staff, specifically Hue Jackson, is traditional.

Jimmy HaslamAP Photo/Tony Dejak"We feel like we've got a good group put together, so we'll see what they can do," Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said.

"On the personnel side, did we go a little bit more outside the box? Yes," Haslam said. "Did we go into the search for the player personnel [hires] thinking, ‘OK, we’re going to go outside the box?’ No."

He said that while Berry is young, the team did an extensive background check on him and got excellent reviews. Berry is young, but he's well-respected around the league. He takes over an enormously important role for the Browns in finding players, something the team has failed to do well for years.

"He’s clearly very smart," Haslam said. "He played college football. He’s been a scout with one of the better organizations in pro football and run their pro personnel department since he got out of school.

"He’s younger, but I don’t know that he’s non-traditional.”

The Browns had heard Berry's name circulating around the NFL for a few months. The team decided to check into him as they sought a lead personnel man, and, when they got positive reviews, pushed forward in interviewing him.

Berry's focus will be learning the kind of players Jackson wants in his systems, and then finding them. Haslam is not worried that Berry has never overseen college scouting because the Browns have 17 experienced scouts.

That statement was mildly interesting because typically when a personnel department is changed, the scouts are as well. But the Browns have had several scouts who have been in place since Tom Heckert was general manager, and a couple Phil Savage hired.

Haslam took the time to fly to Mobile, Alabama, where scouts are working at the Senior Bowl, and took them all to dinner Monday night.

"We have older individuals who’ve been in the business a long time and younger people who are newer to the business, who have done a lot of college work over the last several years, some for many years," Haslam said. "We feel like we’ve got a good group put together, so we’ll see what they can do."

CLEVELAND -- Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown says he does not think it would solve anything for the Cleveland Browns to trade or release quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Brown, the greatest Cleveland Brown and an all-time NFL standout, pins his hopes on the team's the new coaching staff being better able to relate to Manziel, a player Brown said he liked.

"I know a lot of kids that if you don't know how to deal with them you lose them," Brown said at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards gathering Thursday night. "They don't come ready-made.

"But on the other hand, the argument is that he's a man. He should know how to conduct himself. He has an an opportunity. We've got all of that.

Jim Brown Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images"The leadership with him has not been there," Jim Brown said of Cleveland QB Johnny Manziel.

"But I like him and I hope that they are able to relate, and I think if they're able to relate that he will respect the coach.

"I don't want to see him traded or anything like that. I just think that's never the answer to anything."

Manziel has been the subject of much discussion since he missed the Browns' season finale and was reported to be in Las Vegas. Social-media sites have placed the 23-year-old in Dallas during the past week.

Owner Jimmy Haslam was noncommittal on Manziel's future, repeating the team's mantra that any decision will belong to coach Hue Jackson and director of football operations Sashi Brown.

"Your leadership has to be able to deal with players and I don't think that Johnny is a bad guy," Brown said. "But I think he needs someone to deal with him, give him an opportunity to be the nice Johnny, the intelligent Johnny.

"From all I hear, he should know what is right and wrong, et cetera. But we never know what is in the background of any of these youngsters. Since I deal with them and I deal with the ones that are hardcore, I know that if you deal with them properly they'll respect you and you can get them to do what's needed to be done.

"So I think that the leadership with him has not been there and it puts everything up in the air."

Brown specifically referred to his work with gangs in inner-city Los Angeles. Brown brought gang members to his L.A. home and arranged unprecedented agreements between disparate groups.

He emphasized he was only offering his opinion on Manziel, and any decision about Manziel's future belongs to Jackson.

"I would never second-guess the coach who's coming in," Brown said, "and his decision is going to be the one I support."

We would be remiss if we did not take one last look at the 2015 Cleveland Browns season, chronologically and more importantly from a "That's So Browns" point of view.

We know … the day will come when "That's So Browns" will be a distant memory, and that will be a good thing.

But today, it's alive and well and simply can't be ignored.

In that spirit, we take one last look back at a season not to remember.

Johnny ManzielKirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsThe on-again, off-again, gone-again saga of Johnny Manziel typified a forgettable 2015 season for the Browns.

Aug. 1 — Jimmy Haslam says at training camp: "We're not going to blow it up, OK?" This statement, of course, refers to the low expectations for the Browns even at that early point. Haslam, though, said the Browns were "directionally correct." He blew it up. "That's so Browns" ranking: 8.

Sept. 13 — Josh McCown leads a masterful first drive of his Browns career against the Jets, but on third down tries to run into the end zone, is hit and helicoptered in the air. McCown fumbles, New York recovers, and McCown's day is done due to a concussion. One drive and done. Ranking: 8

Oct. 2 — Dwayne Bowe says this: "Once I hit the field running, you guys will love it." Bowe finishes the season with five catches and $9 million in guaranteed money. Ranking: 6.

Oct. 4 — San Diego misses a game-winning, last-play field goal but gets a second chance when the Browns are flagged for being offside. The Chargers make the kick, and the Browns lose. Ranking: 9.

Nov. 3 — GM Ray Farmer meets the media and promises his seat is no hotter than the day he was hired. As he speaks, sweat pours down his forehead — to the point he is given a towel to wipe himself dry. Ranking: 8.

Nov. 7 — Johnny Manziel has a four-week period where he is questioned by police in a domestic/driving incident near his home, then parties in College Station, Texas, two days after a loss to the Bengals. In that time he goes from backup to the starting quarterback for two games. Ranking: 6.

Nov. 15 — The Browns face Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger sidelined with a foot injury. In the first quarter, the Browns knock Landry Jones out of the game, forcing Roethlisberger in. He throws for 379 yards and wins — and the Browns become the team that took Roethlisberger off the bench and put him on the field. Ranking: 8.

Nov. 17 — Manziel is named the starter for the rest of the season. Social media video of Manziel partying in Texas the previous weekend surfaces six days later. Manziel lies to the coaches about the timing of the video and tells friends to lie as well. The next day Manziel loses the starting job. Ranking: 8.

Nov. 30 — Travis Coons' field goal to beat Baltimore on a Monday night is blocked and returned for a touchdown, giving the Ravens the win. It's the first blocked kick for a game-winning score in 30 years, but the 22nd time since 1999 the Browns had lost on the last play of the game. Numerous videos of anguished fans flood social media. Ranking: 10.

Dec. 7 — Five days after Austin Davis is named the starter against Cincinnati, Manziel is named the starter for the next game against San Francisco. This marks the fifth week in a row the Browns have put out a news release announcing the name of their starting quarterback. Ranking: 8

Jan. 3 — Manziel is supposed to be in the NFL concussion protocol, but he's seen in Las Vegas the night before and day of the Browns' season finale. He misses a treatment for his concussion Sunday morning. As late as Sunday night, the Browns were unable to locate or contact him. 9.

Jan. 3 — The Browns continue a tradition, losing to Pittsburgh and firing their coach after the loss. It's the fifth time the Steelers/firing scenario took place since 2008. Ranking: 9.

To say the Cleveland Browns are keeping Johnny Manziel at arm's length might be a gross understatement.

From the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, coach Hue Jackson told WKRK-FM 92.3 and that he had yet to talk with Manziel. His words indicated he was in no hurry to do so, either.

Sashi Brown, the team's new director of all things football, said last week he still doesn't know where Manziel was the final weekend of the regular season (USA Today had Manziel in Las Vegas).

Johnny ManzielAP/Aaron JosefczykJohnny Manziel's whereabouts haven't exactly been at the top of the priorities list for Browns brass.

Brown said he had not yet even taken the time to sit down and find out where Manziel was. He pointed to other priorities, including hiring a coach and general manager and now attending the Senior Bowl.

Consider these facts:

  • Manziel is a first-round draft pick.
  • He is a quarterback.
  • Quarterback is the most important position on the team.
  • He at one time was talked about as the future of the franchise.

Now he's an afterthought -- except for those who follow his days and nights on social media.

A team committed to a first-round quarterback simply would not treat its first-round quarterback with this kind of approach. It would embrace him, talk to him, find out the details of what happened, try to get get him focused on what's ahead and try to fix whatever caused said issue the final weekend of the season.

The Browns would sooner look at Carson Wentz than find out where Manziel was.

Manziel was so quiet for a few days after the season he had some asking "Where's Johnny?" He stayed out of sight at his Avon, Ohio, home, where a friend staying with him politely declined interviews.

But since last week he's been in Dallas, and social-media evidence of his appearances at clubs, bars and events has resurfaced.

Wednesday, Brown spoke with in Mobile about the partying and offered the tepid analysis that the team needs to see that football "is the most important thing in his life."

It's been a consistent statement from Brown, but it sure doesn't indicate overwhelming backing. The same seems true of Browns fans, who, based on unscientific observations, seem to have jumped off the Manziel bus.

What will happen with Manziel?

Former Cowboys quarterback and present Fox analyst Troy Aikman told and SportsCenter that he believes either Manziel or Robert Griffin III will be the backup to Tony Romo in Dallas.

Aikman spoke on gut feeling, not on any inside information.

"It's my belief that one of those two guys will be in Dallas," Aikman said. "Time will tell whether or not that happens. Jerry Jones has been on record saying he wanted Manziel. He was upset with himself for not taking Manziel [in 2014], even after they drafted Zack Martin. So that's certainly an option."

However, in a survey of ESPN's NFL Nation reporters, Cowboys writer Todd Archer opined that Dallas' interest will be low -- as will that of 30 other teams.

The Browns might be hedging their bets and hoping to work a trade for Manziel rather than just releasing him. That would seem to be a difficult deal to complete given all the baggage Manziel brings and what happened in Cleveland -- and what he's doing with himself since the offseason started.

If the Browns are "so done" with Manziel, as reported the night of the season finale, they might simply have to cut him.

At that point it's a free-for-all to guess where he winds up.

Johnny Manziel and Cam Erving were the most penalized players at their positions in the AFC North in 2015.

That's not good, especially for guys who did not play full time.

They were the two of four Cleveland Browns on the "AFC North All-Penalty Team," the players in the division with the most penalties at their positions. The list was compiled by my colleague in Baltimore, Jamison Hensley.

Manziel topped the quarterbacks, Erving the right guards. Gary Barnidge tied at tight end and Duke Johnson led the running backs.

Manziel was flagged five times, Erving the same.

The study takes into consideration flags thrown, but not necessarily accepted.

Manziel was flagged for delay of game twice, a false start, intentional grounding and an illegal forward pass. Three of the five stalled drives.

All five of Erving's penalties were for holding. Three stalled drives, one cost the Browns a touchdown.

Both players led the AFC North despite not being on the field for half of the team's snaps. Manziel had 39.6 percent of the plays, Erving 38.4 percent. Barnidge also had five penalties but was on the field for 85 percent of the offensive plays.

The most penalized Brown was Johnson Bademosi, a reflection of the fact the Browns had one of the league's best special teams players in a safety who moved to cornerback. Five of his nine penalties came on defense, four on special teams.

In terms of yardage, the most penalized Brown was cornerback Tramon Williams -- flagged eight times for 136 yards. Three of the calls against Williams were for pass interference, for 29, 38 and 40 yards.

Pro Bowler Joe Thomas was flagged six times, five for false starts. Fellow offensive lineman Mitch Schwartz had the same number of penalties.

The most penalized Browns in terms of number of flags: Bademosi (nine), Williams (eight), guard Joel Bitonio (seven), Thomas (six), Schwartz (six), Erving (five), center Alex Mack (five), Barnidge (five), linebacker Barkevious Mingo (five), Manziel (five) and linebacker Paul Kruger (five).

In terms of yards, Williams was flagged of 136 yards, Bademosi for 97, Bitonio for 60, Erving for 50, and Mack for 45.

Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas is encouraged by the hirings of Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson, but he is more focused on his family than his career at the moment.

"I like Hue and I'm excited about the direction of the team," Thomas said Saturday. "We'll see how free agency and the draft goes. Other than that I'm not really thinking about my career. I'm just enjoying the family and the offseason."

Thomas said he and Brown, the team's new director of football operations, have had good talks, and that the hire of Jackson as head coach excited him.

Joe ThomasRon Schwane/APBrowns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas is encouraged by the team's offseason hires.

Brown said he he talked with Thomas about the team's plans to win a few days after a disappointing 2015 season ended and left the discussion confident that Thomas believed in the team's plan.

When the '15 season ended with a loss to Pittsburgh, the perennial Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer for the first time said he might not want to finish his career with the Browns in light of the team's constant change in coaches and approach. He has three years left on his contract, so Thomas would have to ask for a release or trade to play elsewhere, something rebuilding teams often do with veteran players who have served them well.

Thomas cautioned at the same time not to over-dramatize the situation.

His statements Saturday are positive indicators. Thomas will head to Hawaii next week for the Pro Bowl.

In hiring Ray Horton as defensive coordinator (again), the Cleveland Browns hired a coach they were going to pay anyway, a coach the Browns paid the last two years while he coached another team.

Essentially, the Browns gave one of their former coaches a contract extension.

This is one of the quirks of constant change, and yes, it qualifies as a ... wait for it ... "That's So Browns" moment. In this case it's not a bell-ringer, merely a quirk of NFL life that perhaps only happens in Cleveland.

Horton was hired to be the team's defensive coordinator in 2013 and was given a four-year contract. When he was swept out with the firing of Rob Chudzinski, the Browns were obligated to pay the remaining three years of his deal.

Ray HortonAP Photo/Mark HumphreyRay Horton likely collected a check from the Browns last season, even as he worked for the Titans.

If he found another job, the team was responsible for the difference in pay between what his new team paid him and what the Browns paid him. He did find a job as defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans.

So if, for instance, Horton was hired to make $1 million per year (a purely arbitrary figure) and the Titans paid him $600,000, the Browns had to pay him the $400,000 difference.

The Browns were probably going to pay Horton something this year whether he coached in Cleveland, Nashville or Timbuktu.

By hiring him back, they hire the guy Hue Jackson wanted to run his defense, which is a good thing.

They also circle back to Horton's contract with the Browns from three years ago, and pay him the same this year he was going to make anyway. (Then they added more time to the deal. (So essentially Horton got a contract extension from a team he hasn't worked for in two years.

It's life in the NFL. It's life with change. It's life with the Browns.

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns' new brain trust met the media for the first time Thursday. Director of strategy Paul DePodesta and director of football operations Sashi Brown talked about the team and the new approach, which certainly seems unique in the NFL.

Words such as "strategic," "process," "consensus," "aligned" and "mindset" were key.

Here are five things to know from the media gaggle:

Paul DePodestaNick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesPaul DePodesta and Sashi Brown are taking Cleveland Browns football into a new era.

Brown has no hesitancy in deciding the 53-man roster. Owner Jimmy Haslam put a former salary-cap guy in charge of picking the players. Brown does not blink. "This is my 12th season in the league," he said. "I've been in and around a lot of strategic decisions in terms of how to build rosters. I think one of my strengths is to be able to bring people together and form a consensus, take information and make good, strategic decisions. We will make a series of those, and in time we will see those translate on the field." Brown emphasized people working together, and said coach Hue Jackson will have major input on personnel. It could work brilliantly. Johnny Unitas was cut by the Steelers before he went to the Hall of Fame in Baltimore. But the fact remains that the Browns have a guy heading the personnel decisions who did not come from a personnel background. Brown himself admitted that watching film will become a much bigger part of his job. "Because I do have the final say over the 53, you guys will be aiming at me, and that's exactly right," Brown said. "I am accountable for that."

DePodesta was not hired because of analytics. The immediate assumption when DePodesta was hired was the Browns would be a full-bore analytics team, a "Bill James comes to football" kind of thing. DePodesta and Brown both admitted that is not the case. "Paul is not about analytics," Brown said. They will welcome information from analytics, which will be one tool in judgments, but it's part of what they do and not all of it. DePodesta's role is more global, if you will. His role, Brown said, is about vision and strategy. What can he add to the front office that will contribute to winning? DePodesta's mantra: "If we weren't already doing it this way, is this the way we would start?"

It's more about a mindset than an algorithm. Analytics, DePodesta said, is not about numbers and formulas; it's about a "mindset" that means the Browns are open to learning and using information in the best way possible -- and in unique ways. "The mindset," he said, "is about how do we use information to help us make better decisions?" Speaking on ESPN, former Browns CEO Joe Banner gave a couple of good examples of how analytics can help. Banner pointed to studies showing arm length for defensive linemen has no correlation to being great, and he said he failed to convince three coaching staffs that the information mattered. He also said short-burst speed is a far better indicator of pass-rush success than any other statistic. DePodesta pointed out that things such as third-down tendencies, going for it on fourth down and pass routes against certain coverages are all a form of analytics. "That's all utilizing information to try to create some sort of advantage by making a better decision," DePodesta said. "That's really the way I view it. Analytics is not about sitting behind a computer and pushing enter and having it produce an answer. This game's not a simulation. It's played by real people, and because of that, there's just a tremendous amount of uncertainty that surrounds it. For us, it's about how we use information, how we use data to really get our arms around that uncertainty."

DePodesta brings a refreshing breath of baseball culture. Because baseball is played on a daily basis, people make mistakes, admit them and then play the next day. Teams see a pitcher every fifth day, so they know he likes a backdoor slider with two strikes. Because NFL games are played once a week, the cat-and-mouse game grows in stature. The slightest phrase seems to convey game-plan secrets. Much is hidden. Whether that's right or wrong is immaterial. Brown didn't want to delve much into the now-well-known analytics study two years ago that showed Teddy Bridgewater was the best draftable quarterback. He also didn't want to "parse" past personnel decisions, though he did say the decision to give Alex Mack the transition tag was unified, and the decision to sign Dwayne Bowe and give him $9 million was Ray Farmer's. DePodesta admitted that at times the idea of analytics is nebulous to him. He also said that many in baseball first thought he was nuts to move from the Mets to the Browns, and that he has had to ask himself a few times what he has gotten into. He added that even with all the analytics and information he can generate, there will be times the Browns simply miss. The goal: Make sure the decisions make sense within the overall vision, minimize the misses and maximize the right choices for the most important decisions.

The key to this structure working is Brown making it work. Sashi Brown is the key to the new structure. Folks could wallpaper a hallway with the names of people who have sat in the very seats that Brown and DePodesta sat in and promised positive vibes, a good working environment, unparalleled cooperation and sustained success. Those words meant little when the decisions led to seasons of frustration. Brown's approach is dependent on him being a listener and a motivator, not a control freak. People who know Brown say he will handle the job well. This is an incredible opportunity for him. He says he has grown into the role. But as DePodesta joked, if a decision doesn't work, Brown will be the guy to ask about it.

Big guys who can run, little guys who can hit.

And a continuation of the 3-4 defense.

That's what the return of Ray Horton as the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator means. One would presume that Horton's mantra when he was hired in 2013 is the same as it is now -- he wants big guys who can run and little guys who can hit.

Ray HortonAP Photo/Mark DuncanRay Horton was Browns defensive coordinator in 2013 and is set to return in 2016 after two seasons with Tennessee.

That and a dive into the numbers were Horton's calling cards. Horton was masterful in must-hear news conferences at pointing out how close the Browns defense was to being special based on two or three statistics that would have been far different without three plays.

He called himself a "stats maven," which should fit well in the Browns' increased use of analytics.

Horton coached in Cleveland during a season in which the Browns started 3-2 then fell apart, losing 10 of their final 11. In those 11 games, the defense gave up 28.4 points per game.

That Browns team started three different quarterbacks, played Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker at running back and traded Trent Richardson. It had Josh Gordon setting records and Jordan Cameron surpassing 900 receiving yards.

The defense had D'Qwell Jackson, T.J. Ward, Ahtyba Rubin and Jabaal Sheard.

Rob Chudzinski was given one year as head coach before Horton and the rest of the staff was swept out. There were plenty of ill feelings at that sudden move, but Horton felt good enough about the team, the city and new coach Hue Jackson to come back.

News of Horton's potential hiring wasn't greeted with great enthusiasm from the fan base, but Horton is a straight shooter, and he can coach. He was successful, liked and respected at Arizona as a coordinator, and at Pittsburgh as a secondary coach. He learned from the best in Dick LeBeau.(

Horton will minimize the on-field thinking and ask his players to play fast. That alone should be an improvement over the struggles of 2015.

It's not often a coach gets a second chance like this.

Minnesota's Kirby Wilson and Adrian PetersonChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesRunning backs coach Kirby Wilson has been a "brother" to Adrian Peterson.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings running backs coach Kirby Wilson, whose contract expires at midnight Tuesday, will interview with the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday to become their running game coordinator, according to a league source.

Wilson, who joined the Vikings as part of Mike Zimmer's coaching staff in 2014, interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator job after 2014. He has long said his goal is to become a coordinator, after a house fire that nearly claimed his life also cost him his chance to become the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator. He went to the same high school in Los Angeles as Hue Jackson, who became the Browns' head coach earlier this month. Both the Browns and the Miami Dolphins had approached the Vikings about running game coordinator jobs for Wilson last week, but the Vikings blocked both teams from interviewing Wilson, as they tried to get the coach signed for 2016. But with a chance to move to a higher position than the Vikings were offering, Wilson opted to wait out his contract and move on. It's expected he'll be hired by the Browns on Wednesday.

Running back Adrian Peterson lauded Wilson during the past two years, citing the running backs coach as one of the reasons he wanted to return to Minnesota after his 2014 suspension and saying Wilson was like a "brother" during the 2015 season. Assuming Wilson leaves, the Vikings will have to hope their replacement for the 18-year veteran will be a coach who earns Peterson's trust in the way Wilson seemed to do during the past two years.