Bad news everybody: The Browns have extended Paul DePodesta’s contract for 5 more years. The team’s “Destroyer of Chemistry” will continue his campaign to stamp out chemistry wherever he finds it. Why? Because he is a famous analytics guy, and chemistry does not compute. In fact, chemistry makes DePo and his bullshit spreadsheet look bad.
In 2018, Rashard Higgins and David Njoku became fan favorites by making many clutch plays with rookie QB Baker Mayfield. Both players were rewarded by being benched by DePo in 2019 and then again in 2020. Njoku asked to be traded, and Hig suffered in silence. Both players were unjustly persecuted.
In 2020, after a series of injuries to other receivers, the Browns finally had to let Hig play. And he (and Njoku) did as they always have: they were key in the Browns first playoff run in a very long time.
Their reward? Njoku clearly should be the #1 tight-end, but almost certainly will not. Hig should be a starter but will likely end up benched again. Both players will likely play behind their far more expensive, and lower-performing “upgrades” Austin Hooper and Odell Beckham, Jr. Two players that account for a mind-boggling waste of money.
In recent years, the Browns have become infamous for having lots of talent on paper, but surprisingly poor performance on the field. This, in retrospect, is exactly what you might expect of a team built with a fucking slide-rule.
Think about this: what if Njoku and Hig were starters for all of 2019 and 2020? Can you imagine how lethal Baker would be by now? And what if all those reps wasted on OBJ & Hooper had gone to train-up other, more-promising pass-catchers?
Sure, it’s easy to make such rear-view statements, but keep in mind that the Browns employed OBJ for 22 games of dogshit performance, hoping that he would start to click with Baker. He never did. Hope, was their plan. It didn’t work.
One thing we have learned is that you cannot parachute in a big-dollar, big-shot player and expect him to fit in. Providing pass-catchers to Baker just doesn’t work that way.
Hooper has tried very hard, but it doesn’t seem like he will ever approach the chemistry that Njoku has with Baker. Imagine two couples. Couple A is always finishing each other’s sentences. Couple B never finishes each other’s sentences, but think it is cool, so they start practicing doing so. What are the chances that they will be able to develop the same chemistry that Couple A has? Not very good, right? Are there any analytic techniques that might help them? Probably not.
This is why the Browns should move on from Hooper and OBJ. They need to stop ramming their head into the wall already. Like they say: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Coach O’Shea is retooling OBJ’s route running, and if anybody can fix OBJ, it is O’Shea. But there is copious evidence that Baker and Beckham are a Couple B.
Without DePodesta, Browns coaches would almost certainly pay more heed to the chemistry between Baker and his receivers.
I expect the Browns to have another good year, but not good enough to get Baker on the Hall-of-Fame track where he belongs. That can’t be done with an analytics nerd stripping Baker of his favorite targets.
Note: When Coaches Kitchens & Stefanski benched Hig & Njoku, they did not give reasons. This enraged fans. But my theory is that it was DePo who gave the orders and swore the coaches to silence.