Browns thoughts on Terry Pluto, ProFootballTalk, “black boxes,” and draft strategy

Browns Helmet LogoWho could be running the Browns today who might get the benefit of the doubt? I think it’s a good question. Sometimes I wonder if the Kraft family somehow divested the Pats, bought the Browns and brought Bill Belichick with them if Browns fans would continue point to failed draft picks like Courtney Brown as proof that the Browns were failing in the present. I don’t know how else to explain all the fear and loathing currently taking root in the Browns fanbase over the 2013 NFL draft.

Of course, the real answer is that none of us know if it was a good draft or not. Barkevious Mingo looks like an athletic outlier in a good way, but trying to project him as the next Jevon Kearse is unfair to the player and also the front office that drafted him. All we can do is look into the process and strategy and try to figure out if that strategy is a good one or not. Generically speaking, now that the draft is firmly in the rear-view mirror, I like the strategy and we’ll see about the execution as we start to see these players and how they ultimately fit into the depth chart.

Terry Pluto was critical of the draft because he presumably would have preferred the Browns take players instead of trading draft picks. In his “Talkin'” column this weekend, Pluto sourced a rebuttal of many draft criticisms straight from Berea, it would seem. This is the valuable sort of relationship that I chided Mike Holmgren’s group for not having with at least one local reporter or columnist over the years. If they are in fact speaking to a guy like Terry Pluto, it should be a good thing for everyone. Terry still has his opinions as a columnist, but understanding what the team is trying to do is really important.

One of the really important messages that came out of the Sloan sports conference this year was for analytics people to make sure they’re not presenting their coworkers with a “black box.” What this means is that when working with traditional sports scouts and front office people, you don’t want to just tell them that you’ve mathematically eliminated certain things or set the direction of the plan without providing them some insight into the logic. It makes sense because everyone tends to understand the outcome of an equation if the person doing the solution shows their work and process. It’s the same with the Browns front office as far as P.R. goes.

Obviously the Browns need to keep some things confidential and secret about who they like and don’t like going into the draft, but after the fact, it’s important to tell everyone what your thoughts were. Otherwise – as Browns fans know all too well – the fans are left wondering if there was any thought at all. They might think that instead of trying to upgrade draft picks, maybe the people in the draft room were confused or ill-prepared.

Without a team-sourced column here or there, fans are left with tidbits like what came out in the National Football Post this weekend about the Browns’ draft board being arranged alphabetically.

The Browns’ draft board was arranged alphabetically, which is very unorthodox and can make it difficult to make decisions on the fly. Front office men around the league were buzzing about the unusual board last week. Also noteworthy is that the Browns did not allow the majority of their scouts in the draft room. But they are not the only team that locks out scouts.

In a vacuum created by a team that thinks it’s too good to talk to local reporters, that kind of stuff reads pretty scary. But this new iteration of the Browns seems to be willing to get out and talk. Mike Lombardi made the rounds last week talking to WKNR and 92.3 the Fan. Coach Rob Chudzinski didn’t say a whole lot, but he made the rounds as well. Then this weekend Pluto has sourced intel from inside Berea refuting some of the budding negativity if not conspiracy. That’s a really good thing, if you ask me.

Granted, it doesn’t mean that they drafted the right guys. I mean, I think I like Mingo, but my logic is based on YouTube and an episode of SportsScience on ESPN. It doesn’t mean that they’ll make their trades look good by executing next year’s draft particularly well. None of this is me vouching for them doing a good job at anything other than dealing with the P.R. And even then, with comparisons like we’ve had from a public relations standpoint over the last five years, my only true perspective is that it is an improvement.

On a final note on the controversy surrounding Mike Florio’s post about Terry Pluto

For those who aren’t aware, Mike Florio seemed to take some shots at Terry Pluto when he quoted a source saying that Pluto is “on track to becoming one of the primary local-media mouthpieces for the new regime”. For a columnist that is a pretty big insult because it insinuates that the columnist won’t have his own viewpoint. I think as we’ve seen from Terry Pluto over the years that even though he’s well-connected, he’s still his own man when it comes time to levy an opinion. He stated in his opening to yesterday’s column that he was critical of the Browns draft before providing venue for the team to refute the criticisms. I see no problem with any of it.

The only problem I have in all of this is Mike Florio sourcing an opinion about Pluto. Terry Pluto is a very affable and approachable guy. He’s made himself very available to anyone who wants to talk to him via email, Facebook and Twitter. While Pluto gave venue to the “top operative” I never felt as if he was co-signing for everything that the team did. I’m quite certain if Mike Florio wanted to talk to Terry, it wouldn’t have been very difficult. Of course Pluto wouldn’t reveal his sources to Florio, but it would have saved PFT from looking a bit silly for questioning the integrity of a columnist who has spent a long career earning the trust of an audience by never being a mouthpiece for anyone.

  • Harv 21

    Florio’s tone was catty jealous. As in: I’m national, and they’re talking to you instead of me? You must be their toy, local boy.

    This should backfire. The only people who care about Pluto’s integrity are Cleveland sports fans, and he’s built up decades of credibility. Florio just blew some of his own credibility with his intended audience.

  • RyInCBus

    “Terry still has his opinions as a columnist, but understanding what the team is trying to do is really important.” THIS!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Great points but I for one love Pluto feeling like and taking an opportunity to question the franchise. Grossi (I still like him) has lost credibility with people but Pluto won’t have those same issues. It’s to easy to sit by and use the excuse of “lets wait to see what happens” IMO that’s how the last thirteen years have all but gone.

  • i didn’t take florio as being catty.
    i took his comment as a sign that he (florio) would now be regurgitating pluto instead of cabot and i view that as progress.

  • Harv 21

    why I said that: “mouthpiece for the new regime” is a flat out insult, about the furthest thing from a respectful or admiring comment a writer can make about a local columnist. If Florio was complimenting Pluto he could have called him one with “trustworthy inside sources,” etc.

  • I don’t disagree. At the same time, I can’t sit here and tell you that these guys, with almost no track record, are going to execute the trade into next year effectively. That’s why my endorsement of the strategy has the “wait and see” caveat.

  • EdgewaterJoe

    There are few people I respect less than Mike “I’s a Yinzer who craps mustard and dirt, yunz” Florio. You must always, ALWAYS remember he’s a Steeler toady who has never and will never have a good word to say about anything Cleveland. He can eat me.

  • MrCleaveland

    If you can draft a guy that you believe is a blue-chipper, you draft him.

    You don’t trade a blue-chipper just so you can draft two non-blue-chippers, no matter how many holes you have to fill.

  • JNeids

    “Wait and see”

    What’s that noise? I think I hear Oribiasi’s coffin creaking open!

  • Did no one salt and burn the bones?

  • mgbode

    completely agree. I cannot imagine any journalist being called a mouthpiece as anything but an insult.

    unless directly employed by the team ala Vic Carrucci (but he’s basically a PR man, not a journalist and, yes, there is some value in that as well).