Yes, I predicted that the Browns would take Teddy Bridgewater if they took a quarterback. Yes, I was wrong. The Cleveland Browns took Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Why? Good question.
The Browns reportedly spent $100K on an analytics project related to the draft and the best quarterbacks available. The result? As CBS Sports reporter Jason La Canfora reported, the Browns' project determined that Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) was the best quarterback available in the 2014 NFL Draft.
The quarterback study, at a cost of over $100,000, ultimately pointed to Bridgewater having the best success rate of this year's group of quarterbacks, and the trend to analytics is taken very seriously within the Browns organization.
So, when faced with the option to take either Manziel or Bridgewater, the Browns chose Manziel. Why?
We'll (likely) never know why, but here are five suggestions - some flawed and some possible:
Myth 1: It's because the Browns don't value analytics.
The Browns' President is then-General Counsel of the Dallas Cowboys, Alec Scheiner. Scheiner, in addition to handling the Cowboys' legal responsibilities, was responsible for building the Cowboys' analytics department. Whether he was 'good' or not in the building the department is a different story, but Scheiner clearly appreciates the value of advanced statistics. That's what makes this decision even more confusing. While the analytics project was commissioned by old Cleveland management, Scheiner oversaw most of the development and the final conclusion. Thus, a change in management or philosophy is likely not a valid explanation for the Brown's strange decision.
Myth 2: The Browns believe in analytics, but also believe in traditional scouting, and the latter won out.
Surely, the project does not have to be sole deciding factor (nor should it be). But, the project also incorporated traditional film study. La Canfora reported:
By no means would it be the deciding factor -- and it is a part of the equation like other elements -- but this study also incorporated film review.
In that sense, it sounds like this project fully encompassed both analytics and traditional scouting. If that's the case (as it appears), then the Browns spent $100K to determine the best quarterback (by both analytics and film) and then picked someone else. Umm...what? Why?
Possibility 1: The Browns tricked everyone.
The Browns (either current or former management) leaked the results from the study. In doing so, they told the rest of the NFL (and the world) that they valued Bridgewater more than all other quarterbacks in the draft. This causes nightmares for a front office, especially as one tries to trade picks and execute other draft strategies. By supposedly tipping their hand, the Browns relinquished a worthy advantage. Unless, of course, Bridgewater wasn't actually the best quarterback in the study. If this is true, then the team aptly tricked the NFL (and me). Frankly, however, I don't buy it.
Possibility 2: The Browns were swayed by public opinion.
There's no debating the public intrigue of Johnny Football. He's flashy, he's cool, I get it. The fans wanted him. Perhaps management was swayed by the public. If so, this reflects poorly on the Browns. Upper management should run the organization, not the public.
Possibility 3: Manziel provides more business opportunities.
It could be the project determined Bridgewater was the top quarterback and Manziel was a close second. If so, then perhaps the business opportunities (ticket sales, merchandise, etc.) make up for the difference. If this is the case, it's a legitimate (and respectable) reason. If the two were separated by a large amount, however, then I question the Browns' strategy. Sell the short future but risk the long-term future of the program? I imagine most Browns fans would rather have playoff wins, not a bunch of hype and Manziel merchandise.
For the Browns' sake, I hope that this last suggestion is the actual reason because it could actually reflect smart decision-making (if Bridgewater and Manziel were close). Then again, you never know with the Browns.