c/o Cleveland Browns
76 Lou Groza Blvd
Berea, Ohio 44017
Dear Mr. Haslam,
I am writing you to formally apply for the role of General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. The role is a challenging one, but I believe that my experience and approach to the job will quickly prove to the right mix for your organization.
Let me get an awkward, but important point out of the way up front: I’m a Steelers fan. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and one could even say that I hate the Browns. While that may seem like an impediment, I believe it is actually a core component of the leader you need: after all, years of futility have led to an organizational malaise that only someone who is not beholden at all to the past can truly disrupt. And you certainly need someone who understands what football means to a town like Cleveland. As much as I am loathe to admit it, Cleveland is really just a mirror image of Pittsburgh — albeit with everything about 10-15% worse — and having personally suffered through the persistent rank incompetence of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I deeply understand the kind of civic need and the boon to collective pride that a winning team can deliver.
And for as much as I dislike the hoary, “I too have watched The Social Network!” poseur signaling of the word, disruption is in my DNA; I revolutionized the way sports fans apply predictive analytics and advanced stats through my time founding and running numberFire, and in my imperious reign as Chief Product Officer at FanDuel, I helped usher in the sports betting revolution we’re seeing today. This history of technology-driven winning is a must-have for the Browns; much like that the experience of Bart when the Simpsons moved to Cypress Creek, when you are behind, doing the same things or worse, going slower than your competitors will doom you to an endless cycle of failure. Instead, you need new ideas. Bold ideas. Like wearing a Gordon Gekko-style contrast collar on national TV at least two decades after that thing went out of style.
James, or rather, Jimmy, if you don’t mind, I have lots of ideas. But unlike the modus operandi of most of the clown parade of GMs that came before, these are ideas rooted in quantitative fact, in the kind of analysis prevalent on Wall Street and in the sticky-floored, we-forgot-to-pay-the-electric bill offices of early-stage venture technology, but sadly so very lacking in front offices around the country. Knowing when to kick and when to go on 4th down? Child’s play. I’m talking about an entire overhaul of the scouting, contracting, and game-day decision-making processes of the organization, all led by the best data scientists available. Using data, we once convinced a team to pay Dwight Howard $20,000,000. We had data, they didn’t, and if that’s not a convincing argument for why you need data, I really don’t know what is.
You see Jimbo, one of the most insane things about the way professional sports organizations are run is this pervasive idea that you must have played that sport at the highest level to be an effective administrator. This is silly. Theo Epstein would get punched out by a little-leaguer whereas Omar Minaya played five years of professional baseball — and brother, you tell me who has proven to be the more effective GM!
Much like success in venture-backed technology requires creative thinkers and founders willing to ignore the status quo, pulling the Browns out of the doldrums will require a similar disregard for commonly accepted practices. Given that you once paid a $92,000,000 fine related to fraudulent accounting, you of all people should have a hearty affinity for that sort of thing. As an example, I don’t want to tip my hand too early, but let me just say, if anyone in my organization ever recommends calling a fade route, they will be fired immediately.
J-Dogg, I like challenges. And the Browns are a challenge. Going up against Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and a 47-year old Ben Roethlisberger recharged in the offseason with the stem cells of local Pittsburgh children is going to be a challenge. But clearly you like challenges too! It must have been such a difficult, arduous challenge to take over your Dad’s business. I was going to do the same until I simultaneously realized that I both didn’t want to be a steel worker and that my Dad didn’t have a business for me to take over.
But that’s all besides the point. You need new blood, new ideas, and an army of nerds to go in there and turn your organization into the football equivalent of the laser lab from “Real Genius”. And sir, I’ve got the ideas, I know the nerds, and uh, I’ve got the blood to make it happen.
Let me know. My resume is attached.