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Cleveland Browns Deep Dive: John Dorsey

During his time spent as Browns general manager, John Dorsey was an extremely mixed bag of results. Did Dorsey do a good job of talent acquisition? Absolutely. And at the stage the Browns were in when he was brought to Cleveland, his talent acquisition was extremely necessary in order for the franchise to begin to crawl out of the basement of the NFL. However, Dorsey’s downfall was his power-hungry nature, his inability to work with the analytics staff and his misplaced trust in Freddie Kitchens.

An impactful beginning

On the same day in which the Browns fired Sashi Brown, they reached an agreement with John Dorsey to replace him as general manager. Dorsey capitalized on the position that Brown left the salary cap, as the Browns had nearly $100 million in cap space when he took over. Dorsey’s first impact move was to trade for wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who was disgruntled in Miami at the time. Landry’s presence alone has been a blessing for Cleveland, as his infectious attitude has helped spark the culture change amongst the players.

Not only did Dorsey hit on trades, but he also made a number of impactful draft selections in his time as general manager. Not only is Baker Mayfield looking like a capable starting quarterback, but Dorsey’s section of Nick Chubb in the second round of the 2018 draft was nothing short of brilliant. Chubb impacted the game even as a backup to Carlos Hyde early in the 2018 season. So much so that Dorsey released Hyde early in the season after head coach Hue Jackson refused to give Chubb regular playing time.

One of the last moves that Dorsey made a general manager was seen as under the radar at the time, but has turned into a home run. The Browns traded with the Bills for Wyatt Teller and a seventh round pick in 2021, for a fifth and sixth round pick in 2020. Teller has developed into a monstrous run blocker under the tutelage of veteran offensive line coach Bill Callahan. This move was Dorsey’s parting gift to the franchise; before the inner power struggle came too light.

Wyatt Teller has taken the leap in 2020 and is now one of the NFL’s most feared lineman. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Internal issues

John Dorsey’s inability to coexist with the Browns’ analytics department, captained by Paul DePodesta, was part of the reason for his downfall in Cleveland. Dorsey would dismiss their recommendations altogether when preparing for the draft and free agency. While Dorsey’s draft results were in some cases brilliant, his inability to work with others effectively is also one of the reasons why he did not land another general manager job. NFL organizations are no different from other businesses around the world. The upper management of the team needs to be in a state of cohesion from a communication standpoint, and that was not the case during Dorsey’s tenure.

Another large part of Dorsey’s downfall in Cleveland was his misplaced trust in Freddie Kitchens. The Browns hired Kitchens due to the success the Browns offense had at the end of the 2018 season. Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator mid way through the season after the Browns dismissed both Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. Even after a disastrous 2019 where the Browns players themselves said they craved leadership form their head coach, Dorsey refused to fire Kitchens himself. Perhaps Dorsey saw Kitchens as someone as he could have his finger over, as Dorsey had input on game day roster moves, something that is extremely uncommon for a general manger.

In the end, Jimmy Haslam decided to fire both John Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens. In what was viewed as a move of desperation, the Browns promoted Paul DePodesta and hired an analytics driven staff around him, including general Andrew Berry. While Dorsey acquired the core of talent that has the Browns competing in 2020 and 2021, he was his own worst enemy in terms of working productively with others.

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