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Pro Football Hall of Famer from York County unloads on analytics trend in NFL

STEVE HEISER
717-505-5446/@ydsports
Ron Wolf poses with his Pro Football Hall of Fame bust. The New Freedom native is not a big fan of the analytics trend in professional sports. AP FILE PHOTO

New Freedom native Ron Wolf was an NFL executive for nearly four decades.

He was the gerneral manager at Green Bay in the 1990s and led the Packers to a Super Bowl title in 1996.

The Susquehannock High School graduate was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

His NFL credentials are considerable.

One thing that Wolf isn't, however, is a fan of the analytics craze that is sweeping through professional sports.

Wolf made his feelings on the subject very explicit this week when he made national headlines with his feelings on the topic.

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Wolf told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the Cleveland Browns and others who rely heavily on analytics are “out of control. When something goes wrong, who takes responsibility? Their answer: ‘well that’s what the data told us.’ What a crock. That’s what got 'em 1-31.”

The Browns were 1-31 in 2016 and 2017, followed by a 7-8-1 season in 2018 and a 6-10 mark in 2019.

Wolf also told Mortensen he has a disdain for an overemphasis of analytics in baseball, and that the opinions are his own and no one else’s.

Wolf's son out at Cleveland: The 81-year-old Wolf had a reason to be upset with the Browns. They had just parted ways with his son, assistant GM Eliot Wolf, this week.

Eliot Wolf, 37, was let go a day after Andrew Berry signed his five-year contract to become Browns GM Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

The Browns parted ways on Wednesday with Eliot Wolf and Vice President of Player Personnel Alonzo Highsmith and Director of College scouting Steve Malin.

The Browns have relied heavily on an analytics-driven approach favored by Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta. Under Berry, the Browns are re-affirming their commitment to that model.

The Browns spent the day trying to work out an arrangement with Eliot Wolf, but by about 4:30 p.m., the two sides decided to part ways.

There’s no denying that the all-Ivy League triumvirate of DePodesta-Kevin Stefanski-Andrew Berry marks a paradigm shift back to the data-driven method of selecting players and assisting in playcalling and gameplanning. Stefanski is the Browns' new head coach.

Highsmith and Wolf were both brought in from Green Bay, where they spent most of their NFL careers. 

Highsmith, a former NFL running back, spent 19 years in Green Bay before coming to Cleveland in 2018, and Wolf spent 14 seasons there.

Both Highsmith and Wolf are considered old-school traditional scouts who rely most heavily on traditional scouting methods of visiting schools and watching tape. The disconnect between those two and DePodesta has been evident for the entire two-plus years that DePodesta has been with Cleveland.

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com. Mary Kay Cabot from Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS) contributed to this report.