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Browns' text investigation: Ray Farmer's aftermath

3/30/2015
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Browns GM Suspended, Team Fined

ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder discusses Browns GM Ray Farmer's four-game suspension for texting to the sidelines during games.

CLEVELAND -- Crowd noise doesn't hurt feelings. Text messages do.

The NFL's investigation into the Browns' game day smartphone communication was never about a suspension or even a loss of a draft pick.

Not entirely, anyway.

That the league had to discuss the general manager's inbox over something that seems so trivial has implications beyond league guidelines.

Ray Farmer had done damage in his own building, without the long-term track record to mask the problem. Farmer has done some good things -- particularly by filling several needs in last year's free agency and in parts of the draft -- but he's known for two struggling first-round picks and this investigation until proven otherwise.

Regaining the trust of other Browns' officials has been and should be a crucial component for the second-year general manager's job performance evaluation. Whether Farmer sent one text or 200 won't change the league-wide assumptions, fair or not, that he questioned jobs, embarrassed counterparts and exacerbated the well-worn dysfunction storyline in Cleveland.

For good measure, Farmer might even issue a "So ... we're cool, right?" to his staffers before disappearing on a four-game suspension.

This is a chance for the Browns to follow through on their word, to show over time this isn't as messy as it seems.

Farmer must get out of his own way.

Maybe things are all good now. Browns officials have stood by Farmer, who was contrite at the NFL combine. Coach Mike Pettine says he's "very comfortable" in his relationship with Farmer, sees football in the same way as him and both parties moved on from the mistake. Owner Jimmy Haslam calls Farmer an "exceptional human being" who is remorseful for his error.

But Pettine, in particular, had reason to fume when he first found out. Many successful NFL teams have a common thread -- a GM and head coach who respect each other.

Without that, Farmer and Pettine have no chance. Both say the respect is healthy. Whether they keep a united front during potential rough stretches of the season will determine just how healthy.

Advice for Farmer: Don't sit in the owner's box during games in 2015. It undermines your coach.