Cleveland Browns: Ray Farmer

Browns, Gordon release statements

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
9:38
PM ET
A statement from Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer on Josh Gordon's season-long suspension being reduced to 10 games:
"We are aware of the new NFL policy related to the reduction of Josh Gordon's suspension to 10 games. We will continue to support and work with him under the NFL guidelines throughout this process. Our team's focus right now remains on preparing for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens."

Gordon released this statement through the NFL Players Association, pointing toward his return for the stretch run and making clear he's permitted to be back with the team during this suspension:
""I''m happy that the NFLPA and NFL worked hard to agree on a new Substances of Abuse policy. I''m very thankful to my union for fighting for a significant reduction in my suspension. I''m glad I can go to the facility during my suspension. I look forward to going to meetings, working out individually, and learning from my coaches and teammates. I can''t wait until game 11 to get back on the field!""
Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer has taken some public criticism for the way he put together the team’s final 53-man roster. Friday, Farmer explained his thinking on several positions (questions have been edited for brevity).

“There’s only so many chances during the year where you get a chance to really improve your football roster, and the final cutdown is one of those major days,” Farmer said. “We took advantage of it.”

Q. The decision not to keep veteran quarterback Rex Grossman?

[+] EnlargeRay Farmer
AP Photo/Tony DejakRay Farmer said it was difficult to let go of Nate Burleson.
A. We kept two quarterbacks because we felt like there are other players on the roster right now who can contribute to winning games on Sundays.

Q. Concern about pass protection with two rookie running backs behind Ben Tate, who has an injury history?

A. I think the coaches have done a great job of preparing those guys. Pass protection is a part of that. If they’re called up on I’m pretty they’ll go out and they’ll contribute to the roster the best they can.

Q. Gutting the backups on the offensive line in favor of new players new to the system.

A. I stated this from the beginning, that we’re going to be able to control the line of scrimmage at some point in time. We’re going to want to run the football. We’re going to want to be good up front. And you have to have quality depth up front to do that. We added guys to the roster that we thought could improve our depth and give us the chance to be as good up front as we can be. (He later added that coach Mike Pettine was involved in the discussion and agreed with the decisions.)

Q. On the wide receiver group.

A. I think the guys that we kept give us an opportunity to be dynamic in a lot of different ways. We have guys that I think can stretch the field, we have guys that I think can be good with the football in their hands. That’s what you want. I will say that the decision not to keep Nate Burleson was a tough one.

Q. There remains a healthy amount of skepticism on the receivers.

A. I’m always confident. I believe in what those guys are. If I didn’t believe in them they wouldn’t be here.

Q. Ever waver on the wide receiver plan in light of the Josh Gordon issue?

A. No. Not at all. There’s no reason to waver. Talent is talent.

Q. The wide receivers are small.

A. The league ebbs and flows. There was a time when smaller receivers were in vogue.

Q. The 21 undrafted rookies.

A. You just want guys that can perform their task at a high level. There’s several teams even now that are one, two guys different than we are in the league and somehow there is the notion that we have too many college free agents. It doesn’t matter to me whether a guy’s drafted or not.

Q. On keeping 12 defensive backs.

A. It’s been done. But I will say that anytime you get to your 53 you keep your best 53 guys, regardless of position.

Q. On Pettine.

A. He’s built for this. … I’m bought in. I don’t know if everybody else has bought in, but I’m bought in. I know Mike Pettine and I believe it.

Q. Will the roster now be more settled.

A. It’s never settled. It’s like a never-ending movie.
The Cleveland Browns released the following statements from general Manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine about the NFL's decision to uphold Josh Gordon's one-year suspension:
Farmer: "While we may have strong feelings on the timing and the process of this decision, we have also consistently communicated that we will focus on what we can control in our day to day approach. Right now that is preparing our team for the 2014 season and at the same time, supporting Josh however we are able under NFL guidelines during his suspension."

Pettine: "We will continue to support Josh and we understand that there is accountability for one's actions. Our job and that of the team is to focus on what we can control. Our philosophy in building this team and the mentality we're establishing is that we're going to have to overcome challenges and situations throughout the course of a season. We'll continue to be relentless in our approach, in how we work and focus on our goal of returning winning football to Cleveland."
BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel reads interviews.

Because the Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback clearly knew what general manager Ray Farmer told ESPN.com’s Jim Trotter last week, as Manziel prefaced his growth in the preseason by saying: “You look at what Ray had to say ...”

Farmer said this: “I think he is right where he’s supposed to be. I laugh because it’s four weeks into his first training camp, and everyone is waiting to see Steve Young run out the tunnel. I don’t know where the reality in that lies.”

Manziel
Manziel appreciated it. He said he thought he took a step forward against St. Louis and he hopes to take another step forward against Chicago.

But he also said he never expected to walk in and be ready for everything immediately, that the only people who can do that have to know where they will be taken two months before the draft.

“I think they’re happy with my progression through the time I’ve been here so far,” Manziel said of the team. “I think they knew what they were getting when they took me, that it would be a process. It’s not a spread-the-field out and run, pick-a-side concepts like we did at A&M.”

The Browns are committed to the Kyle Shanahan system, so rather than change the system for Manziel’s talents, they are force-feeding him the system. He accepts it.

“It’s just different what we do here and what the NFL game is all about,” Manziel said. “I think they knew that, they were smart enough to watch the tape and (to have) known and heard enough about our system to know how it was.
“I think they knew it would take some time for me to get adjusted to everything.”

Browns GM Ray Farmer Q&A: Part 2

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
3:30
PM ET
Ray Farmer is in his first season as the Browns’ general manager. He recently discussed his feelings on the state of the team, its lightning-rod rookie quarterback and trying to be patient and prudent in an age that craves immediate gratification. Farmer joined the Browns as assistant GM in March 2013 after seven seasons (2006-2012) as Kansas City Chiefs director of pro personnel. He spent four seasons (2002-05) as a pro scout with the Atlanta Falcons, where he saw firsthand the emergence of Michael Vick as a star. Here are Part 1 and Part 3 of Farmer's interview.

You’ve talked about what you like about this team. What are your concerns as you go forward with the team? What are the questions that have to be answered?

Farmer: There are several questions that have to be answered. You always want to get better. I think that, assuming everyone was healthy and available to play, our top 22 vs. anybody else’s top 22 -- I’m very comfortable with that. The difference in the National Football League is, if you’re missing an A-level player, the drop-off between A and the next guy is where the questions start to arise.

Every team is concerned about their depth. I like our young players, but with all of them, you just don’t know until they play. You have to have enough depth on your roster to contribute in the instance that Player A stubs his toe for a week and he’s gone. Or he has turf toe or small ailment that’s not a catastrophic injury, and even if it is, you may have to replace him for not only one week but maybe 10 weeks or 16 weeks. The reality is you’ve got to have enough quality depth in your roster to sustain when there are injuries, because people get hurt. This is the National Football League.

That being said, this is definitely a process. I keep using that word, but fundamentally everyone is excited about the moment, and we’re excited about the journey.

How tough is it to get people to understand that it’s a process?

Farmer: It’s tough. Everyone wants what they want today. We’re in an instant-information society. Twitter is blowing up. Instagram is blowing up. I want it now. Nobody writes letters anymore. Nobody wants to wait. I’d rather send you an email.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Haslam and Ray Farmer
AP Photo/Mark DuncanBrowns owner Jimmy Haslam wants a winner, and Ray Farmer will try to reverse a trend. The Browns have had six consecutive losing seasons.
Do you send letters?

Farmer: I don’t, but I’ll tell you that my patience level would allow me to write letters. I try to appease those that need email and need Instagram.

You’re speaking to a dinosaur.

Farmer: Dinosaurs are good. What happened 15, 20 years ago? Somebody couldn’t reach you when they called, they left a message and waited for an answer. Right now if you don’t call them back in 15 seconds, they got an attitude the next time they see you. That’s the way it goes. I get it. My kids are the same way. My daughter says, “Why didn’t you text me back?” I was in a meeting; that means you wait until I have an opportunity to get back to you. Our team is that. It’s tough to be a ready-made product, but everybody wants instant coffee. We like the freshly roasted kind.

Looking at your background, you’re not a “shortcut guy.” You respect hard work and the process that you’ve spoken about. But you and I both know that this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.

Farmer: Absolutely.

And you have an owner who’s fairly new and clearly wants success, that sort of thing. How do you balance that as a first-year GM, knowing the reality of this league is that there’s no guarantee you’ll get a second chance if you don’t succeed the first time around?

Farmer: My balance is simple: I’m going to stay true to me. I’m going to do everything in my power to make it a better football team. We’ll make smart decisions. They’ll be calculated to a large degree behind what we do, when we do and why we do. That’s the genesis. At some point soon, we’re going to get this right. I have no qualms in my mind that I’m going to have success in this league of helping to establish something that hasn’t been done. But we’re going to do it the right way. You can do a lot of things in a short period of time and cut corners, and you may not see the results of that today, but inevitably they’ll show their faces. To me, like my mom and dad used to say, you don’t have to cut the whole yard today, but sooner or later I’m going to be able to look out there and say, "You didn’t cut this side. You let that side go for three weeks." I’m not about that. I’m going to take my time and cut the whole yard, and when it’s done it’s done.
Ray Farmer is in his first season as the Browns’ general manager. He recently discussed his feelings on the state of the team, its lightning-rod rookie quarterback and trying to be patient and prudent in an age that craves immediate gratification. Farmer joined the Browns as assistant GM in March 2013 after seven seasons (2006-12) as Kansas City Chiefs director of pro personnel. He spent four seasons (2002-05) as a pro scout with the Atlanta Falcons, where he saw firsthand the emergence of Michael Vick as a star. This is Part 1 of Farmer's interview. Here are Part 2 and Part 3.

How are you feeling about where the team is?

Farmer: I feel good. I feel like we’re right where we thought we were going to be. We went into free agency, we did what we were supposed to do -- at least in my mind. We went and got players who we believed would help change the culture in this building, help establish us as a defensive-minded football team. Whether it’s Karlos Dansby, whether it’s Donte Whitner, we’ve brought in guys who are demonstrating that they’re definitely worthy of our selection and how we compensated them and what their value potentially was in free agency. So I feel good about the acquisitions made there.

Then we went into the draft, and I think we did well. We brought in guys that are going to contribute to this football team, and at the end of the day, it’s not always about instant coffee. This is a process. Within the process, we’re doing what we have to do to develop our guys the right way. Inevitably it’s not just about winning at the moment. It’s about sustaining wins. So the way you grow players has a large part in how they perform long-term.

That’s a big part of what we’re going to do: We’re going to raise them right, we’re going to discipline them when they need to be disciplined, we’re going to force them to be tough on them when we need to, and we’re going to do all the right things we need to do to make them understand what it means to be a pro.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer
AP Photo/Evan VucciBoth Cleveland Browns starter Brian Hoyer and backup Johnny Manziel have had to battle a learning curve with a new offense.
When you talk about the process, do you put timetables on it? How do you know when it's right?

Farmer: It’s like a good cook. They go in the kitchen and they don’t measure how much brown sugar they put in it. They do it until it tastes right. It’s based upon the feel for where you are with the player, the rhythm you have with him, where he’s at psychologically, how his development and maturation is going. Then, when he’s ready to take his opportunity, then you can put him in.

I’ll give you an example. Ronde Barber did not play much on defense, if at all, in a regular-season game his rookie year until the playoffs. Then they [the Buccaneers] turned him loose. Now you see Ronde Barber at the end of his career and you [don’t have to] wonder why he’s a pro.

What do you think he learned from sitting?

Farmer: You have to earn your stripes. You have to earn your opportunity to contribute in a viable way. Even though you may be talented, even though you may make plays every practice, you’ve got to get your opportunities at certain points and times. When you structure that appropriately, you can potentially shield a guy from himself, you may help a guy grow up, you may help a guy do a lot of things that presents a better picture eight games from now, 10 games from now, 16 games from now or maybe a year, year and a half from now.

Inevitably, guys change. That’s part of this process. When you draft them, when you get young guys who you feel can grow and develop, they’ll grow up in time. The negative is, when you put a guy in before he’s ready, people say, “Aw, he can’t play.” Well, guess what: Very few guys come in to this league and start tearing it up from day one. Randy Moss, I applaud you. He came in, and he tore it up from the day he stepped on the field. That’s a rarity, but I think that’s what everybody sees as commonality. That’s the expectation.

Is that because of the young quarterbacks who came in and played right away?

Farmer: I would ask how many of them came in and threw the ball 35, 40 times a game and won. Not many. Look at Peyton [Manning as a rookie]. Twenty-eight interceptions and three wins as a rookie. You can do that, but some guys never recover from it. Peyton had a different mental toughness. He had a different perspective on life. He overcame his shortcomings when he was a rookie. But if you look at the long-term maturation of a lot of guys that sat and took time to grow, they fared better by getting their chance to learn how to play.

I know you don’t believe in doing things based on public opinion, because teams can never win that way, but when you set up organizationally how you were going to handle the quarterback situation -- if a veteran like Brian Hoyer isn’t able to separate himself from a first-year player (Johnny Manziel) who has so many challenges in front of him like learning a playbook with more verbiage, having to make protection calls at the line, taking snaps from under center, going through multiple read progressions, all these things he never had to do before -- why should that instill confidence in the team or the public?

Farmer: It should instill confidence from the standpoint that when he’s had to perform -- the difference now is that you have two guys learning new playbooks and new systems. So people say he’s a veteran. Well, to some degree, yeah, he’s a veteran. But they’re both coming in with little to no knowledge of the scheme they’re going to be implementing. To that degree, the race starts at the same point.

As you move forward, you say, "OK, what guy has done what? What guy has done what in practice?" Games are a part of it, but I look at it like the 3-point shooting contest [in the NBA All-Star Weekend]. There are a lot of brown balls before you get to the striped ball. The striped balls are the games; they offer a little bit more. But they don’t take away from or negate what you see in practice. So it’s looking at the totality and not just the money ball. If it was just about the money ball, then that’s all you’d shoot. But there are a lot of other things that go into the process. It’s understanding the totality of the process that gives us a different and clearer vision for why one guy’s different from the other.
Blood clots had Cleveland Browns guard Jason Pinkston in the Cleveland Clinic for 11 days, and he and the team have reached a settlement.

Pinkston's season is over and his career might be as well. That word came from ESPN's Adam Schefter, who reported the Browns will release Pinkston after agreeing to the settlement.

Pinkston had blood clots once before in 2012, but made a seemingly miraculous recovery to play last season.

"More than likely I'll have to retire," Pinkston texted Schefter Monday afternoon. "The Browns were great working with me and I would love to thank GM Ray Farmer and owner Jimmy Haslam for my opportunity here in Cleveland.

"It's been an honor to be a part of the organization and city."
BEREA, Ohio -- It took Brian Hoyer all of one day to move on from the excitement of the past and to focus on simply playing the position he’s always wanted -- quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.

[+] EnlargeBrian Hoyer
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesBrian Hoyer made all the plays in Day 2 of training camp.
 The change in Hoyer from Saturday to Sunday was marked, as he was decisive, quick, accurate and confident in the second training camp practice. Johnny Manziel? Not so much ... as his body language steadily deteriorated as the day went on.

Hoyer had some first-day sloppiness, and that could have been for several reasons: getting cleared to practice fully following knee surgery, trying to win the job for his hometown team, the hype about his backup and appearing for the first time in front of fans and media.

“He’d have to a robot not to be affected,” coach Mike Pettine said. “I’m sure there was a lot going on inside his head.”

The Browns are publicly saying the right things about the quarterbacks, with Pettine admitting that both have gotten off to “solid starts” and GM Ray Farmer saying both will have plenty of opportunities.

But if a neutral observer descended above the team’s practice field on Sunday, he would float away with a clear and definite impression that Hoyer is well ahead of Manziel, who has a long way to go.

All the usual caveats apply. It’s only Day 2 of camp. Manziel is a rookie, and he should have a learning curve. The team has not practiced in pads, so Manziel can’t make many of his patented create-something-out-of-nothing throws.

But it’s also true that Hoyer is learning a new offense, he’s coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL and hasn’t played in a game since last October. He also has to learn to drive the ball off the knee that was repaired – and he’s shown no hesitation in doing so.

 The tally sheet of good throws and completions for Hoyer would be lengthy. He started his day in team work with a deep post that hit Anthony Armstrong on the numbers. He followed with a throw outside to Willie Snead just over a linebacker. Later, there was a deep throw to Taylor Gabriel past the corner and in front of the safety, then a deep sideline throw to Nate Burleson. In the final team drill, Hoyer completed all three passes and got the ball out quickly -- showing a strong grasp of the offense.

Manziel spent a fair amount of time snapping off his chinstrap and turning in disgust after not-so-good plays. As the day went on, his body language got worse and worse. A sidearm throw on a rollout that was well short of the receiver. An underthrow into double coverage. The same deep throw Hoyer completed to Gabriel was overthrown badly by Manziel. Another overthrow. Another near interception.

Manziel even started the day with neon shoes -- an interesting choice for a rookie -- but he changed them less than 30 minutes into the practice because they weren’t “team issued.” It’s way too early to make any final determination on the position, but the Browns also are at a point where every snap counts, as Pettine and Manziel have admitted. This was not a new group of plays for either quarterback. Pettine said the plays were the same ones run on the second day of offseason work, as the training camp lessons will mirror what happened in the offseason.

The Browns will not be drawn into a Manziel-Hoyer discussion, and Pettine does his best not to give instant feedback on quarterback play after practice. But it’s evident the respect the coaches and front office have for how Hoyer has attacked the opportunity -- and his rehab from last season.

“I think Brian’s been phenomenal,” Farmer said. “He’s handled it like a pro, which is what you would like. He’s a man’s man. He didn’t cry over spilled milk. He attacked his rehab. He was here probably more than anybody. I think I work a lot of hours, and there weren’t many hours that I was in the building that Brian wasn’t somewhere working on his craft. Be it the meeting room, the indoor facility, the weight room, he did everything he could to put himself in the best position possible.”

It was pointed out to Farmer that the obvious comparison to that is a guy who was on the party circuit.

“From Brian’s perspective, he’s been a pro,” Farmer said. “He’s handled himself the right way. I’m only going to compare Brian to Brian.”
The last of a series assessing the Cleveland Browns' roster as we head to training camp, with a position-by-position rundown comparing it to when the season ended and now.

Front office

Then: Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Ray Farmer.

Now: Ray Farmer, Morocco Brown, Bill Kuharich.

When owner Jimmy Haslam announced the promotion of Farmer and departure of Banner and Lombardi, he said it was done with Banner's blessing and to streamline the organization so it functioned more logically and smoothly. Business operations, led by president Alec Scheiner, would report to Haslam, and football would fall under the guidance of Farmer and also report to Haslam. Lo and behold, the Browns seem to have a much more streamlined and logical front office structure. Farmer brings a refreshing honesty and logic to his approach. He does not give the feeling that he is smarter than anyone, and his moves -- while much more traditional -- have made sense. He pulled off some masterful trades on draft night and wound up generating more excitement than anyone has seen in a long time with the selection of Johnny Manziel -- though it seems he may have his hands full in handling Manziel off the field. He brought in experienced and logical free agents and he was open in explaining moves like the release of D'Qwell Jackson. Nobody knows how things will play out, and Farmer would admit that. He's smart enough to know what he doesn't know, confident and secure enough to be honest in assessing things and open enough to not dodge a question. It's an easy out to dump on the previous regime and also not fair to Farmer, who stands on his merits for what he does. And what he does seems to be moving the Browns in a positive direction.

The positives: Haslam had the gumption to recognize what he had in Farmer and the guts to make a move that might have been perceived negatively. Farmer's presence has been stabilizing and positive.

The negatives: There's still a long way to go, and how things play out will depend on the position that has baffled the Browns since 1999. If Farmer hasn't or can't find a franchise quarterback, he might one day find himself with all the other GMs before him who tried.

Previously: Quarterback, running back/fullback, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, secondary, coaching staff.
The headlines will say that Ray Farmer isn’t afraid to take a chance on a player.

The Browns' general manager prompted that reaction by signing cornerback Aaron Berry, who missed all of 2013 with a torn knee ligament and who was released by the Lions after two arrests in two months in the summer of 2012, one of them gun related.

In truth, Berry might be a long shot to even make the team.

After his release by the Lions, Berry played just seven games for the Jets as a backup and on special teams in ’12, and he missed all of ’13. It appears he would be slated for special teams with the Browns, which Farmer even mentioned in a statement released by the team.

“Aaron Berry gives us both depth and competition at corner, and has the potential to upgrade our kicking game,” Farmer said.

Berry’s strength is man-to-man coverage, a necessity in Mike Pettine’s defense. He joins a group that already includes Joe Haden, first-round draft pick Justin Gilbert, Buster Skrine and Isaiah Trufant.

To his credit, Farmer was candid in assessing Berry's past issues, and about the fact that Berry would have the chance to earn a spot.

“We recognize that he's had missteps, as does he,” Farmer said. “Before and after that adverse period in his life, members of our coaching staff and players in our locker room worked with Aaron. From a communication standpoint, there's a degree of comfort we have with him, and a degree of comfort he'll have with the Browns. He has a chance to earn the opportunity to contribute to any success we'll have this fall.”
Ten takeaways from the second open practice of the Cleveland Browns' offseason work, with the caveat that any "concerns" should be minimized because it is May:
  1. Ray Farmer's statement that Brian Hoyer is the best quarterback on the Browns “by a substantial margin” should be taken seriously. Hoyer is better right now. He throws better, looks more confident, throws more accurately and seems more like the guy who has been around longer and in the offense longer. If the opener were in a week, Hoyer would start.
  2. Johnny Manziel makes enough throws to show he has ability. The highlight Tuesday was a 25-yard pass to the sideline that dropped right into the hands of Josh Gordon. The problem is that he doesn’t show the ability often enough.
  3. Manziel needs work. One short slant in five-on-five (no rush) would have hit the guard in the back. He also got under a throw that sailed well out of the end zone. Some of his fundamentals are all over the place -- the difference between him and Hoyer at times on footwork is marked.
  4. Manziel can get lost behind the line when dropping back. He also has a low trajectory on his throws, which means the line might have to create throwing lanes. This doesn’t mean he can’t succeed; Drew Brees can get lost as well. It’s just an observation.
  5. Donte Whitner said this about Manziel: “He looked good. Sometimes he stares some things down out there, and that’s part of being a young guy. He wants to know where to go with the football. But he’s getting better each and every day. He’s throwing the ball very, very accurately. He knows where his checkdown is at all times. ... He’s learning. He’s developing each and every day.”
  6. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil called Whitner a “follow me or else” leader. “There’s not a lot of them anymore,” O’Neil said. The best definition of being a professional is that it means doing your best when you feel your worst, and Whitner talked of learning early that a guy has to put in work when he’s tired or weary. He’s a guy that seems to really “get it.”
  7. O’Neil also said he wants Whitner to be a physical presence in the middle of the defense. In fact, he encouraged it. “We want to intimidate people,” O’Neil said, adding: “Every great defense in the NFL has an enforcer. So ... he’s ours.” It’s an interesting take in this era of concussions and concussion lawsuits. Because it shows the fine line between football being a fast, physical game and the danger and risks of playing that way.
  8. Whitner did not hide in the least from the “enforcer” role, saying that while teammate Tashaun Gipson is more focused on tackling than big hits, he is more focused on big hits with tackling second. “Thats my game,” Whitner said. “That’s what I like to do.” He added that those who don’t like to get hit shouldn’t play offense, and he’d “take 15 yards to instill some fear in somebody, but we’re going to do it the legal way."
  9. First-round pick Justin Gilbert missed part of the workout with an ice bag on his knee. Coach Mike Pettine said it was "just a bag of ice." Which is kind of like using the term "minor surgery." It’s only minor if it’s someone else. At any rate, Gilbert tweeted Wednesday that he was fine and would be back on the field for the next practice.
  10. Joel Bitonio seems to be setting up shop at left guard. Bitonio played tackle in college, and now gets to start his career between Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. Bitonio absolutely looks the part of a guard, and could be a welcome addition to the line.

Browns offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

 With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Cleveland Browns' offseason moves:

[+] EnlargeRay Farmer
AP Photo/Tony DejakIt's looking like a smart move -- for now -- that the Browns hired Ray Farmer as their general manager.
Best move: Naming Ray Farmer general manager was a shocking move, but it was the right move. Farmer has brought stability, a clear vision and common sense back to the front office. His free-agent moves replaced players lost to free agency and added needed talent at running back. His draft picks were based on evaluations and not projections. His answers have been filled with common sense, logic and a humanity to appreciate. It's all still on paper. Farmer's team has yet to play a game. And the details behind the move from Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi to Farmer are still not known -- Banner and Lombardi could have been just as active as Farmer. But what is known is Farmer has brought many clear positives to the Browns.

Riskiest move: Drafting Johnny Manziel could be the greatest move Farmer ever makes. Or it could backfire. Prior to the draft, there were as many people saying to avoid Manziel as were saying to take him. The Browns played it coy, perhaps even leaking word they were more interested in Teddy Bridgewater. Manziel has supercharged interest in the team since the draft, but he still has to play and prove that he’s tall enough, competent enough and tough enough to be Johnny Football in Cleveland.

Most surprising move: Not taking a receiver in the draft went against all logic, especially because the Browns front office knew prior to the draft of Josh Gordon’s likely suspension. Without Gordon, the Browns lack a playmaker. They lack their only playmaker. The time to take a receiver would have been in the second round, but the Browns chose offensive lineman Joel Bitonio. That tells much about how the Browns feel about Bitonio, and about their approach in winning games this season.

Smartest move that wasn’t originally thought to be so smart: Giving the transition tag to Alex Mack. The initial thought was that would allow other teams to swoop in and steal the Pro Bowl center. In the end, Mack wound up getting a tepid offer from Jacksonville that the Browns quickly matched. Yes, the Browns are paying a center a ton of money, but it’s essentially a two-year deal that either side can end after 2015. At that point, the team can assess again how much it likes Mack.
Catching up on some of the leftovers from the Cleveland Browns offseason practice on Wednesday:

• As things stand now, John Greco is lining up at right guard, with free-agent signee Paul McQuistan and second-round draft pick Joel Bitonio at left guard. Bitonio looks the part of a guard. Stout, strong -- and he brings a bit of a 'tude to an offensive line that probably would welcome it. When Ray Farmer was asked by ESPNCleveland.com about the one under-the-radar guy the Browns drafted, a guy he thought fans would really like to see, he mentioned Bitonio. Clearly there are high hopes for him -- and clearly those high hopes are part of the reason the team did not take a receiver in the second round.

• Brian Hoyer had some interesting things to say about new wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. Hoyer compared Hawkins to Wes Welker in the way he runs his routes and finishes them. Hawkins looked very good on the day the practice was open.

• The attention paid to running back spot, something that was missing last season, was evident during one practice in shorts. Ben Tate and Terrance West both look the part, and Farmer is very high on free agent Isaiah Crowell.

• The way Tyler Thigpen threw on the day folks could watch him begs the question: What the heck happened to Vince Young?

• It was refreshing to hear Farmer say on radio that Hoyer is ahead of Johnny Manziel by a substantial margin. Refreshing because it was honest and lacked the games of past regimes of talking around an issue. And it's refreshing because Farmer recognizes it's not in any way a condemnation of Manziel. He should be behind right now; he’s been a Cleveland Brown for one stinking week.

• An objective look at the quarterbacks shows this: The No. 1 with three games started for the Browns coming off an ACL reconstruction, a first-round draft pick trying to learn as he goes, a veteran backup trying to revive his career and an undrafted free agent. Yes, it's a good thing it's May.
It sounds like it was Johnny Manziel in the draft at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, or nobody.

Manziel
That is the upshot from an interview Ray Farmer with ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi this week, as Grossi asked Farmer questions rapid-fire with some rapid-fire answers.

Asked what quarterback the Browns would have wound up with had they not been able to trade up for Manziel, Farmer said the player “is already on the roster.”

Asked the one player in the draft who will definitely be a star, Farmer said guard Zack Martin of Notre Dame, taken by Dallas instead of Manziel.

Finally, Farmer dropped this interesting tidbit about the quarterback spot, and presumably Brian Hoyer.

Asked what it means if Manziel is the starting quarterback in the season opener, Farmer said that “somebody got hurt.”
Dowell Loggains concluded his phone interview Thursday with Bo Mattingly of ESPN Arkansas by saying "No problem."

Have untruer words ever been spoken?

Because Browns quarterback coach Loggains basically blew to smithereens two of the important narratives the team has been trying to make sure people knew since they drafted Johnny Manziel. And Loggains did it while saying there was no "cone of secrecy" over the Browns' draft moves as far as he was concerned.

Consider the following set of quotes.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
William Perlman/USA TODAY SportsThere seems to be ambiguity over what path the Browns want to take with Johnny Manziel, following quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains' comments to an Arkansas radio station.
General manager Ray Farmer on the draft's final day: "I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that Jimmy Haslam at no point demanded, requested or tried to influence the process in any way."

Loggains after receiving a text from Manziel urging the Browns to draft him so he and the team could "wreck this league" (a classic phrase in its own right): " ... when I got that text, I forwarded it to the owner and to the head coach. I'm like, 'This guy wants to be here. He wants to be part of it.' Soon as that happened, Mr. Haslam said, 'All right, pull the trigger, we're trading up to go get this guy.'"

According to a source inside the draft room who witnessed a lot of things coming together as the Browns tried to acquire the pick that would be Manziel, the text was sent and Haslam's statement was more inspirational and cheerleading than mandate.

No team does months of work, study and assessment and then blows up a draft board based on a draft-night text. To think that happens is preposterous. But Loggains presented his version with absolute certainty, with nary a hint of doubt in his voice.

Then there are these two quotes.

From Haslam, to the lunch crowd at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Monday: "We were frank [with Manziel] on Friday ... you're the backup quarterback."

From Loggains on the radio, while admitting Manziel has to work on fundamentals: "I think we can throw him out there right now and I think he's going to be one of the most exciting players in the NFL."

The Browns believe the two statements are not incongruous, that anyone enters as a backup, even an exciting player. But there still is quite a disparity.

On the one hand, the Browns have an owner and a GM and a head coach insisting that the owner did not force the selection and the celebrated pick has to earn his way (doesn't the latter notion seem more and more laughable as each day passes?).

Then they have a quarterback coach, a guy well down on the organization and coaching hierarchy, evidently going on an Arkansas (?) radio station on his own and bringing to light a completely different narrative.

This from a team that refused to talk with the local media about whether Nate Burleson had broken his arm in the offseason and promised it would not talk about player injuries at all. A team that asks the local media to "request" an assistant coach 24 hours in advance and relay the topic of the story so the assistant coach can be prepared.

Then it has one of its own coaches on the air in Arkansas spilling the entire bucket.

While the Browns try to put a lid on a pressure cooker and keep things contained on the Manziel mania before training camp, one of their own turned the heat up so high under the cooker it blew the lid right through the ceiling. Evidently the best way to get a story out is to go to a state and radio station far, far away.

You want to credit Loggains for telling the truth. If our kids don't tell the truth, well we tend to get angry. The same standard should apply for adults.

Loggains did say other things that were consistent with what had been said. He said Manziel was always at the top of the team's quarterback board; earlier in the week coach Mike Pettine said the team considered Manziel at No. 4, but no other quarterbacks.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Haslam
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe narrative on Johnny Manziel has become a bit clouded, but Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is certainly entitled to influence decisions. Cleveland fans will only care if their new quarterback is misguided.
Loggains said the Browns tried to trade with Tennessee and Dallas but backed out. Farmer had admitted discussions with Tennessee.

There also was the usual pablum about Manziel "grinding in the meeting rooms" and how Manziel has been "a great teammate." For all of four days.

Loggains even added this about Manziel going through the draft process: "I think he's learned how to say no."

Tack that statement on the next picture from a party at a private New York club and the next TMZ shot at Manziel leaving some club or event in the wee hours. He's allowed to have fun and it's fine, but let's not pretend he's become a saint because he got drafted.

It will be good when all this finally translates to the field. Because then Manziel will either play well or he won't.

But in just a few days since he was drafted the Manziel story has spun like the Tasmanian Devil. Remember what the devil looked like when it stopped? Grunting and panting and just standing there? That's the perception people now have of the Browns. Spinning and stopping. Spinning and stopping.

If Haslam wanted Manziel and liked Manziel -- something else Loggains admitted -- then so be it. The guy paid a billion dollars for his team, and he's entitled to like a guy. He's even entitled to urge his drafting. He's the owner.

The city won't care and the fans won't care if Manziel walks in acting like the starter, nor will they care if Haslam influenced the pick. Browns fans are happy to have him, and they want him to act like he's the guy.

They'll only care if he's mishandled, or if he is lousy on the field.

As for the Browns, it's kind of amazing many thought the storyline in "Draft Day" was preposterous. Maybe it's time for a high-level meeting in a deserted water park.

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