Up to the challenge: Farmer takes over as Browns GM
CLEVELAND – By all outward appearances, new Browns general manager Ray Farmer is fully aware of the challenge he faces.
For starters, he’s employed by the Cleveland Browns, which immediately puts his job security on high alert. He’ll be working with a head coach (Mike Pettine) who he didn’t have a major role in hiring, and, by the way, he’ll oversee another in a string of important offseasons that could include the selection of a quarterback in the NFL draft.
Farmer knew all this yet he willingly stepped into the deep end. The 39-year-old Farmer, who admittedly likes to use acronyms, will undoubtedly rely on one of his favorites quite frequently – KTB (Know. Trust. Believe.).
“Moving forward it’s all about the person that’s making that decision,” said Farmer, who was the Browns assistant general manager last season. “Jimmy (owner James Haslam) made the decision he thought he needed to make. He should be applauded for the fact that when there was a tough decision to be made, he looked me in the eye, stepped up and made the decision. That’s what you want for someone that’s in control and not afraid to make tough decisions, regardless of what the public outcry may be.”
Haslam’s grand plan Tuesday was unlike any of the many big moves the organization has made in a long time. He moved out CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi to pave the way for Farmer’s promotion, shocking the foundation of a franchise that fired coach Rob Chudzinski after only one season on the job.
Haslam has made favorable comments about Farmer in the past, noting that he would eventually be a general manager. Farmer, who was the director of pro personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2006-12, recently turned down an offer to be the Miami Dolphins general manager, a move that had to please Haslam as he contemplated the changes that took place Tuesday.
“I believe we have positioned this organization to become a winning football team, something that hasn’t happened on a consistent basis around here in a long time,” Haslam said. “I will accept comments and criticism about change, and I will accept responsibility for some of the changes that have been made.
“There is no primer for being a NFL owner. It’s a learn on the go, if you will. What’s really important is for our fans to understand that this owner is committed to bringing a winner to the Browns.”
No one knows for sure if Farmer was fully on board with the decision to hire Pettine. He didn’t travel with the front-office team to conduct interviews with prospective candidates, but he insists that working hand-in-hand with Pettine won’t be a problem.
“I’ve done my research on Mike Pettine,” Farmer said. “I have a really good relationship with Mike Pettine. I’m excited about the opportunity. I think he is as well. I think we’re going to work well together.”
Farmer will have to hit the road running. The NFL Combine is next week in Indianapolis. The free-agent signing period begins in early March, and the draft is scheduled for May 8-10.
The most important decision will be at quarterback. The Browns are expected to use the fourth overall pick on a quarterback, but they could trade up if they have an interest in Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.
It’s a big plate to put in front of a rookie GM that has worked exclusively in pro personnel.
“Regardless of who the player is or what position he plays, I’ll make the right decisions,” said Farmer, who played linebacker for three seasons (1996-98) with the Philadelphia Eagles. “It’s more of a collaborative thing. Jimmy said I would have final say on the 53 (53-man roster), but that will be a decision we will make in-house.
“I’m definitely going to be aware of how the coaches feel. I’m going to be aware of how the scouts feel and how I feel. I’ll mesh those opinions and the other ones we have and make the right decision on the quarterback moving forward, assuming that is the position we actually take at that point.”
Farmer and Alex Scheiner, president in charge of business matters, will answer directly to Haslam. While Farmer will have final say on the 53-man roster, Pettine will make the call on the 45-man, game-day roster.
Farmer plans to add personnel to his supporting staff to help in making the difficult calls. He realizes the job is too demanding for one man.
Some of the former GMs have mistakenly thought they were bigger than the job.