In the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected Johnny Manziel with the 22nd overall pick. Manziel was supposed to save the franchise. Instead, he sunk it further.
If you believe the rumors, Cleveland’s coaching staff and front office did not want Manziel but the owner, Jimmy Haslam, did – and overruled his subordinates accordingly. If you believe former Browns general manager, however, those rumors are false.
“There’s very few decisions that are made in a vacuum,” Farmer said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “The GM is very, very, very rarely says ‘Hey, I’m taking this guy, and there’s nothing anybody else is going to say about it.’ The head coach doesn’t do it. The owner doesn’t do it. In that case, I would tell you that there’s a lot of conversations that happened and the selection was made. Nevertheless, it’s the reality of the National Football League. Whoever gets selected, that name is going to get attributed to the general manager, whether he selected that guy or not. For good, worse, better, it doesn’t really matter. Johnny Manziel is mine. I have to own it.”
At the time, many Browns fans wanted the franchise to draft Manziel. They thought his magic would translate to the NFL and make Cleveland relevant, finally.
Farmer said he was not swayed by the fans’ wishes.
“You don’t even consider if the fans want you to take this player,” he said. “It’s truly about trying to improve your football team. All of those conversations simply exist around that. There’s not a lot of innuendo, bravado, media hype that really swoons an organization. It’s really about the players and discrepancies between coaching staffs, scouts and everybody that’s had a hand in that process of making a good decision. Those are the arguments and the conversations that really make the board and the draft kind of come alive.”
Farmer, who was let go in January, spent three years with Cleveland, serving as general manager in the final two. He said he was more forceful in his second year of decision-making than he was in his first.
“Very much so,” he said. “As you grow, you definitely take more ownership of the process. And in that process, you’re able to not only articulate, but I’ll say steer the room even more to the realities of what you see and what you’re coming to understand as the draft in and of itself. . . . Coaches always tell you what they want. You lean on (scouts). As you work through that process, you’re able to have those conversations open and honestly about the goods, the bads. Oftentimes, you like to think that your staff is giving you the right information that you can go out and make a good decision with. That’s what it comes down to. You collect the information you have, and you make an educated decision about what you think is the right process. Oftentimes those things work out; sometimes they don’t.”
The Browns had the second overall selection in this year’s draft but traded it to the Eagles for a haul of picks. Cleveland’s search for a franchise quarterback may continue, but the picks acquired from Philly should help round out the roster.
Farmer certainly doesn’t oppose that strategy.
“In some respects, everybody wants a franchise quarterback – and to me, the term is truly overblown,” Farmer said. “When you get down to the nuts and bolts of most NFL teams, the quarterback is not winning and losing you every single game. Most guys manage and utilize the people around them to advance the narrative. They move the team forward, but they’re not controlling every game. There are those guys in the league – and I’d say that number’s somewhere around 8, maybe nine, guys annually that actually make that type of difference for the football club. Everybody else is kind of managing it. So yes, everybody wants the franchise quarterback. Everybody wants to try to push as many eggs in that basket as they can to get that guy. The reality is if that guy fails, it’s one guy that failed.”
Farmer used the Seahawks as an example. Seattle acquired Marshawn Lynch, assembled a great defense and then drafted Russell Wilson – not the other way around. The Seahawks went 7-9 in back-to-back seasons prior to drafting Wilson but have won 10+ games every year he’s been in the league.
In other words, Wilson didn’t save the Seahawks; he merely put them over the top.
“A lot of (teams) are looking for one guy to come in and change the franchise,” Farmer said. “That’s really not how it goes.”