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Notes from Browns GM Ray Farmer's Midseason Press Conference

Browns.com

The Cleveland Browns probably couldn't have picked a worse time to send general manager Ray Farmer out to the press for his midseason press conference on Tuesday.

It was the first time he's met with the press during the regular season, and since then, he's served his four-game suspension, drawn criticism for the big signing + lack of production of WR Dwayne Bowe, and seen none of his high-level draft picks make significant contributions on gameday. Topping all of that off, the Browns are a disappointing 2-6, and minutes before Farmer appeared, reports indicated that he tried to trade the team's future Hall of Fame left tackle, Joe Thomas, to the Denver Broncos.

The pitchforks were out in the past for the likes of team owner Jimmy Haslam and former CEO Joe Banner, but this is the first time that Farmer has been square in the crosshairs of the firing range (known in this case as the Cleveland media). After the 2014 draft, before we knew that the team was going to get out of CB Justin Gilbert, QB Johnny Manziel, and their additional 1st round pick in 2015, Farmer had an approval rating of 84%. At the end of last season, but before fans knew about his texting situation, his approval rating dropped to a still-respectable 73%. I shudder to think what his rating is now, especially with a "fire Farmer petition" going around, but you'll have the opportunity to vote at the bottom of this post.

Here is a summary of Farmer's press conference on Tuesday, organized by topic (transcript is from Browns.com):

Opening Statement

Opening statement:

"I’ll just begin by saying I guess it’s time for me to converse about the Cleveland Browns, where we are at the midway point of the season. From my vantage point, we definitely haven’t achieved the mark that we want. We play in a league where winning is of the utmost, and competition and competing doesn’t mean a lot at the end of the day is you don’t consummate it with Ws, and we’ve fallen short of that. Nevertheless, we feel good about the fact that our guys have competed, played well and hard through games. They’re committed to winning. They’re committed to staying here and being a part of the Cleveland Browns. Me, personally, I think that’s really the goal is to continue to try and add guys to this team that want to be Browns, that want to grow what we’re doing here and want to bring a winner to Cleveland. We’re focused on that, our college scouts are focused on that, our coaches are focused on that, our staff in general is focused on that."

Joe Thomas & General Trade Rumors

On trade rumors with Denver involving OL Joe Thomas and reports the Browns wanted one first-round pick and another early-round pick:

"I’ll say this is a general context so let’s leave all the players names out of it: The trading deadline creates a lot of controversy and a lot of scuttlebutt that generally results in nothing. For example, I would call a team and say ,‘Hey, take a look at our roster. Something interest you? Give me a call.’ Same back and forth. As you go through that process, some things are made light of, some things are serious. Either way it goes, until something is imminent or until a decision is made or a transaction is consummated, it’s all just fuel and fodder behind the scenes. Sometimes, they’re serious conversations. Sometimes, those conversations are very innocuous and they amount to nothing. From my vantage point, we had some conversations, and at the end of the day, they all resonated in the same thing – nothing. With that being said, we haven’t done anything, we didn’t do anything, but the reality for us is that’s generally how the trade deadline goes. Some people make some deals; some people don’t, but generally, people open it up and they have those conversations based upon what the reality could bring."

On if he would speak to a player about regarding rumors, specifically Thomas:

"When things become, I’ll say a distraction for some, like if as player can’t understand how the league is going – Joe’s a pro; he’s been around this long enough that he understands that when his name comes up it’s going to start a fire – it requires some sort of conversation with the player, with the agent to let them know where the team or the club is at. You generally don’t move players or have those conversations, specifically as information gets out as it does nowadays as readily as it does nowadays, without having some sort of conversation with the agent and or the player."

On if the Browns were close to completing any trades today:

"I don’t know if I was really close to completing one. Again, we didn’t actively go out and try to move anybody. There’s not a single team I called and said, ‘Hey look, I’m shopping so and so.’ There was no shopping from my perspective, but I definitely listened. I think that’s really the job. That’s part of my job is when people call and make offers and suggest what they would like to have, see or have done, then it is my job to listen and start to think about is that a benefit to the Browns and in those conversations those are the ones we take a little more serious and we have our internal conversations about."

On who was involved in discussing potential Browns trades:

"All of our internal conversations are just that. There are a variety of people that we involve in our conversations internally. Who runs what piece of it is different based upon the relationship they have with who may be out there that we may be dealing with."

On concerns about his long-term relationship with players after trade rumors:

"No, I don’t think I’m really concerned with the relationships with guys. I think I have good relationships in the locker room. I’m really candid so when guys ask me, I tell them the truth. That’s the one thing I will say: when guys ask me what’s really happening, I just tell them, and good, bad, right, wrong or indifferent, that’s how it’s been and that’s how it’ll be moving forward."

On WR Dwayne Bowe

On if the Browns overrated WR Dwayne Bowe before signing him:

"That’s an interesting comment. I don’t know if we overrated him. I think we made a decision as a team to bring Dwayne Bowe to the Cleveland Browns."

On Bowe’s contract compared to his production through the first half of the season:

"Every guy that comes to the Cleveland Browns, it’s a Browns decision. As we move forward, it is what it is. Dwayne is in the circumstance that he’s in, and it’s our job as the Browns to try and get Dwayne as many catches and opportunities as he earns and deserves."

On Bowe’s limited playing time:

"I don’t really have a take on that other than my job is to try to help bring the talent here and do what we can to come to some conclusions as to what we need to do to improve the roster, and we have conversations back and forth in all of it. Any decision that’s made is a Browns decision, and we stick with those."

On if he’d like to see Bowe active in more games:

"I don’t decide who plays in that role. From my perspective, it’s all about really trying to add value. When we ask questions and we have debates and we go through things, the coaches ask me, I tell them what I think, they tell me what they think and we come up with group decisions."

QB Johnny Manziel, CB Justin Gilbert, and First-Round Picks

On the Browns most recent four first-round draft picks aren’t currently producing as expected:

"Players come along at different point in time. Guys grow, and I’ve said it routinely that guys grow at different rates. Until the movie is over with, we’ll just continue to evaluate and see where they go."

On if the Browns coaching staff is getting the most out of the players on the roster:

"I think our coaching staff does a great job of doing what they can with the guys that they have. They try to grow them. They work with them. They do everything they can. We’re all doing the same thing. I’m working to get the best out of the guys in my department. They’re working to get the best out of the guys in their department. We’re working to try and win games. I think we’re close in a lot of circumstances. We just haven’t generated the results that we want."

On if QB Johnny Manziel, DB Justin Gilbert and other young players should start so the Browns can fully evaluate those players:

"Nobody should be given anything. I’ve always been a fan of a guy has to earn it and the guy that earns it should play. Whether he’s a college free agent, whether he’s a first-round pick, the guy that earns it should play."

On why Gilbert and Manziel haven’t earned time on the field and if he is disappointed that they haven’t:

"I won’t say I am disappointed. I am also eager to see what guys do going forward and that growth – growth patterns happen for different guys at different points and time. I could take you through a number of stories of guys that have gone from less-than stellar rookie campaigns to being Hall of Fame players. The questions becomes is the movie over after a single season or do we have to continue to work with guys and give them an opportunity to grow. That growth and as they continue to show that they are making the necessary strides – that is what you believe in. That is what we believe in and that is what we will continue to work towards."

On if Gilbert can still be a good CB, given his path since he was drafted:

"I do. He had a rocky first year to say the least. As he has progressed, he’s gotten better this year. Like I said, guys progress at different points in time, and as he continues to grow, he’ll get better."

On if he is surprised Gilbert is behind undrafted players on the depth chart:

"Yes. Candidly, yes. At the end of the day you want guys to play and you want them to play right away, you want to put them in there, you want them to go to Hall of Fame and the Pro Bowl. I wish they all were, I will give you the easy one, I wish they all were Joe Thomas. You just come in, and guess what you plug and play, goes to the Pro Bowl and never misses a snap and the movie never stops. That is not the reality for 99 percent of the people in this league – they have a learning curve. Some guys it is steeper than others. When he gets his opportunities I think he has embraced the notion of what he has had of the opportunities that he has been given. As he continues to get his opportunities he will continue to grow with those."

On if Manziel can still be a quality QB:

"I do. As Johnny continues to work through and do the pieces that he needs to do then he will continue to demonstrate that. I think he has done a much better job this year of doing exactly what he has been asked to do, inside and around us. When we see him here in the building Johnny has been doing the right things that we want to see him do from a learning and growth perspective."

On if he second guesses whether Manziel is growing up and maturing:

"No, I am not second guessing that at all. I would tell you from the interactions here in the building and the time I have spent with him and what I have seen of him here recently is definitely positive. I understand where the league is and we are going to continue to listen and wait until that comes out. I think that he has matured. He has."

On if the team can reasonably count on Manziel going forward after he admitted to drinking:

"Yes."

On how concerned is he with Manziel’s drinking being an issue:

"My concern is what I have talked to Johnny about. I will leave it at that. We have had our conversations. Like I have said in the past, when I talk to players independently then I generally try to keep those conversations private."

Job Security, Decision-Making, and Relationship With Jimmy Haslam

On how safe the Browns GM and Head Coach jobs are:

"The simple answer for me is that my job is to work hard and try to bring talent to the Browns, continue to work in my environment, which is player acquisition and so that’s what I’ll do. I’ll continue to do that to the best of my ability and work as a Browns employee until they tell me otherwise, but I haven’t been given that memo."

On his relationship with Head Coach Mike Pettine:

"Excellent. Very good. We talk daily. That’s what it comes down to. Our relationship has not changed."

On if it is fair that his job performance is also weighed on players the Browns acquire but don’t play:

"I don’t know if there’s anything fair in this world. That’s really what it comes down to. Fairness is not really what I got into this for. Every decision that’s been made, every player that’s been brought in here, it has been s a Browns decision. I don’t sit in a vacuum – I keep saying it. I know it’s my job and people will look at me and hold me accountable to the players that are here. There’s not one decision that has been about a player that I’ve sat and deemed we’re going to do this and this is what’s going to happen. We’ve had conversations. We’ve made those commitments as a group. Like I said, I firmly believe opportunity belongs to the guy that’s earned it, whoever that may be. Whether he’s a first-round pick, whether he’s a free agent we paid money to or we didn’t, we want to best player to play in Cleveland."

On if all personnel choices should be his decisions, provided there is some collaboration:

"I’m a nerd by trait to some degree. I believe in intelligence and people that can add to the conversation. I’m also a reader so I’ve read some books that really talk to the fact that you don’t want group-think. You don’t want a bunch of people in the room that think the exact same thing. From that perspective, I’m a big fan of involving people that come from different angles that ask different questions. Those different questions could lead you to a better result and a better answer. I don’t think that it’s predicated on one person wielding the throne and deciding what they want to do. It’s a product of coming up with a good process that leads to good decisions."

On questions from Owner Jimmy Haslam and President Alec Scheiner about personnel decisions:

"The questions that get asked in any conversation are strategic. Like from a strategy perspective, how are we doing to do what we want to do? Which direction are we heading? I think all of those conversations are healthy. We want to know where the Browns are going: How are we planning to get there? What are we planning on doing with the resources that we have? Those questions are fair, honest and direct. As we move through those questions, it lends us to make good decisions. It double-checks our processes. It double-checks our thought patterns on why we made whatever critical decision or whatever simple decision we thought there was to make. Inevitably it leads to potentially a better result."

On if Scheiner is more involved in the football side of the Browns this year:

"I don’t think Alec is more or less into any of it. Alec is just like the rest of us. We all have simple goals in here. We want to win. Just like everybody in Cleveland, we want to win. That’s really all we’re focused on. I know Alec is somewhat of a hot button topic because it’s out there in the media, but everybody in this building is focused on winning, Pett, myself, Alec, everybody else that’s involved in the organization."

On what he feels he has done to make this team better:

"I think what I have done is I have helped bring a culture to Cleveland. I would think, in my mind, the guy that actually wins the job should get it. As you produce and you get guys those opportunities you will continue to unearth good players. It is the reality for me that the third of the league is made up of college free agents. It is not all about the first-round pick or the second-round pick or all the draft picks. A third of all the guys that play in this league weren’t even drafted. It doesn’t mean we get them all right as far as how we select them. If you give those opportunities to the right players and they earn them and demonstrate that they are worthy of moving forward with – then we are going to continue to build and move it the right way. Our problem right now is that we have to find a way to finish it. We are in it. We just have to finish it."

On if Haslam has spoken with him about where the team is currently and if responses are similar to the answers he is giving today to the media:

"Yes, I have spoken to Jimmy and the same answers I give you, I give Jimmy. We are digging in this building as much as we can and turning over every stone to find the answers to the questions that need to be answered."

On if the team continues to lose will he state his case to Mr. Haslam that players have just not developed to their full potential yet and there is the possibility that they could turn into impact players, which would turn things around for the team:

"That is the great point of all of it. I don’t know the answer to that question. I am going to work and do the best I can and work hard and continue to try to find players that make the Cleveland Browns win. That is what it comes down to. You have to go through this whole thing and you have to see the movie until the end. The reality is that my seat is no warmer than the day I got it. That is a perception that everyone has for me and not a perception I have for myself. As I work through it I am going to continue to do the best I can with what I have. It sounds corny or sounds like it is a ‘scout-ism’ – I am just going to grind at it. I am going to continue to try to find players, whether it be the college draft, whether it be via free agency or whether it be the guys internally in this building that get a chance to step up and demonstrate that they are capable. We are just going to push in the right direction and the right ways. We will let the proofs stand for itself. This league is about winning. It is no secret. When you don’t win, it is no fun. It is not like we are having fun sitting in here because we are 2-6. That is not the case."

Fixing the Team's 2-6 Record & Struggling Run Defense

On how to fix the 2-6 record:

"How do we fix it? We continue to do exactly what we have done, which is work hard, put in the effort the time and the energy, unearth better players, unearth better opportunities for our guys and try to grow it as we see fit. That’s really what it comes down to is that we have to try to make the best out of the guys that we have and add better guys as we go forward, and the coaches that do their job and try to get the best out of the guys that we have and move forward daily."

On his view of the Browns run defense struggles as a former LB:

"That is an interesting one. As a former linebacker, I would tell you that you watch the game and you watch what has happened. You want things to be different. Right now we haven’t found a way to stop it. We haven’t. It doesn’t mean we are not trying. It doesn’t mean the guys aren’t playing hard. We have to find an angle that gets us the result we are looking for. Like I said before, it is not about effort. It is not about a want to. It is not about desire, time put in or coaches scheming or trying to work at it. Everyone is looking for the same result, which is a way to find an answer to the question. Right now we haven’t found it."

On if the Browns have enough talent on the roster to play better run defense:

"I think from my perspective it is all about trying to find the right mix of how we get to the end of the road. We have had people here. We have moved on from people. We have brought in people. We have kept people. We have to find a way to get the right combination of what we need to get the job done."

On where Browns fans should ‘hang their hats’ in terms of hope for success:

"I would contend that light is much closer than that. One instance, one circumstance doesn’t dictate that. I said this earlier, we just haven’t found a way to finish it, to push it over the top. Last year we did. We won some games that were tight, close-quartered games if you will. We haven’t found a way to cross that threshold. As we cross that threshold things could be different. They are not. The reality is that we are not. We are a 2-6 football team and that is not good enough. I firmly believe that. I know that is what this league is about. The reality is that we got to stick tougher, circle the wagons and figure out how we can do better. That is all of us. That is everybody circling the wagons. Are the college scouts doing enough on their end? Are the pro scouts doing enough on their end? Am I doing enough on my end? Are we supporting the coaches the right way? Every man has to look at himself and decide if he is not doing his part or doing enough. That is really what it comes down to."

On what he is doing to support Coach Pettine:

"This is traditional, but we put together an advance. We look at the next opponent in detail to try to help the coaches, so they can prepare when it is time for them to prepare for the gameplan. As we go through post-game after-action reports, as we go through pre-game analysis of how we should try to attack our next opponent I give him whatever advice and resources I can. If he needs something to happen from a player perspective because this player is hurt, or this player is out or this guy is missing and we need to go in a different direction -- we have those conversations and we work in unison to try to put together the best roster together to go into a game. There is no decision that I make in a vacuum. I think Pett would say the same. I don’t think he sits up there and decrees that this is what is going to happen. We have those conversations. Those conversations lead to the decisions that we make."

On if there is enough talent on the roster for the team to finish games as he has mentioned:

"I think so. I really do. To me, it is no surprise. We haven’t won, but there are no moral victories in this league, but I really don’t feel like teams are just coming in here and running us over the coals. I just don’t feel like that. I don’t feel like we have been taken to the woodshed and teams have just walked out of here and stomped on us and decided this team is terrible. I think that we have been in games and had opportunities to win and we have to find a way to do that. That comes to all of us. How does each man look at himself and decide if they are doing enough? There is a part of me that wishes I still had enough in me to go suit up and play. I don’t. It is enough – what else can I do? What else can I do? How can I help Pett? He asked a question earlier, ‘What am I doing to support Pett?’ Everything I can. Anything I can do. I have made myself available in every capacity. I will say this. I am passionate about the Browns. I want the Browns to win and I know fans are impatient and they are growing even more impatient as we are not winning. The reality is that I think we are doing a lot of good things. We just have to find a way to win. It sounds corny. It sounds cliché. It sounds like what someone else may have said when they sat up here and the same thing transpired eight, nine or ten years ago or whatever the case might have been. The reality is that there are good football players on this football team. We just have to find ways to push it over. Push over the line."

On how he is going to write a different script to the end of the ‘movie’

"The same way I have written the script already. You have to try to do things a little bit differently have historically have done them. You can’t follow the same road map and get to a different destination. In my mind it comes down to we do things a little bit differently than people have done historically. With no risk comes no reward. It doesn’t mean we are going to be without bumps in the road. It doesn’t mean we aren’t going to struggle. There are bumps. There are turns. It comes down to where inevitably we have to find a way to write the right end to the movie. That is something we are going to have to focus on and bring to fruition on our own."

Decisions While He Was Away -- Terrelle Pryor & Austin Davis

On if he talked to Coach Pettine about the decision to move on from former Browns WR Terrelle Pryor:

"We definitely had numerous conversations before I left. I know people wondered how things worked. I have full faith in the guys that work in and around me. All of those guys, the processes we come up with in how we work through things – how we work through things, a lot of things are ‘white-boarded.’ You get in a room and you write out where you are at, what is happening, who is on the roster, who is not etc. and where those kind of balancing or teeter-totters are at. A plan has been created for what should happen, when it should happen and how we should go through it and to know when those guys execute it. That is really what it comes down to. From my perspective I thought things went really smoothly while I was gone as far as watching from the outside in. You just watch and you are like, ‘Wow, that did happen. Woah that happened too.’ I couldn’t do anything, but I definitely left some instruction and some comments of where I thought things should be. It is not like I make these decisions on my own. The group and the plan moved along accordingly to how I thought it was going to move when I did leave."

On if he was involved in the QB Austin Davis extension:

"Yeah it was done when I was gone. The candid part is that I have liked Austin Davis for a while. It is not like he was new to us in the building as far as thinking about him. As we looked at it and we talked about it we had those conversations before I left, to use this magical word again, trade – do you trade for a guy or try to acquire him. We just happen to have an opportunity to get him in the bundling. Then we had an opportunity to hold onto him and re-sign him. I think all of those things took place and I was excited to see that it did happen while I was gone."

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