Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer spoke with the national media Thursday morning at the NFL Combine. Listed below is a transcript of the press conference, as provided by the Akron Beacon Journal and the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. I have organized the transcript by topic:
Opening Statement & Apologizing for Texting Situation
(Opening statement) "First I’ll start off by saying, first and foremost, I would like to first extend an apologize to the Cleveland Brown fans. I know there will be a lot of questions, a lot of inquiries about texting or Text-gate or whatever the new term is, but so that everybody hears it from my mouth, it was me. To that degree I have apologized to the people in the building, Coach Pettine, Jimmy Haslam, the rest of the football staff and everybody that was involved from our side, as far as football-wise. We understand what happened. To that degree, there’s an open investigation from the league’s perspective, so there’s not a lot of commentaries there. But I will tell you again that I take full responsibility for myself and my actions, and the things that I’ve learned from that is that there is a platform to have those conversations and have those things talked about and discussed. I misplayed that platform, something I’ve learned from, something I’ll be better at. I’ve corrected that mistake. Before we continue, what I’d really like to say is, one, I apologized to Jimmy Haslam, our fans and the football staff."
(Expecting any punishment?) "As it relates to the league, the decision’s in there hands. cooperated fully, shared all information, so I’ll just wait to hear what their take is on that."
(Is texting widespread in league?) "I would tell you I don’t know what happens anywhere else. I know I made a mistake and I’m owning that."
(Did he know texting against league rules?) "I would tell you that to that degree people understand what the rules are and sometimes, and in my case I would tell you that, it’s not an excuse, but sometimes your emotions get the best of you at times."
(Did he text because feel excess pressure in organization because of turnover?) "No. Did not feel any external pressure or pressure from anyone else."
(Texting thing changed you personally or humbled you?) "Um, yeah. Any time you make mistakes it is humbling. My wife's reading a book called 'The Power of a Praying Wife' and her comments to me were that, 'Greatness is not the absence of flaws, (it's) the ability to overcome them.' I feel that's what it's about. For me to get really where I want to go, I'm not going to be perfect. I'm going to make mistakes and I'm going to learn from it."
(To set record straight, your text were just by you, no one asked you?) "No one asked me anything. This was solely me. This was a decision that I made and I'm owning that mistake."
(Do you think the texting led to Kyle Shanahan leaving?) "I don't have that information. That's a question for Kyle."
General Health of the Organization & Working With Pettine
(Is the organization healthy?) "I would describe our organization as a healthy one."
(Why?) "I would describe it as healthy because we do have platforms where you can discuss those things openly and honestly. You can have direct conversations. And in large part those conversations are met with candor. Guys are able to speak their minds. Granted I’m the general manager, but I’m an open book. I tell people the truth of how I feel and kind of where I’m at, and I think we get that expressed readily throughout the organization from coaches
through scouts, etc. I think our organization is really good in that matter."
(Relief of Haslam saying he was sticking with Farmer) "I think that’s very helpful. Jimmy’s a good man, he’s a really good owner. To that degree, his support was monumental, at least for my personally. It felt really good for me in a moment where, no one wants to hear the negative but the reality is there is a negative, it was really good for my behalf to hear Jimmy’s comments."
(Need to work on mending relationships?) "No relationship mending. Coach Pettine and I work really well together. We’ve had our conversations, we’ve worked through what that was, and I know he expressed his disappointment, etc. We had those conversations and we moved full steam ahead."
(Does what he says undercut the coaching staff?) "No, I do not."
(What did you say to Pettine that your intention not to undermine him?) "I don't think I had to tell Mike anything to that. He knows who I am. Our working relationship has been that from day one. And in that, the conversation has truly been organic. It's not, 'Hey, Ray, you've got some explaining to do, we need to sit down and talk about it.' It was more, 'Hey, look, I know where you're at.' Those conversations were real. But nonetheless, like I said earlier, from my position they wanted an apology. I will tell you that Mike firmly believes in who I am as a person and that I really have the Browns' best interests at heart."
(What did you learn about the best way to communicate with your head coach on your gameday thoughts?) "For me it comes down to there are platforms that are really valuable that we use now. We have different things that we put together where it gives me a chance for me and Pett to sit down and have those heart-to-heart conversations about the realities of the game and what transpired. We're going to stick with that. We're going to stick with working in a way where we can have those direct conversations and then let it disseminate from there."
Improving Evaluation of Maturity Issues
(Given maturity issues with Manziel and Gilbert, how is that going to change his approach in the draft process?) "I think the combine and the interviews and all of it, I think all come back to one thing, is trying to uncover information. As you get the information that you get, how you dissect it and what you look at is a different part of that process. I will say we’ve made changes, we made our adjustments and I think we’ll be more prepared this year because of the different timeframe of me having the position for a year now instead of getting that appointment late February last year."
(Farmer said there are changes in how they'll evaluate character -- elaborate) "Again, without giving what you may consider a competitive advantage or giving people insight as to what you do in the process, I do think that it’s all about recovering information and trying to create better relationships and bonds. inevitably everybody has a piece to this puzzle, so you only get information from the people that are willing to share it with you. so the information that you get, you’ve got to be resolute as to what that is and how that comes about. so adding experience to our scouting staff I think was a major part of that, guys have existing relationships, longstanding relationships, you feel you get a better take as to what you’re getting in the quality of that information."
Maturity Issues With Justin Gilbert
(What's the outlook for Justin Gilbert? Pettine said the issues were deeper than maturity) "The conversations that Pett had with Justin were private. The conversations that I had were private as well. For all of our players, the goal is to push our guys forward and to make them the best-well rounded people and players they can be for the Browns."
(Pettine said whatever the issue is, you didn't know about it before draft but you knew before season-ending meetings. When did you learn what was going on?) "You learn more information the longer you're with someone. Initially when Justin came to Cleveland everything seemed standard. As times went on, the coaching staff became more aware because they spend more time with the players on a daily basis than myself or somebody in the scouting department. As we became aware we have those discussions internally. We make those changes or adjustments as we go. As far as having a hard date or something to nail down, I couldn't tell you that Sept. 30 was the day we recognized this is going on. But over time things kind of played themselves out and those conversations happened."
(Is the Gilbert issue you think one can be resolved?) "Yes."
(By next year?) "Yes."
Status of QB Johnny Manziel
(Manziel issues deeper rooted that team realized. Does he look back and say, 'how did we miss?') "I would tell you that, one, I’m not a doctor. so I would say that whatever they uncover with Johnny is what they’re working on. to that degree, I think Pett said this yesterday, we understood what people would call red flags and we made that decision as a Browns organization. inevitably that does fall to me because I’m the general manager and I make that selection, but we knew what those were, and good for him that he stepped up and said I need help and is going to get that help."
(How are you going to proceed with QB change with Manziel in rehab?) "I would say that there is no change. from our perspective, it’s all about driving competition, it’s about finding any player that we think can help make us a better football team."
(Do you think Manziel can be the long-time starter?) "Again, I think any player that has the requisite skill set and is put in the right position can have success."
Status of QB Brian Hoyer
(Plan to personally meet with Brian Hoyer?) "Again, I would tell you that the personal meetings that engage between me and any player are just that, personal. I don’t get into who we’re talking to or when we’re talking to em, so I would graciously bow out of that question and tell you that if it happens, it would be for to his camp to tell you, not me."
(Is Brian Hoyer still an option to bring back?) "Every option is on the table for us. there’s not one, there’s trades, there’s free agency, there’s the draft. every opportunity will be looked at in totality."
(Will you meet with Joe Linta, Brian Hoyer's agent at the combine?) "Whatever conversations we have, those will remain private. I don't get into trying to discuss who we talked to and when we talked to them."
Adding a QB in Free Agency or the Draft
(Is there a plan in place for QB?) "We do. I would tell you that that plan never ceases to exist. The easy way to say it is we’re going to drive competition at every spot. It doesn’t matter who’s on our roster, it doesn’t matter who’s not on our roster, the object is to always make sure we have a better football team."
(Is there enough in the free agency QB pool that can get somebody to help win?) "I would tell you there’s always a pool of players out there. just because one guy didn’t have success in one place doesn’t mean he won’t have success in another. it’s about finding the guy with the resolute skill set that matches who you want to be offensively, finding that guy and bringing him to Cleveland."
(Pettine said because of Johnny's situation, you need a starting QB. How do you look at the quarterback situation?) "I look at the quarterback situation as the Browns look at the quarterback situation. Coach Pettine has articulated that he wants a starter and we're going to do the things we've got to do to get him somebody that he feels comfortable with as a starter."
(Can you fill in with a highly drafted rookie or do you say we need a veteran?) "For us all options are on the table. It's simply about finding the guy with the right skill-set to improve our football team. With (DeFilippo), with Pett, with coach Roper, we are having or we've had those conversations. Now what that name is, I would be remiss to say it up here on this podium. But I would tell you there is a plan and there are names and there is a pecking order as to how we look at the players who are available for us to make a play for."
(How realistic is it that you guys would package Nos. 12 and 19 or in some fashion try to trade up for a top QB?) "All options are on the table for the Browns. There's nothing that we don't look at. There's no circumstances that we haven't tried to put together a framework for what's the right thing to do and what those costs are. We've done a cost-benefit analysis as to what it's going to take to make any sort of move in free agency or the draft."
(Would that be hard to do after taking QB at No. 22?) "I don't think anything's hard to do. Really the sole purpose is to try to win football games and add the right pieces to the puzzle."
Other Thoughts - WR Class & Last Year's Promising Rookies
(Talk about running backs Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West) "I think their best utilization will be determined by John DeFilippo, our new offensive coordinator. and I think that we’ve discovered that we have two young backs that we think are capable of being players in the National Football League. How they utilize them, what runs they ask them to run, that’ll be determined by the coaching staff. To that degree, it’s about adding even more people to that mix to try to drive competition further for us on the scouting side."
(Thoughts on Taylor Gabriel?) "Taylor Gabriel, to the young man's credit, he came in and just worked. He took what we said and ran with it, which is that everybody will be allowed to compete. In his competition he proved to the coaching staff and to the scouting staff and everybody else that's involved in the evaluation process that he deserved that opportunity and he got it. He made the most of it."
(Has your stance on drafting wide receivers early changed?) "The best way for me to say this is everything can be a smokescreen. It's always about the camraderie of going through ... I don't want to tell anybody where I'm at, I guess is what I struggle with. If I tell you I want to draft a wide receiver in the first round, then guess what happens, somebody jumps in front of me and takes that guy. It's better to leave everybody somewhat in the dark with how we go about what we go about or what our true needs are. Everybody makes their own evaluations or assumptions. But from our end, it's really more about playing the game of 'Do you really know where we're at and what we're trying to do?'"