The timing of the Cleveland Browns' front office shakeup was odd, to say the least, and a bit shocking. But, if you believe Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, he really just decided that talented Ray Farmer deserved the Browns' general manager job.
CEO Joe Banner is out, as is GM Michael Lombardi. In steps Farmer, a young riser who has been in the Browns organization a year and already turned down Miami's general manager job this offseason. The 39-year-old former NFL linebacker will be in charge of shaping the Browns' roster.
"He’s smart," Haslam said at Tuesday's press conference. "He’s been around football his whole life. He’s organized. He’s an easy guy to deal with in terms of give and take. And he’s a tireless worker. A tireless worker."
This is a huge offseason for the Browns. They have three of the first 35 picks of the draft, including the fourth overall pick. They have $46 million in projected cap space, according to Sportrac. For an organization that has struggled mightily since re-entering the NFL in 1999. The Browns hope that Farmer is the right man to navigate it.
Farmer has worked his way up the NFL ladder, from four seasons as a scout with the Falcons, to seven seasons as the director of pro personnel with the Chiefs, to his job with the Browns. He joined the Browns with the new front office in 2013 and quickly impressed the organization.
"When we interviewed him we knew he would be a GM someday," Haslam said. "We’re delighted he’s going to be GM of the Browns."
Farmer, who was a linebacker with the Eagles for three seasons, said he didn't know he would get the promotion when he turned down the Miami job. He said the Miami job simply wasn't for him. He wasn't part of the interview process when the Browns hired a new coach, so although he was involved in the process, he didn't have a say in hiring new coach Mike Pettine. That's an awkward and unusual situation in the NFL, especially for a coach who has been on the job less than a month.
Most of the questions he answered were about the dysfunction of the Browns, who have had almost no stability over the last decade. Haslam answered the same questions. Predictably, both said they didn't believe that the franchise was dysfunctional. Haslam seemed to blame the local media for that perception, and said he thinks the national perception of the Browns is just fine, which is quite laughable.
But Haslam admitted that he's still figuring out how to be a NFL owner. He has owned the Browns since the fall of 2012. He said a big part of belated reshaping the front office was to streamline the cumbersome pecking order in the franchise. Pettine, Farmer and team president Alec Scheiner, who oversees the business operations, will report to Haslam, he said.
"I underestimated this – it’s a learning curve to be a NFL owner," Haslam said.. "If you want to look at me as a work in progress, that’s fair to say, to do."
Winning would cure the perception of the Browns. Farmer was confident and authoritative during his press conference. He spoke about different acronyms he uses to approach the job, and landed on one that he said he uses to end text messages with friends around the NFL.
"The guys around the league that really know me will know what this is about, and it's 'G.U.T.F.'... it's 'get up the field," Farmer said. "It speaks to really getting after it. Finishing strong. All of the things I think are tantamount in football."
Farmer said the right things. Haslam seems to believe in his ability. He has been thrown in a strange situation, with the front office being blown up a week before the combine. We'll see if he and Pettine can combine for some success, and maybe some long-needed stability to the Browns.
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