Ray Farmer: “It’s always about finding the best players to make your team better”

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Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer’s Thursday morning press conference was quite interesting, not for specific revelations concerning prospects and picks, but for his take on team-building philosophy. Near the end of the 30-plus minute presser, Farmer was asked about quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, and of how much of a priority it is to find a franchise quarterback. Farmer replied with a “chicken and the egg” metaphor, saying that it seemed to him that Brady came to a Patriots team that was already built on a strong defense and a strong running game, and that Brady had the chance to develop because he was in a good system. Ring any bells?

He also spoke of the idea of such quarterbacks as “silver bullets,” guys who come “riding in on a horse” to solve all of a team’s problems. He said, “I don’t believe in that fairy tale anymore … You need a team for the quarterback to be successful.”

“It’s always about finding the best players to make your team better.”

 — Ray Farmer

When asked about specific players or positions the Browns might consider drafting for, his answers were most often along the lines of his oft-repeated statement, “It’s always about finding the best players to make your team better.” He used the word “value” a lot, as in “create value” and “capitalize on value.” Unless Farmer is re-defining the term that has been so common in the NFL in recent years, by “value” he means the best players they can get.

There was more about quarterback prospects and whether they are seen as NFL-ready or “projections.” Is Mariota a projection? He answered that the college game is not like the NFL game. He said there is no longer a “pipeline” of QB prospects being sent to the NFL who are ready for the pro game. He said, essentially, that they’re all projections and that it’s up to the teams to figure out whether a prospect’s skill-set can be developed and utilized in their system. It’s either that, he said, or start using the college-type spread offenses. “It’s all a projection.”

Along those lines, he referred to Aaron Rodgers as an example. While he sat on the bench for a few years at Green Bay, no one thought much of him until he had the opportunity to take over.

Would the Browns move up to take Mariota? “Sure, why not?”

Would they take a running back with a high draft pick? “Sure, why not?”

After using Mike Pettine’s quote from his recent press conference, “Sure, why not?” several times, he finally said maybe he should stop quoting Pettine. They’ve obviously had some fun with that one.

Regarding the many rumors circulating concerning the Browns and the draft, he said that no one in the media is saying anything substantive, and he denied being involved in trade talks about Johnny Manziel. He gave several humorous examples of how some of his answers to questions have been distorted by the media into false assertions about how the Browns feel about certain prospects or about what their draft plans might be.

Asked what are the missing pieces on defense, his answer was nuanced. He said he liked where the Browns are, but that defense is more specialized now; there’s more role playing, and guys slide around into a variety of roles. He said versatility, as well as overall talent, is important.

Farmer obviously wouldn’t discuss the team’s draft board but he did make an interesting comment about the process. He said following his and Mike Pettine’s rookie years in 2014, the team has made some adjustments — he “took some liberties” in “blending, and blurring the line,” between the coaching staff and scouts.

Obviously, no secrets are divulged on these occasions but, in other ways, it was rather revealing.