By Tony Grossi
Ray Farmer, who was the only other known person interviewed for the Browns’ top football job, has been added as the team’s assistant general manager.
In doing so, Browns CEO Joe Banner promoted Mike Lombardi from vice president/player personnel to general manager.
“There’s no change in Mike’s responsibilities, position,” Banner said on a hurriedly called teleconference call. “There’s a change in his title. The change in Mike’s title was a reflection of the need to create the assistant general manager title in order to get permission from Kansas City for Ray to be free to interview with us. So there’s no change in Mike’s position at all. It’s purely an add of Ray.”
Titles sometimes aren’t worth the nameplate they’re engraved on. But in the NFL, there is a certain cache to the general manager title. One former NFL GM once said, “Anything less than general manager, and you’re just a glorified personnel director.” A source said Lombardi wanted the GM title originally, but Banner refrained initially.
“At the time, we didn’t know if this (Farmer’s availability) would happen,” Banner said. “I liked the structure of VP/player personnel a little better. It gave him and the department something to aspire to. I thought that was a good thing to have. But I thought (the change) was outweighed by the opportunity to add another top tier person in this department.”
Farmer, 38, was a linebacker and a fourth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1996, when Banner was in the formative years of building that organization for owner Jeffrey Lurie. Lombardi joined the Eagles as a personnel consultant the next year.
Farmer’s playing career ended with a knee injury in 1998. Upon retirement, Farmer returned to his alma mater, Duke University, as an academic coordinator.
Farmer joined the Atlanta Falcons as a pro scout in 2002 and moved to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006 as director of pro personnel. He oversaw the scouting of all pro players in the NFL and other pro leagues.
Banner said that Farmer will be heavily involved in all future personnel decisions.
“He will be on the road scouting college players and he’ll be an integral part of all of these strategic decisions we have to make, whether they be free agents or draft picks, whatever,” Banner said. “He adds a voice as a just, I think, a top, top- tier player evaluator in the NFL.”
It’s highly unusual for a team to allow such a move so close to the coming draft. But San Francisco did a similar favor for Tom Gamble, who moved to the Eagles, and the Chiefs are revamping their football operations under new coach Andy Reid.
Banner said he did not anticipate any more additions to his football department. But changes to the scouting staff may occur after the April 25-27 draft.
“That review will still take place,” Banner said.
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