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Browns GM Ray Farmer: The role of a GM is to provide resources for his head coach and help him develop his vision for the club

Feb 13, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Hit the ground running: As assistant general manager, Ray Farmer spent most of the regular season scouting college players, including quarterbacks – but not specifically quarterbacks, he said.

After the organization shakeup resulted in Farmer’s promotion to general manager and head of all football operations, a lot more has fallen on his plate. Joe Banner was in charge of everything, including the salary cap and major player contract negotiations.

For now, Farmer said the cap and contracts will be overseen by Sashi Brown, executive vice president and legal counsel, but that Farmer eventually will have a full grasp of those responsibilities.

Farmer already has conducted more media interviews in two days than predecessor Mike Lombardi did in a whole year. On Wednesday, he took time to answer questions with ESPN Cleveland. Excerpted portions of the interview will run in two parts.

Question: What is the status of adding Bill Kuharich Jr., a former GM with Kansas City and New Orleans, to the organization?

Farmer: Bill is definitely a guy I have a longstanding relationship with. He’s a friend, a valuable resource. Nothing has been solidified yet. To be determined, I would say, is probably the best answer for that now.

Q: What is your vision for a football team?

I think the role of a general manager is to provide the resources to his head coach and help him develop his vision for the club. Now there are pieces of that that for me I think get sprinkled in that I think are truly important and I think those things match up with the things that Coach Pettine is truly geared on. The passionate player, the tough player, relentless. I think the key component in a lot of that is the competitive and the instinctive guy. So toughness, instincts to compete. They truly match up with what Coach Pettine wants. So stylistically, the team we’re looking to build is very similar.

Q: Do you favor building a high-scoring offense, or is defense back in vogue?

Each team is different. The way we’re going to play, we’re going to be aggressive on defense. I would say on defense we’re going to be an attack, tough-minded team. We’re going to get after people. And offensively, we’re going to be explosive. Those are two of the things you want to make sure you have. You want to be able to create turnovers and you want to be able to create explosive gains. And if you can create both of those, you win a lot of football games.

Q: What role does a team’s division and geography play in building the team?

I do think geographical location should help identify your football team. You can be in Indianapolis and have a dome, and it doesn’t necessarily matter. But if you’re in Green Bay, I think your team should have certain traits that allow you to have success in Green Bay. They’ve thrown the ball. They’ve proven they can run the ball. But, inevitably, I think you have to have a team that can withstand elements, specifically when you play in bad weather places.

Q: Is that true in Cleveland, also?

I think so. I do think you have to withstand the elements. You have to be able to run it when you need to run it. And you need a guy who can complete passes and move the ball downfield. To me, you can’t be too one-dimensional in this league.

Q: Is there a certain brand of football you need to win in the AFC North?

I will tell you coming from the AFC West, I think good football is good football. I think the teams that demonstrate they can create balance are the teams that win. Teams that can throw it when they need to throw it but can determine when they need to run it are the teams that win. Sometimes that comes as the product of having an elite quarterback and a guy that can demonstrate that the defense will play awfully soft or more pass coverage than run, and vice versa. Sometimes it comes when the San Francisco 49ers kind of stuff it down your throat and then you have to make the adjustment to stop the run and now opening up passing lanes for a quarterback. It’s the balance of understanding how to create run opportunities and how to create pass opportunities. But I think good football wins everywhere. It’s balance.

Q: Last year the Browns threw the ball more than any NFL team despite their problems at quarterback. What did you make of that?

What happened last year was a part of that regime and staff and what they wanted to do and accomplish. I would prefer not to discuss the past and look  more to what we want to do moving forward.

Q: You were the assistant GM. Was your voice heard last year?
I had chances to speak. I don’t know if I’m the right person to comment on what percentage of what I said they actually took into account. But I was definitely allowed to speak. I definitely had a seat in the table. I was in the draft room.

Q: Do you prioritize certain positions in building a team?
I do, but I will not reveal what positions I think are most important to us because I think it leads to a competitive disadvantage. I think it’s good when teams don’t know what you want or how you want. So it gives you a lead-in. There’s a thought process that you have to take certain positions. I would caution everyone to believe that just because you think it’s important and you think it should go here, doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the strategy. There’s always other ways to solve the puzzle. I don’t think anything’s exact. People take different risks at different times. For me, I think it’s best stated for me that we should fly low and under the radar for as long as possible.

(Posted later today in Part 2: Farmer’s thoughts on quarterbacks, “sustained success,” “value drafting” and free agency.)


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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