Throughout this still-young season, Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine has had to answer more than a few tough questions about his team.
He’s had to explain why an offense built to rely on the running game ranks 25th in rushing yards per game. He’s been questioned as to why Cleveland’s defense, supposedly the biggest strength of the team, has been a pure abomination this year. Mainly, Pettine has been peppered with many inquiries about why a team which showed a sense of progress last season now looks like it’s headed for regression.
However, some of the answers Pettine has had to give are for problems he technically isn’t responsible for. The coach doesn’t make the final call on the Browns’ draft picks. Free agent signings are above his pay-grade, as well.
These are things a GM is responsible for. Ray Farmer, the man holding this position for Cleveland, should be the one answering for these issues, especially since more than a few are currently glaring problems. However, Farmer has yet to make any press appearances this season.
For some obvious reasons, this is a bit of a problem. In his short tenure as Cleveland’s GM, Farmer has made some huge swings and misses, and they’re a big reason why the Browns are in the midst of a rough year. Quite frankly, it’s high time Farmer addresses the mistakes he’s made with the Browns, as they’re becoming more significant as the season goes on.
Since Farmer began his time as Cleveland’s GM, he’s often tried to imply he was one of the game’s deep thinkers, as if there was something he knew about players that other GMs couldn’t see.
Such a sense of self-confidence has to at least partly explain the way he handled the first round of last year’s draft. Despite knowing Pro Bowl wideout Josh Gordon was facing a lengthy suspension, Farmer passed on every single receiver in one of the most decorated classes the league has seen in years. Instead, he selected cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel.
How do these picks look a little over a year later? Well, Manziel’s miserable rookie season resulted in his checking into rehab this past winter. Though he’s shown progress, a recent domestic incident has him back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Meanwhile, Gilbert’s equally terrible rookie year has him sitting at the bottom of the cornerback depth chart, as he’s essentially been relegated to returning kickoffs.
Lucky for the Browns, Farmer hasn’t limited his blunders to just drafting. Knowing the team (again) needed help at receiver, Farmer responded by throwing a rich contract to Dwayne Bowe, whose statistical decline was more than apparent.
Has this gamble paid off? Anyone who follows the Browns is likely laughing at such a stupid question. The next time Bowe catches a pass this season will be the first. He’s only been active for two games, and missed the only two passes thrown his way.
As you can see, some major moves Farmer made to try and improve Cleveland’s roster have blown up in his face. Still, he’s yet to make any sort of appearance where he can answer for these gaffes.
Granted, GMs don’t typically host weekly press conferences, nor do they make a ton of public appearances throughout the season. That said, Pettine has had to answer tons of questions which should be aimed at Farmer, and he’s had to do so on a weekly basis.
Pettine shouldn’t have to speak to why Gilbert looks like a bust. He shouldn’t have to spend 90% of his press conferences answering for Manziel’s still-shaky personal life. And he shouldn’t have to respond to questions inquiring as to why Bowe, a player who was guaranteed $9 million this offseason, can’t even sniff the field.
This is why Farmer needs to make himself available, because frankly, his mistakes are causing damage to this team. Very often, Farmer acts as though he’s the smartest man in the room, but the majority of his draft picks have looked like bad bets, and his attempt to fix the offense via free agency looks even worse.
Maybe Farmer knows he’s due to deal with tons of pointed questions, and is avoiding an appearance as a result. Perhaps he’s seen the press conferences Pettine has had to endure and wants no part of that. Or, maybe Farmer doesn’t feel the need to address the media because he believes all of these moves aren’t as bad as people are making them out to be.
Unfortunately, the latter is the most likely answer. Though Farmer doesn’t technically have to make himself available, it’s tough to argue he doesn’t have some explaining to do. The Browns are struggling this year, and a lot of the reasons for this are things Farmer has to answer for.
Why is the man he picked eighth overall in the 2014 draft completely unable perform at his position? Why does the player he selected to be the team’s quarterback of the future keep getting into trouble despite spending the first few months of the year in rehab? Why does the wideout he spent an entire day trying to sign find it impossible to make even a remote impact on those rare days he merits taking the field?
I don’t know the answers for these questions. Here’s hoping Farmer does, and that he provides said answers soon.