There are many reasons why the firing of Cleveland Browns GM Ray Farmer is all but certain.
His drafting in two years of duty has been abysmal. His attempts to acquire talent through free agency have also fallen through more often than not. Additionally, the pompous attitude he displays when explaining why none of these aforementioned failures are really that bad isn’t doing him any favors either.
However, one of the biggest reasons Farmer will likely face the firing squad next Monday is his stance on upgrading the Browns’ receiving corps. Cleveland’s GM has shown a complete ignorance of the position of wideout, something that was once again on full display in yesterday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
In his time with the Browns, Farmer has only drafted one wide receiver, Vince Mayle earlier this year. Ironically, the team cut Mayle before the season even started. Attempts to fix the depth at wideout via free agency have ranged from decent acquisitions at best (Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins) to flat-out disasters (Dwayne Bowe).
The main reason Farmer is so apprehensive to find help at receiver is because of his misguided belief this position doesn’t affect a team’s overall performance. Asked why he refused to draft a wideout last year despite knowing Pro Bowler Josh Gordon was potentially suspended for the season, Farmer gave a quote which is now notorious in Cleveland.
“I would say ‘how important are those guys?’” Farmer told 92.3 The Fan last year. “Name the last big-time receiver to win a Super Bowl. Name the last mega-guy.”
As we all would soon find out, a) the Browns are nowhere near the point where they can worry about anything related to the Super Bowl and b) those “mega-guys” are still pretty important if you don’t have anything resembling a franchise quarterback.
It’s this blatant disregard of one of the game’s more important positions which has Cleveland where it is today. At 3-12, the Browns are enduring one of their worst seasons since 1999. The team has holes everywhere, not just at wideout. However, the receiving problem is glaring, and it could be seen again yesterday.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel twice had a chance to drive the Browns to a late, go-ahead touchdown in Kansas City. While part of the reason the team failed to convert was due to the QB’s trouble with inaccuracy, you also couldn’t help but wonder how he’d perform if he had any legitimate targets to throw to.
Instead, Manziel was working with a who’s who of spare parts. Cleveland’s active receivers yesterday were Marlon Moore, Travis Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel, Darius Jennings and Bowe. None of the aforementioned players would be a starter on the majority of NFL teams, and only Benjamin has made any sort of an impact this year. Bowe’s tenure with the Browns has been a joke, while Gabriel, Jennings and Moore are bit players at the very most.
And yet, this is the cast Manziel had to utilize to try and beat the streaking Chiefs, a receiving corps only Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in his prime could make something out of.
Farmer’s indifference towards receiver is annoying enough, but how little work needed to be done to upgrade the position makes it all the more frustrating.
The Browns have had a plethora of draft picks in each of the past two years, including two first-rounders per draft. Yet, Farmer ignored wideout last year when one of the most decorated classes of college receivers was there for the taking, and did it again this year after the majority of said receivers had breakout seasons. Additionally, he could’ve utilized a fifth-rounder to go after veteran Brandon Marshall, as that was all it took for the New York Jets to acquire their now-best receiver.
But no, ask Farmer and he’ll tell you the one thing his 3-12 team with a sputtering offense needs is playmakers at wideout. Any true Super Bowl champion will tell you working with a receiving corps of players the size of children is the way to go, right Ray?
As mentioned, there are problem areas all across Cleveland’s roster. However, only one is there due to foolish neglect, and for that Browns fans can thank Farmer. My advice would be to send your appreciation while you can, though, as he probably won’t be in Cleveland much longer.