How Ray Farmer Became the General Manager of the Browns
As the Browns continue to garner attention due to their 6-3 start to the 2014 season, there has been increased notoriety being shown to general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine.
Farmer was elevated to the general manager position upon the dismissal of Mike Lombardi following the 2013 season. In the weeks prior to Farmer’s promotion, he was under serious consideration for the general manager position with the Miami Dolphins.
Prior to Lombardi being removed in Cleveland, Farmer pulled his name from consideration for the Miami job, which at the time did not openly appear to be a big deal.
A big deal it soon became.
Throughout the 2013 season Lombardi and Banner were part of a difference in philosophy between the front office of the Browns and the coaching staff. Lombardi, Banner and head coach Rob Chudzinski had differences when it came to personnel. Chudzinski did not have authority over personnel, nor did Lombardi.
Joe Banner had the final say on personnel, as he did on nearly aspect of the organization. Banner reveled in the role due to Jimmy Haslam being an absentee owner following a government probe of his trucking industry business.
An astute businessman, Banner was not a true player personnel type and his player procurement with the Browns was a troubling point for those in player personnel, as well as the head coach and team owner.
The in-fighting not only was detrimental to the potential success of the Browns, the organization was being viewed as the most dysfunctional organization in the National Football League.
During the Browns coaching search headed up by Banner, he and Lombardi were not on the same page when it came down to candidates and discussions with potential candidates. More than one candidate noted following the interview process that Banner came off as abrasive and with a vision differing from that spoken by Lombardi.
Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots was a central figure in the discord of Banner and Lombardi. Lombardi wanted McDaniels for the Browns job with some discussion leading to believe it was McDaniels job, while Banner quashed any and all talk.
Again, potential candidates were wary of the Browns, not only due to the lack of continuity within the organization but the vast indifference between those of power in the organization itself.
Word of the embarrassing acts of his front office in the search process was the last straw for Haslam, an impatient man by nature, but a believer that continuity is the avenue for success in the NFL due to his former part-ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers, an organization of the utmost continuity.
In a swift power and structure changing move, team owner Jimmy Haslam not only fired Lombardi, he basically fired team president Joe Banner, though Banner would remain a member of the organization in name for a handful of weeks to following.
Back to Farmer.
The Browns general manager did not have a meeting with Haslam prior to his decision to pull himself out of the Miami job, which he was the front-runner. While there was a meeting, Farmer was asked to be patient as ‘things’ would be happening within the organization ‘very’ soon and he was a big part of the plan going forward.
It has been speculated Banner was the person that influenced Farmer to bypass the Miami job and remain in Cleveland.
How Mike Pettine Became the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns
Mike Pettine appeared to be a guy that came out of nowhere to land the head coaching job of the Cleveland Browns. To a degree this was the case, as Pettine was becoming a known commodity, but was not considered for the numerous head coaching positions following the 2013 season.
As the days turned into weeks and then months, the Browns head coaching search was one of many twists and turns. None were stranger than the avenue traveled in naming Pettine head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Under the direction of team CEO Joe Banner, the Browns (Banner and Mike Lombardi) spoke with the agents for over 20 coaches from the college and professional game. The Browns spoke with the representative for Mike Pettine, the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills.
A secret in the NFL doesn’t stay quiet for long and the Browns approach to finding a new head coach took on a moniker of its own – the worst job, but the best paying, because you’ll get a three year contract to work 12 months.
Banner assured the agents for candidates that the candidate selected would be one which would have security. A basis for the Browns extensive list of interest type candidates was geared to covering all the basis, not being forced into a quick decision and listen to a diverse number of candidates to learn as much as they could about the men and what their vision is in becoming a head coach.
Many agents for candidate types, identified by the Browns due to contact with the agents were not eager for their clients to jump into the fray with the Browns. Agents were apprehensive of the Browns opening.
With a new team owner in place, the Browns had just fired a head coach that was hired a year earlier. The same man that was conducting the head coach search a year ago (Joe Banner) headed the new search. Making matters worse was the speculation throughout the league that the Browns (Banner and Lombardi) were difficult to work with.
Word traveled throughout the league that the Browns basically abandoned their head coach (Rob Chudzinski). Around the league the perception was the head coach was simply that a coach, while everything football would have to have Banner’s stamp of approval.
Within the Browns organization there was a sense of disconnect between the front office and coaches and players. A source within the organization told the Fast Lane troubled brewed as early as training camp when Chudzinski wanted specific players playing, which did not fall in line of the wishes of the team CEO and general manager.
The writing was on the wall as early as September of 2013 when Banner traded RB Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2014 first round draft pick. Banner made the move, his head coach and offensive coordinator (Norv Turner) disagreed with the move.
At the end of the day, Chudzinski was fired following a 4-12 season in which the belief was the Browns were looking to develop the roster in the 2013 season and head into 2014 with a wealth of young talent and draft picks.
The Browns 2013 season was one which candidates for the Browns opening quietly expressed reservations about the position after interviewing with the Browns brass. The hammer hit the nail when Ken Whisenhut interviewed for the head coach position.
Just a year ago Whisenhut interviewed for the position that went to Chudzinski. Whisenhut was turned off by the manner which Banner discussed the Browns position as well as the game of football. Following the interview, Whisenhut wasn’t shedding a tear or expecting a return call from Banner, the two men did not have a warm and fuzzy meeting.
Later it was said by one privy to the talks that Whisenhut thought Banner was a businessman masquerading as a football guy.
In the second go around for Whisenhut, Banner again came off as an abrasive character and Whisenhut simply laid out his belief in what winning football is and allegedly noted that you have to have continuity to win and that’s been the problem in Cleveland.
During the process candidates bowed out without talking to the Browns, others simply noted they interviewed and left it as that – saying little to nothing.
Many in the process believed the Browns coaching search had become a dog and pony show. Others believed the general manager wanted New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to be the head coach, while others believed the CEO wanted Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for the job.
All this coming off the heels of the Browns hearing unofficially that Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase did not want the Cleveland job.
It was upon this dysfunction and embarrassment that team owner Jimmy Haslam became active in the process. Haslam had trusted his CEO to correct the head coach issue, believing his CEO in that the former head coach wasn’t who they thought he was and firing him would be beneficial for the long term success of the Browns.
Firing Chudzinski wasn’t a difficult decision for Haslam, the team owner was extremely disappointed in the 2013 season and the on-field direction of the team had taken.
Coming from a background believing running the football, being physical and playing the 3-4 defense was the proper method to win the NFL.
Chudzinski’s Browns were the anti-Haslam team.
Haslam had heard the grumblings coming from within his organization regarding the dysfunction between the front office and head coach. As the process to find a new head coach was in high gear, Haslam again heard from league types that something was amiss with his executives in executing a viable search for a potential candidate.
Days later the Browns officially spoke with Mike Pettine about the head coach position.
The interview with Pettine didn’t come off as others in the process had. Pettine came to the interview ready to talk football, what his philosophy was and his strong commitment to being physical, being hungry and committed and getting back to the roots of the game – power football, tough defense and never quitting.
Pettine’s interview struck a chord with a member of the Browns organization that has requested to be unnamed due to the situation. Following the interview Haslam was updated on the search and where the candidates stood.
The Fast Lane was told that Banner had identified Pettine as a candidate and was leaning toward waiting on interviewing Quinn from Seattle a second time.
By this time Lombardi had his voice stripped and wasn’t a factor.
Upon learning more about Pettine, Haslam was very intrigued and wanted to hear more about the former defensive coordinator. Pettine was tremendous in the interview process, he didn’t shy away from questions and his vision of a team in the AFC North was spot on for what the Browns wanted.
For as troubled as the coaching search was, the waters were muddied further when Haslam’s direct involvement led to the Browns interviewing former Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano. Schiano had been fired by the Buccaneers following a tumultuous 4-12 season.
Within a week following his interview, Pettine told the Browns that he didn’t want to be strung along in their decision making process, either he was getting the job or he’d remove himself from consideration.
This move by Pettine got the ball rolling even quicker in Cleveland.
Haslam by this time had lost faith in those running the process to come to a consensus top candidate and took the bull by the horns. Haslam had spoken with friends around the league and determined a decision had to be made to end the charade that had become the Browns search for a head coach.
Haslam was very impressed by Pettine, as were others within the organization privy to the process.
Upon a small organization discussion, Mike Pettine was informed the Browns would like negotiate a deal with him to become the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
The deal was done, Mike Pettine was the head coach.
In the days to follow the men responsible for embarrassing the Cleveland Browns were on their way out the door.
About nine months or so later, Jimmy Haslam and the Browns organization couldn’t be happier with the results.
Along with Pettine, Haslam was able to retain Ray Farmer who was elevated to the general manager position.
Following seasons of dysfunction, Haslam just may have the right combination in Cleveland – two men in Farmer and Pettine that are passionate about football and how the game is played.
Walking in the Browns facility today, the atmosphere is greatly improved and a clear direction has been cast.
And you’ll even get a ‘hello’.