BEREA— After spending nearly three months in the dark, far away from the Cleveland media, Browns general manager Ray Farmer stepped back under the lights of the podium to answer questions about the team for which he's responsible and their 2-6 start.
Just minutes into the inquisition, Farmer was feeling the heat, both literally and figuratively, as he noticeably perspired to the point where he asked for a towel to wipe his brow as a quesiton was being asked.
That towel, to many fans, signaled that the team was “throwing in the towel” on this season, but Farmer ensured that was not at all the case.
“The goal is to continue to try and add guys to this team that want to be Browns, that want to grow what we’re doing here and want to bring a winner to Cleveland,” Farmer said. “We’re focused on that, our college scouts are focused on that, our coaches are focused on that, our staff in general is focused on that.”
With the general notion of a lost season out of the way, Farmer was then guided into the specifics of this season, starting with Tuesday’s trade deadline.
The deadline ended without the Browns making a move, although there were rumors of Joe Thomas heading to Denver, which Farmer would not confirm.
“We didn’t actively go out and try to move anybody. There’s not a single team I called and said, ‘Hey look, I’m shopping so and so,’” Farmer said. “That’s part of my job is when people call and make offers and suggest what they would like to have, see or have done, then it is my job to listen.”
After closing the book on any potential trades, Farmer was asked about another roster transaction he made earlier this offseason— the signing of free agent wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
Despite earning a 9-million dollar salary, Bowe hasn’t made a catch halfway through the season, but Farmer didn’t seem to have an answer as to why that was the case.
“As we move forward, it is what it is,” Farmer said. “Dwayne is in the circumstance that he’s in, and it’s our job as the Browns to try and get Dwayne as many catches and opportunities as he earns and deserves.”
The earning and deserving of opportunities that Farmer mentioned was a common theme from the general manager when the topic of conversation moved to his traits and what he’s done for the team.
“I think what I have done is I have helped bring a culture to Cleveland. I would think, in my mind, the guy that actually wins the job should get it,” Farmer said. “If you give those opportunities to the right players and they earn them and demonstrate that they are worthy of moving forward with – then we are going to continue to build and move it the right way.”
Two players that Farmer drafted in 2014 have failed to earn any significant playing time in their two seasons-- Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert.
Farmer’s taken a lot of flack for the way those two have performed on and off the field in Cleveland to this point, but said that the “movie” that is their collective career has only just begun.
“I could take you through a number of stories of guys that have gone from less-than stellar rookie campaigns to being Hall of Fame players,” Farmer said. “The question becomes is the movie over after a single season or do we have to continue to work with guys and give them an opportunity to grow? That growth and as they continue to show that they are making the necessary strides – that is what you believe in. That is what we believe in and that is what we will continue to work towards.”
While he said he wasn’t disappointed in either player, he did have his questions about Gilbert and his lack of production, specifically.
“Yes. Candidly, yes,” Farmer said, when asked if he was surprised that Gilbert hadn’t been able to earn playing time this season. “When he gets his opportunities I think he has embraced the notion of what he has had of the opportunities that he has been given. As he continues to get his opportunities he will continue to grow with those.”
Manziel, on the other hand, didn’t seem to worry Farmer.
The general manager said he’s spoken to Manziel about his off-field issues, but feels that he’s matured in all aspects of his life over the past year.
“I think he has done a much better job this year of doing exactly what he has been asked to do, inside and around us,” Farmer said. “Johnny has been doing the right things that we want to see him do from a learning and growth perspective.”
As for the rest of the team, though they have only accumulated two wins this season, Farmer believes the light at the end of the team’s tunnel is not far away.
He harped consistently on the fact that the Browns have been close in every game they’ve played and that the lack of ability to close the door is the only thing keeping them from a successful season.
“I don’t feel like we have been taken to the woodshed and teams have just walked out of here and stomped on us and decided this team is terrible,” Farmer said. “The reality is that there are good football players on this football team. We just have to find ways to push it over. Push over the line.”
Though the Browns are close, Farmer agreed that at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter just how close they are if the games don't result in victories for Cleveland.
“This league is about winning. It is no secret. When you don’t win, it is no fun,” Farmer said. “It is not like we are having fun sitting in here because we are 2-6. That is not the case.”
Without the wins thus far and without many more wins looming in the future, or so it may seem, Farmer was asked how he plans on righting this ship that has sailed so far off-course.
According to the general manager, it’s all about taking a different and innovative approach.
“You can’t follow the same road map and get to a different destination,” Farmer said. “In my mind it comes down to we do things a little bit differently than people have done historically. With no risk comes no reward.”
It remains to be seen if Farmer will even get the chance to right the wrongs of this season, as there’s been rampant speculation about his job security.
With the Browns off to a 2-6 start and his draft picks making little impact on the team, Farmer has been the focus of a great deal of blame and vitriol, leading some to believe that he’ll be on his way out come season’s end.
He, however, doesn’t believe in that notion in the slightest and said that any idea that his job is in jeopardy comes from a lack of information.
“The reality is that my seat is no warmer than the day I got it. That is a perception that everyone has for me and not a perception I have for myself,” Farmer said. “As I work through it I am going to continue to do the best I can with what I have.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.