In case you missed it – and seeing as how you’re alive, you didn’t – Johnny Manziel is a Cleveland Brown.
But imagine what it was like for Browns general manager Ray Farmer to select Manziel, who torched Duke in the final game of his collegiate career, accounting for five touchdowns and overcoming a 21-point deficit in a 52-48 win.
Farmer played safety at Duke from 1992-96.
“Now why would you start with that one?” Farmer asked on The Doug Gottlieb Show, laughing. “You’re going to go right to the heart and make this painful.”
In all seriousness, Farmer the Duke grad was sad watching the Chick fil-A Bowl, but Farmer the general manager was extremely impressed.
“I really felt like Duke had the game in control (and) had dominated the majority of the football game,” he said. “And although it’s never a one-man effort, I think (Manziel) put in a yeoman’s effort (with) how he approached that game and attacked, trying to make plays. Obviously in every game you watch, you see the good and the bad. Inevitably, the biggest thing and the most positive thing in that game is here’s a young man who was able to demonstrate that he could really change the course of a game by how he approached it, and he did that. He went into a game, he made plays, when plays broke down he found away to create second opportunities, he completed the ball, he drove the offense down and created points when they needed them.”
While being impressed with Manziel was easy, drafting him was anything but.
First, the Browns shunned Manziel with their first pick. Then they traded up to get him. Then there were rumors that the Browns wanted Teddy Bridgewater and decided at the last second to go with Manziel. Then there were rumors that Manziel texted the Browns and told them to draft him.
There’s probably even a UFO in there somewhere.
“The reality is that the decision with regards to Johnny was we were monitoring every pick after we picked Justin (Gilbert),” Farmer said. “We knew where teams were landing. We know what teams wanted certain positions – at least in our minds we did. Some of those held true; some of those didn’t. But in the process of going through and evaluating those positions as we went down, we had a good feel for where he could land – and then when the opportunity came for us to strike, (we did).”
But what about Bridgewater? The Browns reportedly spent $100,000 for a study that found that Bridgewater was the best prospect in this year’s draft. Is this true?
“I can tell you that we do a lot of research on a lot of different positions and players,” Farmer said. “We definitely are trying to push the envelop in every direction possible. The information that we get, I probably will never share publicly. My wife will tell you I don’t even share it privately.
“So at thee end of the day, we do a lot of things to try to unearth what the right answers to the test (are),” Farmer continued “And nonetheless, all of those things are just kind of anecdotal. They add to the picture; they don’t necessarily paint the picture. So yeah, we do a lot of research in a lot of areas that help us come to our conclusions.”
The Browns also concluded to not draft any wide receivers this year – despite knowing that Josh Gordon could miss the entire 2014 season.
“I will tell you that I knew certain pieces of it,” Farmer said, referring to Gordon’s troubles. “The totality of it, I still don’t know, which is why I refuse to comment on it at the moment.
“We went into the draft with the mindset of taking the best players available that had the most value at that particular spot in the draft. We stayed true to our board. We stayed true to our philosophy and our plan.”
With two first-round picks, the Browns certainly had a lot of flexibility. They also had the sage advice of a homeless man, who apparently told owner Jimmy Haslam to take Manziel.
Was Haslam actually swayed by these words?
“It continues to lend to the legend that is now Johnny Football,” Farmer said. “It definitely makes it a more interesting story, so to keep the candor and the fodder going, I will tell you that it’s going to be a good book when it’s all said and done.”