Ray Farmer is in his first season as the Browns’ general manager. He recently discussed his feelings on the state of the team, its lightning-rod rookie quarterback and trying to be patient and prudent in an age that craves immediate gratification. Farmer joined the Browns as assistant GM in March 2013 after seven seasons (2006-2012) as Kansas City Chiefs director of pro personnel. He spent four seasons (2002-05) as a pro scout with the Atlanta Falcons, where he saw firsthand the emergence of Michael Vick as a star. Here are Part 1 and Part 3 of Farmer's interview.
You’ve talked about what you like about this team. What are your concerns as you go forward with the team? What are the questions that have to be answered?
Farmer: There are several questions that have to be answered. You always want to get better. I think that, assuming everyone was healthy and available to play, our top 22 vs. anybody else’s top 22 -- I’m very comfortable with that. The difference in the National Football League is, if you’re missing an A-level player, the drop-off between A and the next guy is where the questions start to arise.
Every team is concerned about their depth. I like our young players, but with all of them, you just don’t know until they play. You have to have enough depth on your roster to contribute in the instance that Player A stubs his toe for a week and he’s gone. Or he has turf toe or small ailment that’s not a catastrophic injury, and even if it is, you may have to replace him for not only one week but maybe 10 weeks or 16 weeks. The reality is you’ve got to have enough quality depth in your roster to sustain when there are injuries, because people get hurt. This is the National Football League.
That being said, this is definitely a process. I keep using that word, but fundamentally everyone is excited about the moment, and we’re excited about the journey.
How tough is it to get people to understand that it’s a process?
Farmer: It’s tough. Everyone wants what they want today. We’re in an instant-information society. Twitter is blowing up. Instagram is blowing up. I want it now. Nobody writes letters anymore. Nobody wants to wait. I’d rather send you an email.
Do you send letters?
Farmer: I don’t, but I’ll tell you that my patience level would allow me to write letters. I try to appease those that need email and need Instagram.
You’re speaking to a dinosaur.
Farmer: Dinosaurs are good. What happened 15, 20 years ago? Somebody couldn’t reach you when they called, they left a message and waited for an answer. Right now if you don’t call them back in 15 seconds, they got an attitude the next time they see you. That’s the way it goes. I get it. My kids are the same way. My daughter says, “Why didn’t you text me back?” I was in a meeting; that means you wait until I have an opportunity to get back to you. Our team is that. It’s tough to be a ready-made product, but everybody wants instant coffee. We like the freshly roasted kind.
Looking at your background, you’re not a “shortcut guy.” You respect hard work and the process that you’ve spoken about. But you and I both know that this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.
And you have an owner who’s fairly new and clearly wants success, that sort of thing. How do you balance that as a first-year GM, knowing the reality of this league is that there’s no guarantee you’ll get a second chance if you don’t succeed the first time around?
Farmer: My balance is simple: I’m going to stay true to me. I’m going to do everything in my power to make it a better football team. We’ll make smart decisions. They’ll be calculated to a large degree behind what we do, when we do and why we do. That’s the genesis. At some point soon, we’re going to get this right. I have no qualms in my mind that I’m going to have success in this league of helping to establish something that hasn’t been done. But we’re going to do it the right way. You can do a lot of things in a short period of time and cut corners, and you may not see the results of that today, but inevitably they’ll show their faces. To me, like my mom and dad used to say, you don’t have to cut the whole yard today, but sooner or later I’m going to be able to look out there and say, "You didn’t cut this side. You let that side go for three weeks." I’m not about that. I’m going to take my time and cut the whole yard, and when it’s done it’s done.