INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Mike Pettine met with the media on Wednesday at the NFL combine. Here's what we learned about the Cleveland Browns:
Browns face serious problems with Johnny Manziel: The Browns basically have two quarterback plans -- one with Manziel, one without. The latter is the only reliable option until Manziel returns from treatment, and even then it's uncertain what the team will be getting. Pettine made clear that the organization is proud of Manziel and wants him to come back refreshed. That doesn't mean he'll be equipped to start NFL games. There's no guarantee his on-the-field ability can get it done. If the Browns felt remotely confident Manziel would start in 2015, they wouldn't be scouring the earth for quarterback help.
Marcus Mariota is still in play, no matter what the Browns say: The Browns are exploring all options at quarterback, they say, which means Mariota's name will come up a lot inside the Browns' facility. New quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell just worked with him, so his opinion will be noted. Having two first-round picks will make a trade tempting, where even if the team doesn't want to mortgage the future, Mariota must be at least considered because there is a wide gulf between Jameis Winston/Mariota and everyone else.
GM Ray Farmer is fortunate he didn't burn bridges for good: Pettine admitted Farmer's texting to football staffers on game days -- an act that would violate NFL communication guidelines -- was hurtful to him. Of course, Farmer questioning game-day operations undercuts the coaching staff at the core. But Pettine stressed that Farmer apologized to him for the mistake and the two are ready to move on. The two still agree on philosophical football and how to build a team. That's big. Pettine was always going to take the high road, but this could have gotten ugly. Pettine seemed to tease that Farmer, in his Thursday interview scheduled at 10 a.m., would clear up some things.
The Browns are throwing smokescreens about wide receiver: Pettine used the age-old NFL adage that seems to apply to receivers every year -- you can get quality wideouts later in the draft. It's such a deep position. Deep, yes, but true difference-makers go high for a reason (Hi, Odell). Alabama's Amari Cooper, West Virginia's Kevin White and Louisville's DeVante Parker could give the Browns exactly what they need, reliability on the outside. At least one should be available at No. 12. Farmer has made clear he's not keen on spending big on receivers, but sitting idle worsens the chances of the next quarterback to have any semblance of success.
DL or OG is a bigger need than RT: Pettine said he thought Mitchell Schwartz had a good season, so if Farmer feels the same way, that could open a lane for the Browns to fortify their defensive front somewhere in the first round and get a talented offensive guard somewhere in the first three rounds. Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton would make some serious sense at No. 12. For edge-rush help, there's plenty of that -- Missouri's Shane Ray or Florida's Dante Fowler.