Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Brutal honesty: Coach Mike Pettine seemed to be speaking to owner Jimmy Haslam on Monday when, in the context of devising a plan to fix the Browns, he said, “We have to be brutally honest with ourselves and brutally honest not just looking into the mirror but to other parts of the building, as well.”
The inescapable inference was that the body of work of GM Ray Farmer has to be reviewed, just as Pettine’s 9-19 record is -- week by miserable week.
“Let’s make damn sure the changes we are making are the right ones that are going to get this ship turned and headed into the right direction,” Pettine implored.
According to a source, Haslam has held at least one meeting to discuss how to pick up the broken shards left from the 2015 season. The meeting was not in team headquarters in Berea but in the Haslam part-time residence in Bratenahl. Among those present were Haslam and wife Dee, President Alec Scheiner and Farmer.
It’s not known how much Farmer’s record was reviewed at that confab.
But as the arrows are shot at Pettine on a daily basis -- because he is the team spokesman every day and because the team is in the throes of seven losses in a row and 15 in the last 17 games -- it is only fair to take a look at Farmer’s role in the train wreck that is the Cleveland Browns.
Here are 12 Farmer transactions, arranged chronologically, that shaped the 2015 Browns. Now, some of these may have been jointly endorsed by Pettine or even instigated by the coach. But Farmer is the GM and has the “total football authority” clause in his contract, so he is ultimately responsible for the following gems.
1. March 3, 2014: Applied the transition tag to free agent center Alex Mack. By not using the more common, if a tad more expensive, franchise tag, Farmer allowed Mack’s contract to be negotiated out of his control. Sure enough, agent Marv Demoff worked a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars that included a mild “poison pill.” After two seasons, Mack could opt out of the deal and enter free agency. And there was a no-trade clause. Farmer swallowed the pill and matched the deal. To guard against the likelihood of Mack leaving after 2015, Farmer used his second first-round pick in the 2015 draft, No. 19 overall, on center Cam Erving.
2. March 15, 2014: Signed free agent running back Ben Tate. Tate had the reputation of a pouter as a backup with the Houston Texans, but Farmer saw him as a veteran on the rise who could be an example to younger backs. Wrong. Tate resented competition and became an unlikable sourpuss. He was waived in November after eight games.
3. May 8, 2014: Picked a cornerback over a wide receiver. Aware that receiver Josh Gordon was facing an imminent league suspension, Farmer turned his back on a historic draft class at the receiver position. He couldn’t resist Buffalo’s trade offer of its 2015 first-round pick for the No. 4 overall selection. Farmer then moved up one spot to No. 8 and selected cornerback Justin Gilbert. With another first-round pick, as a result of former CEO Joe Banner’s 2013 trade of Trent Richardson, Farmer moved up from No. 26 to No. 22 and selected quarterback Johnny Manziel.
4. May 9, 2014: Traded extra picks for a running back. Farmer traded fourth- and fifth-round picks to San Francisco to select running back Terrance West in the third round. West was traded a year later to Tennessee for a conditional pick. The terms of the conditions were not met, and the Browns wound up receiving nothing for West.
5-7. Aug. 30-31, Sept. 1, 2014: Training camp roster cleansing. Running back Dion Lewis and receivers Willie Snead and Charles Johnson were waived. The scatback Lewis was signed by the Patriots in 2015 and became an offensive godsend before a season-ending injury. Johnson, who was recovering from ACL surgery, was waived and then signed to the practice squad. The Minnesota Vikings poached Johnson a week later and he became a starting receiver for them. Snead was a victim of roster numbers. He now is a productive player with the New Orleans Saints.
8. March, 2015: Signed quarterback Josh McCown. This move secured the departure of Brian Hoyer. The Browns were 9-6 in games in which Hoyer started and finished. He is the only quarterback with a winning record in the Browns’ expansion era. Hoyer signed with the Houston Texans, who are in contention for the AFC playoffs.
9. March 20, 2015: Signed receiver Dwayne Bowe to a two-year contract for $12 million, with $9 million guaranteed. Bowe has three catches through 12 games.
10-11. April 30, 2015: Drafted nose tackle Danny Shelton with the 12th overall pick and offensive lineman Cam Erving with the 19th. Shelton has started every game as a rookie. Erving played two positions in his first training camp, eventually started two games at a third position -- left guard -- and was demoted to the bench this week.
12. Sept. 7: Began four-week NFL suspension. Farmer was suspended for violating league electronic device rules by texting coaches during games in the 2014 season. Farmer's interference on game days led to the resignation of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after the 2014 season and created a wedge in his relationship with the coaches.