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Transcript: Ray Farmer Post Draft Press Conference

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Cleveland Browns general Manager Ray Farmer / (Photo by Daryl Ruiter CBS Cleveland)

Cleveland Browns general Manager Ray Farmer / (Photo by Daryl Ruiter CBS Cleveland)

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Opening statement:
“I apologize for the delay, but thanks for waiting around. It’s been a long three days, but I wanted to say it’s an exciting time. Everyone is always excited for the draft and what happens. I also wanted to say Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers, my mom in particular, as well, (Browns executive assistant, player personnel) Debbie Kruszynski, my assistant, several other moms out there, Mary Kay (Cabot) Happy Mother’s Day. If I missed anyone else, Happy Mother’s Day. Excited for the draft, and it’s good to have the process complete.”

On how much better the Browns are following the draft:
“I’m better. The team is better. We feel like we went into this draft and we acquired players that we thought could help our roster, and we’re excited about that. They all seem to have Play Like a Brown attributes, and we’re excited to get those young men here, coach them up and move the team forward.”

On if the Browns believed Teddy Bridgewater was the best quarterback in the draft class, referencing reports about an analytics study:
“We do a lot of studies. We do have an analytics department. There’s a lot of pieces of information that come out of those things. Some of the things that I think people hear and read about lead people in the wrong direction as to what conclusions can be made from the information we gather. Nonetheless, we chose (Browns QB) Johnny Manziel because we had an opportunity to get a player that we really liked and we really wanted.”

On believing in analytics for player evaluation:
“I am. I went to Duke, so I’m a nerd by trait. I do like the numbers. A lot of my buddies around the league call me a stats guy. I’ve made a lot of decisions based upon what guys have done, and you can tell in their production through numbers and through obviously the tape-watching and other aspects that help you hone in and make a right decision.”

On a message to fans ‘panicking’ because the Browns didn’t draft a wide receiver:
“I would tell the fans that are in panic mode because we didn’t draft a wide receiver that patience really tells the tale. Like I said, there’s plenty of opportunity for us to address what everyone would believe is a need, but in our opinion, again, there’s plenty of opportunity to add players, to change the roster and really make a difference.

“I’d like to ask everybody here one question, as well. How many of the receivers that were with the Seattle Seahawks during their entire season last year and through the beginning of the playoffs were drafted players?

“(Seahawks WR Golden Tate) was out for a considerable amount of time, but the vast majority of those guys were not drafted. There’s definitely an opportunity to play with and identify talented players that can help your football team.”

On agreeing that the 2014 NFL Draft had a deep pool of wide receivers:
“I did, and I still do. Again, when you look at the number of wide receivers that were drafted and when they were drafted, I would tell you that we made the decisions that we made because we really valued the players that we got at a certain point. When, in our opinion, the most talented of that group was surpassed, we weren’t in a position to take the top-rated guys we had on our board; those guys had already been drafted. To that end, we took the players that we thought best helped our football team at different positions.”

On if running his first draft felt differently compared to past drafts, and if he expected to be a ‘wheeler-dealer’:
“I didn’t think I’d be a wheeler-dealer, that’s for certain. I got a lot of interesting feedback from my constituents around the league as to the amount of trades and moving that we did. With that being said, I do think it was different. The room was different. For me, the aura of the room was different. How we conducted our business was different, and more so to fit my personality. I felt good about where we were. I felt good about keeping the process intact, and I think that’s really what we focused on was sticking to our process, the involvement of the people that were in the room and keeping everybody abreast of why we were doing what we were doing.”

On if he has any regrets regarding the draft:
“I don’t know if I have any regrets, but I will say that – I said this the other night – I always have remorse when players that I feel in love with during the process get selected in a way that I didn’t have a chance to get them.”

On how Browns draft choices have a chance to start in 2014:
“I will tell you this – and this is really (Browns Head) Coach Pett (Mike Pettine), it’s his decision of who’s going to play – but I do believe that the players that we added to this football team will give themselves a chance to compete. That’s really what we wanted to do, improve the quality of the depth on this football team and give guys that we thought had a chance to be starters and whether that’s Day 1, Day 2, that’ll remain to be seen. Everybody will have to earn their respect and their responsibilities to be a starter in the National Football League.”

On the Browns opinion of Bridgewater, and if the team altered its strategy when Manziel wasn’t selected by the Cowboys at No. 16 overall:
“In the first part of the question, Teddy Bridgewater definitely was a young man that I definitely liked the person. I thought he was a really good college player. I thought he did a lot of positive things. I’m happy for him that he landed in the first round and went to Minnesota. Congratulations to him, and I wish him the best of luck in his career.

“With regards to our decision-making process and how we would have looked at Johnny Manziel, we paid attention to where we were in the draft, what teams’ needs, if you will, were and where the opportunities were for him to go. We monitored those situations, and when we felt like we had an opportunity to get him, we took him. There was a bundle of names of players that we were constantly kind of keeping our eye on throughout the middle of that round. When we had an opportunity to take Johnny, we made the decision that he was the guy that we wanted and we made that choice.”

On if Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam influenced the QB Johnny Manziel pick:
“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that Jimmy Haslam at no point demanded, requested or tried to influence the process in any way. He definitely asked questions. He’ll definitely give his opinion of what he thinks and all of those things are fine, but at the end of the day he trusted the football staff to make the decisions that we thought were the right decisions for this football team.”

On which QB selected in the draft is most ready to start in the NFL now:
“I’d say that when you look at the process and you say those guys, again there was a general belief that there was a top-tier guy and I would say all of those guys have an opportunity to start early. It’s up to each individual club as to when those guys will actually play and contribute. Their preparation and their ability to perform and start now, I would tell you that’s a hard projection because you never know how quickly a guy is going to absorb all the information that he is given. In my own mind, I always look at the college game like it’s checkers. I don’t think it’s very complicated in a lot of situations. Coaches don’t have the time and the commitment to put in the resources like we do, so they play a different brand of ball than the NFL is. It’s going to be hard for me to say that this guy was more prepared than that guy. It’s really going to be, who can process the most information the quickest.”

On if the team was close to trading up with Tennessee for the 11th pick:
“We definitely called. We called Tennessee. We spent time calling a lot of clubs, from Tennessee all the way back to Philadelphia, so we monitored the phones. We made phone calls and from my perspective, there was a bundle of players that we were interested in, so again, there were definitely thoughts and ideas of who was coming to us, what player could we get and one of the tenants a lot of people I think operate under during the course of the draft is that there’s pods of players that you like. And as those pods of players start to run out, you may lose a guy that you truly, truly covet. Then you better make a move for the one that you want or you may miss him. To that end, we worked through the process, we found a guy that we like and when the opportunity came, we jumped on it.”

On completing five trades over the draft and if that should be expected in the future:
“I still think it was predicated on the player that’s available. As you saw, there were times in the draft where we didn’t do anything. We just sat in our spot and took our pick. There were other times where we felt we were going to miss out if we don’t make something happen so we took the liberty to do those things. Again, that’s a part of the process and procedure. I will tell you that it was more determining each situation based upon the players that we liked and where we were at that point in time.”

On if he envisions DB Justin Gilbert as a returner:
“I will tell you right now that’s truly Mike’s (Pettine) decision. I do think we have people that are here that can also be dynamic returners. Again, I’d be remised if I said Justin Gilbert is going to come in and be the starting kickoff returner, punt returner, etcetera. But he is a tremendous talent when you get the ball in his hands. How they decide to use him will be a coaching decision.”

On if he has any more clarity on WR Josh Gordon’s situation:
“I do not. Again, I know it’s frustrating for a lot of people not to have information and it seems like we’re somehow avoiding the topic. The reality is that, to some degree my hands are tied for what I can say. There’s really nothing I can contribute to this conversation other than, I have no comment or I will add clarity when there is clarity.”

On what he would say to the fans who feel the Gordon situation overshadowed all the good from the draft:
“I would say that frustration is a natural part of it and I think that’s what was felt and heard when that announcement was made. I don’t fault the fans for their reaction to it. I don’t fault anyone for being disappointed. To that end, it’s our job to make those decisions less painful and in time, it’s no different than if a player was going out there in the offseason and broke an ankle or tore an ACL playing pickup hoops or doing something different. We have to build a football team that can win regardless of whose missing and I think that’s the charge that we have. I think that’s my job, coach Pettine’s job, is to prepare this football team no matter who’s missing.”

On the feedback he received from his colleagues during the draft:
“Trader Ray became the call as I would answer the telephone. It was definitely interesting to hear friends and colleagues call and say, ‘Is Trader Ray available?’ Specifically as the draft moved on and there were opportunities for us to move back, I think that people just naturally assumed that because we had been so active the first couple of days that we’d be eager to move around even more as the draft moved on.”

On if he thinks he got to draft Terrance West just before the Baltimore Ravens who were reportedly interested in him:
“I believe I got to Terrance West just before somebody got to Terrance West. I don’t know who specifically, but there was definitely the feeling that, the term we like to use in our draft room is ‘murderer’s row.’ When murderer’s row comes up, you’re going to lose the guys that you want. There were several instances throughout the draft where we referred to pods of teams that could take players that we were interested in. As we saw those pods of teams coming up, we felt it was advantageous for us to move in front of those teams.”

On if he traded up to the 22nd pick because he thought the team selecting 23rd might take Johnny Manziel:
“Again, interestingly enough, there were pods of teams that we thought were trying to move in front of us. Strategically, there was a lot of conversation about that before the draft. Because we had the two first-round picks, depending on how things fell early, there was the notion that other teams would try to move in front of us with the assumption that we would pick a quarterback at 26. That’s what the assumption was from the general public. Those pieces of information definitely helped us make a determination strategically for how we wanted to approach that pick in that circumstance that we were in.”

On if he thinks Terrance West was the steal of the draft for him:
“I’m really excited to have him. I don’t know if I’d call it a steal. I do think this was a deep draft to kind of go back to one of the comments before. We’re fortunate enough to have the young man and I do think he has a chance to help our football team improve.”

On how he felt going into the draft and if the process unfolded as he expected:
“I would say for me, procedurally, we tried to stick with our core philosophy of how we wanted to operate. It’s truly our belief as an organization, and it’s not just me, there’s a room full of people that help to contribute to making the decisions that we make. As we go through our processes and we talk about the different things that are important to us as an organization, I think it went the way we had planned for it to go. Could I have told you that I was going to trade, move up or back or slide around? No, I couldn’t have told you that a week before the draft. I couldn’t have told you that the morning of the first day. Inevitably, things happen. You’ve got to be reactionary to some degree. That’s really what the draft is predicated on, trying to identify the players that you like and getting the guys that you really think can improve your football team.”

On his nerves heading into his first draft as general manager:
“I really don’t think I was nervous. I worked through the process. For me, I’m not really an up-and-down guy. I’m pretty, I’m not going to use the word laissez-faire, but I’m pretty calm the majority of the time. I wouldn’t say I was nervous. I would probably say I had more nerves playing sports than doing what I do now. To make the football analogy, it felt like before every game I played, I always had butterflies no matter how old I was. I don’t think I’m in that same position anymore.”

On his plan for the wide receiver position:
“I think I’ve tried to articulate my game plan, it’s that there are plenty of opportunities. There will be college free agents. There will be other receivers to move off of rosters depending on whom they selected. There will be opportunities to make trades based upon how teams look at their rosters once they’ve had a chance to evaluate the young men that they’ve drafted or picked up as college free agents. All of those strategies and all of those opportunities, there will be moments that we can add more talent to our roster. When those opportunities present themselves, we hope to strike.”

On his preference for adding new players:
“I would tell you that I don’t have a favorite. It doesn’t matter to me if you find the guy via trade, if you find him via he’s on the street. We just want people that can come in, compete to be starters on this football team and improve the overall talent on the roster.”

On if he thinks the receiver situation has to improve:
“I think you always look to improve. I understand the word ‘need’, everyone feels that there is this need, I would definitely go back to the comment or question I asked before about Seattle. It’s that you find players when you give players the opportunity to contribute. There are names that people don’t recognize yet. There are names that people don’t know. There are players that people don’t recognize as being good players until they’re given the opportunity. When they’re given those opportunities, they demonstrate they can execute at the level we need them to and some become household names, some become general contributors to a roster. Victor Cruz came out and I don’t know how many people would have said Victor Cruz is Victor Cruz until he demonstrated he was Victor Cruz. From our perspective, we’re going to continue to give guys an opportunity to contribute and demonstrate what they can do.”

On how good Browns WR Greg Little can be:
“The young man’s talented. The question mark would then fall onto can he be consistent and do the things that he has physically demonstrated he can do at times. If he continues to do those things and add a level of consistency, the difference between being good and great is consistency. That’s really the difference. When a guy shows you he can do anything, he shows you he can jump up and make the one-handed catch, he shows you he can break a tackle, the question then is can he repeatedly do that over and over again. That’s the difference between being average or marginal, and good or great.”

On he was surprised that the Dallas Cowboys didn’t take Manziel with their pick:
“I don’t know that I was surprised as much as I was happy.”

On if the Cowboys’ potential to select Manziel was why the Browns discussed a trade with the Titans:
“I think there were multiple teams that I thought had the chance to take Johnny. We worked through kind of trying to track and see where teams exactly were. You never really know who is going to make that pick when it’s their time to make that pick. That’s what I said before when I said there are players that I hoped or I thought may slide to us that they got gobbled up. As much as you look at your board and you think, ‘Man, this guy has a chance to be here in the second round; this guy has a chance to be here in the third round,’ and then you look at your board like, ‘Man.’ It’s like Battleship. Guys start plucking off and you’re like, ‘Man, they got me. There’s no one left at the level that I wanted them,’ when it’s your turn to pick. It’s funny; I texted another team today and I was like, ‘Battleship. You got me.’ I put B-17 or I put a number down and I was like, ‘You sank my battleship.’ They got me. They got me.”

On if it’s difficult to handle Manziel’s celebrity as a rookie quarterback:
“I don’t think that it’s difficult to handle. I think that you have to have a game plan and a strategy. Like I said when we drafted Johnny, he does have celebrity he’s a polarizing type of personality to some degree or the legend of Johnny Football, if you will. People have created this swell around him, and part of our job is going to help him deal with that in a professional manner. I’ve had conversations with him; I know others have had conversations with him. He’s maturing in a way that, hopefully, he’s going to learn how to deal with these things on his own, and he won’t need anyone to help him guide the ship. Nonetheless, I think that’s part of my role, that’s part of our role as an organization is to help these guys truly become pros. None of them have been pros, and now it’s not just our job for Johnny but for every person on this team to develop professionalism on how they approach the game, how they approach their work habits, how they come in here every day and demonstrate their talents.”

On explaining to fans his philosophy in prioritizing another position over a ‘franchise quarterback’:
“I would say that in trying to find a player for a football team – again, good question – our core process philosophies generally focus around building the team. I understand franchise quarterback and I understand what all of these terms kind of insinuate, but the reality for us is that we need players that can help us win football games. There are very few teams that have a quarterback that does truly everything; he makes everyone better; he does everything the way that you want. To that end, it’s about building the team. That’s what we want to do. Sometimes, there are players that you think you can get, and then that comes down to strategy and the strategic plan for how you plan to approach to draft or how you plan to approach even free agency. For us, it’s a plan of, ‘Look, I can get this other player in a week from now, but I need to focus all my energies on this other player Day 1.’ It’s not a slight on anyone’s abilities; it’s a strategic plan for what you think you need to focus your energies on to get the best results for both options.”

On if there was a moment of emotion, excitement and celebration for the Browns after selecting Gilbert or Manziel, referring to his and Pettine’s stoic nature last night:
“It was generally business the whole time, but I can tell you whether it was Justin, whether it was Johnny, whether it was Pierre, whether it was Terrance or whether it was Joel, we high-fived and jumped up and down like we had won the Super Bowl after every pick. We were excited about the players that we got. Now, the fact that we came down here, wiped away the smiles and sat up here and seemed stoic, yeah, I think that’s just part of trying to be calm about the circumstance of the situation and not be over-elated by the players that we got, but we were definitely excited by the players we drafted.”

On reacting to the Rams selecting DE Michael Sam:
“I don’t know if I have any reaction other than congratulations to the young man for getting drafted. Obviously, watching the TV and following the circumstances, he was overcome with emotion, but I was definitely happy for him and seeing his jubilation for being drafted into the National Football League.”

On if the Browns would have signed Sam as an undrafted-free agent if not selected:
“He might not have been on our list. Again, he might not have been a scheme fit for us, to be honest. We play a little bit differently than some teams. How we have our roster structured right now and really the depth we have at the OB position, or the outside linebacker position, I don’t know that he would have been one of our first primary calls just based upon the players that we currently have on our roster and what that would have been for us moving forward.”

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