The curious case of Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine


For all of you Ray Farmer haters out there, let us pose a question to you. Is it even remotely possible that the general manager actually drafted well in the first round and the players he selected are simply being put in a position to fail by head coach Mike Pettine?

Hindsight is 20/20, so it is easy to yell to the heavens about how bad Farmer has done in the first round of the draft in his first two seasons as general manager of the Browns. Let’s just go below the surface for a moment, though.

Remember the days and weeks leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft? There was talk that the Houston Texans were seriously considering drafting Johnny Manziel as the top pick in the draft. He had a stellar Pro Day and no one truly knew what was going to happen to Manziel entering the draft. The point? Some scouts, general managers and head coaches in the league thought Manziel had the potential to be a top pick in the draft.

Related: Browns reportedly shopping Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and others

What about Justin Gilbert? People can talk all they want now about how bad or immature he is, but I’ve yet to read about anyone who attended his Pro Day who wouldn’t have considered drafting him. Gilbert was widely considered, among both NFL personnel and the media at large, as the top defensive back in the NFL draft that year.

This year’s draft saw the Browns take Danny Shelton, considered the interior defensive lineman that was most adept at stopping the run, and one of the top offensive linemen in Cameron Erving. Neither have produced up to the level of expectation implied with their draft position.

It all must be Farmer’s fault, right? But no one can tell me that if these players were drafted by any other team in the league they would be producing at the same level they are with the Cleveland Browns. Because everyone knows it’s simply not true.

Pettine (who by the way was saved by one of the weakest schedules in the league last year) has shown in his year and a half of being an NFL head coach that he simply doesn’t hold players accountable, and has no problem throwing players under the bus if it suits his needs. As he isn’t a playcaller his only job during the game is time and player management, both of which he is possibly the worst at in the league.

Nov 1, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert (21) carries the ball as Arizona Cardinals running back Stepfan Taylor (30) and cornerback Justin Bethel (28) tackle during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cardinals won 34-20. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s crystal clear after watching Josh McCown continue to be sent out against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday while barely being able to stand upright that Pettine will not give Manziel an opportunity. At this point why not just dress Austin Davis? What Pettine is doing to Manziel bears a striking resemblance to what head coach Jeff Fisher did a little less than a decade ago to then-Titans quarterback Vince Young.

Pettine obviously doesn’t like Manziel, doesn’t want him on his team, and will do whatever he can to bury the young quarterback in the Cleveland quarterback graveyard. As he is doing with so many of his players, Pettine is doing nothing for Manziel other than setting him up to fail. Why else would he put Manziel into the game on Sunday with two minutes left and the Browns playing for nothing?

At this point in the season, not starting Manziel is absolutely going to cripple the team moving forward. There is a first round quarterback riding the bench, and no one knows what they have with him. He’s had some high highs and some low lows. The Browns are looking at a top three pick next year square in the face and the 2016 NFL Draft is going to produce some great quarterbacks.

Going into that draft not having a clue what you have at quarterback because your head coach is holding a grudge has to be a daunting fact that Farmer is dealing with.

While Josh Gordon had issues before Pettine came in, the head coach has done absolutely nothing to help enable Gordon, Gilbert or Manziel to succeed at the highest level of play. For the most part the coach hasn’t held any player accountable for their actions and left it up to the locker room, the media, the fans and just about anyone other than himself to help these young men, who clearly have some maturity issues, get a hold of themselves and succeed in the NFL.

Recently stories have come out that Pettine’s schemes are confusing and over-complicated, something that we’re sure doesn’t help his younger players get a grasp on the speed of the NFL game.

I wanted Pettine to be the guy. I really did. I am sick to my stomach that the Browns are likely going to have to find yet another head coach and seemingly start over again. Though what’s worse? Going through multiple seasons with the wrong guy, or trying to find the right guy who will actually get the job done?

Nov 1, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) carries the ball as Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden (44) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (92) tackle during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cardinals won 34-20. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get me wrong, Farmer has made some blunders in addition to texting the sidelines during games. There is no question that in his first year Farmer overlooked some maturity issues, assuming his hard-nosed new head coach could pound discipline into these young kids and mold them into a fierce, disciplined NFL ready unit.

Farmer overpaid for Dwayne Bowe, but at the time how could he have known that Pettine would have done a hatchet job on the star wide receiver signing and bury him in the depth chart?

Is it possible that Farmer just can’t draft in the first round, yet somehow hits in subsequent rounds and in the majority of his free agent signings? Sure, it’s possible. Or is it more likely that these top-tier college players have spent their entire NFL career being set up for failure by a head coach that just doesn’t get it?

The fact is that it’s probably a little from column A and a little from column B. Farmer could have made some different choices in the first round of the 2014 and 2015 NFL drafts, but who’s to say that any other players he would have drafted wouldn’t have been set up for the same failure that the current players have been dealing with?

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The possibility of a rumored fire sale says that Farmer has spoken with Jimmy Haslam, and together they have decided this season is a lost cause. This also says that Haslam is likely to stick with Farmer and let him see this plan to its fruition.

It also seems likely that part of Farmer’s plan will be to put a coach in place that he chooses. This means Pettine’s days may be numbered as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

If the Browns lose to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night the way they lost to the Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, it would be surprising if Pettine makes it through the weekend. If this happens, expect offensive coordinator John DeFilippo to get the opportunity to put Manziel in for the remainder of the season so Farmer can get a better understanding of whether or not  the quarterback position needs to be addressed in next spring’s draft.

The next few weeks and the off-season should be interesting in Cleveland. Let’s just hope they get it right this time.