Browns GM Ray Farmer won't trade everything for quarterback
BEREA, Ohio (AP) Marcus Mariota appears to have it all: the pristine college career, the smarts, all the necessary tools to be an elite NFL quarterback.
The former Oregon star would seem to be the complete package, and just maybe the answer for the Browns, who have been on a quest to find a franchise quarterback for years. They've had 22 starting QBs since 1999.
And while Mariota is certainly attractive, Cleveland general manager Ray Farmer doesn't seem smitten enough to mortgage his team's future on the Heisman Trophy winner.
Farmer said he doesn't believe in the ''fairy tale'' that one person will be the reason for the team to start winning games.
''I just think you got to get your hammer and your nails and you got to go out and build a house and that's what it's going to take,'' he said. ''You got to take your time and put it together the right way.''
Farmer held his pre-draft availability on Thursday, which was also the first time he has spoken publicly since the league suspended him four games without pay for sending text messages to the sideline last season.
''I messed up,'' he said.
Farmer can't afford any slip-ups in this year's draft.
With 10 picks, including two in the first round (Nos. 12 and 19) and six of the first 115 selections, Farmer has a chance to significantly improve the Browns, who were 7-4 and in playoff contention last season under first-year coach Mike Pettine before they collapsed and lost their final five games.
That slide was followed by a jolting offseason of issues which included Farmer's texting case, quarterback Johnny Manziel's 10-week rehab stint, the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and wide receiver Josh Gordon being suspended at least one year for multiple drug violations.
No wonder Browns fans view the draft as if it's their Super Bowl.
Farmer offered no clues about his draft plans, but if last year was any indication, the GM is unafraid to wheel and deal. In 2014, he made three trades in the first round, acquiring a '15 first-rounder from Buffalo, swapping picks with Minnesota to take cornerback Justin Gilbert and exchanging picks with Philadelphia to move up and grab Manziel.
The general manager's reputation combined with the Browns' longtime quarterback woes have meant Farmer has been linked to Mariota since before last year's draft. Mariota is expected to follow Florida State's Jameis Winston as the second quarterback selected.
''I don't know how that happened,'' Farmer whispered into the microphone before answering the first of several questions about Mariota. ''I don't know where this stuff comes from. Last year somebody asked a question about Marcus Mariota and I answered it differently than everybody else I was talking about. I got to Mariota and said, `Yeah, he's good.' From that moment on, he's been my guy.''
There's no doubt the Browns have explored the possibility of drafting Mariota. They've done their homework on him and Farmer said the Browns were satisfied they had enough information on the 6-foot-4, 218-pounder that they didn't put him through an on-field workout. It helps, too, that Cleveland's new quarterbacks coach, Kevin O'Connell, personally prepped Mariota for the pros.
The Browns already have four quarterbacks - Manziel, Josh McCown, Thad Lewis and Connor Shaw - on their roster, and while Farmer said he doesn't know if his starter is currently in Cleveland, he won't hesitate to add a fifth if it sparked competition or made the Browns better.
''It's an opportunity-driven league,'' he said. ''At some respects nobody would assume that Tony Romo would become Tony Romo. There was a time when Aaron Rodgers was sitting behind Brett Favre and people were like, `He's never played so he can't be very good, because they would do something.' And then three years into it they roll him out and now he's Aaron Rodgers.
''I think that patience and a plan and the consistency to drive that competition is kind of where it lies for me.''
NOTES: Farmer won't rule out drafting a running back in the first round. ''Sure,'' he said. ''Why not?'' Browns coach Mike Pettine used the same line earlier in the week when asked if the team would trade picks 12 and 19 for Mariota. ... Farmer would not say whether the team is trying to sign Pro Bowl S Tashaun Gipson to a long-term contract. Gipson skipped the team's voluntary offseason workout program this week.
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