Browns GM talks QBs, Gordon, internal strife

Ray Farmer admitted some hard conversations are ahead for the Browns staff.

David Richard/AP

MOBILE, Ala. — Just three weeks in, it’s already been an eventful offseason for the Cleveland Browns.

On Tuesday, Browns general manager Ray Farmer shared that he and Browns coach Mike Pettine have been talking quarterbacks but haven’t talked much to talented but troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon. The Browns are searching for an offensive coordinator, too, while Farmer and the scouting department have been busy on the road scouting postseason college all-star games.

Eventually, the Browns will have to make a decision on Gordon, who was suspended the first 10 games of 2014 by the NFL for a drug violation and suspended the final game by the team for missing a walkthrough. Gordon was left off the season’s final trip, and the 2013 NFL receiving champion’s 2014 season basically amounted to one big game and multiple giant headaches.

Farmer insinuated that some tough conversations are coming.

"It’s the offseason and we can only have so much communication and contact with those (players)," Farmer said when asked directly about Gordon. "When those things present themselves, we’ll get into them. Those guys get their downtime. They get a chance to step away from the game, assess themselves, assess their situations and when the time is right for those conversations, we’ll have them."

On rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, banished to the locker room with fellow 2014 first-round pick Justin Gilbert for that Dec. 28 season finale in Baltimore, Farmer said, "Johnny has been in (the Browns facility). He finished the season on injured-reserve so he’s had to be in."

With Manziel’s two starts amounting to basically nothing and 13-game starter Brian Hoyer eligible for free agency, Farmer said the conversation about what the Browns will do at quarterback is "ongoing," which sounds familiar.

"I don’t think that conversation has ever stopped," Farmer said. "I don’t think that conversation is ever going to stop. I think it’s a constant evaluation of who’s doing what, how guys are practicing, how guys are performing, how guys are doing in everything — meetings, preparation, etc."

Asked if the offseason goal is to find one answer at quarterback and stop that conversation, Farmer said no.

"My whole goal in this is to drive competition," he said. "I don’t care if you have Brett Favre; you should try to get Aaron Rodgers. I know the quarterback is always the hot topic but (ultimately) you want a good-enough team that you’re constantly bringing in players trying to beat established players out."

Pen and notebook in hand, Farmer watched both practice sessions Tuesday at the Senior Bowl, the most prestigious of the college all-star games. The Browns are also set to interview offensive coordinator candidates this week following the resignation of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan earlier this month.

Shanahan’s exit — he reportedly talked with owner Jimmy Haslam and not head coach Mike Pettine before given permission to leave — came amidst reports of discord between Browns coaches and front office personnel. Two offensive assistants also left, quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains was fired, and Shanahan’s close friend and wide receivers coach, Mike McDaniel, resigned.

Farmer didn’t speak directly about internal strife but didn’t deny it.

"In every (building) I’ve been in, with the Atlanta Falcons, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns, the teams I’ve been associated with, there’s always been a natural friction between front office and the coaches," Farmer said. "That’s just how it is. Sometimes the personnel guys want Player A and the coaches want Player B. The teams that are really, really good, they work through those things.

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"Sometimes you have to have the hard conversations. Sometimes you look guys in the eye and you argue and you yell, but you’re trying to get it right. You’re trying to come up with the right answers."

Farmer said further questions about Shanahan’s exit are "probably more for (Pettine) than me. At the end of the day my role is to try and find players, keep trying to add guys to this roster. The whole Shanahan thing is what it is. At the end of the day we believe Pettine (and) the coaching staff (will) find a better guy that’s going to move us in a direction we want to go."

Farmer called the Senior Bowl "an important week, always" as the Browns try to evaluate draft prospects and better their roster. The Browns hold pick Nos. 12 and 19 in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 30 but Farmer said he’s still "in the evaluation process" and not focusing on a small group of players yet.

It’s a busy offseason, per usual. And there’s a long way to go.