INDIANAPOLIS – Ray Farmer stopped for coffee on his way to the morning weigh-ins at the NFL Scouting Combine Thursday.
Whether or not a little caffeine is a regular part of Farmer’s routine, we don’t know. We do know it’s been a whirlwind week-plus on the job for the new general manager Cleveland Browns.
We also know what happened when Farmer got that cup of coffee is something he should get used to.
He was approached by a Browns fan who was in Indianapolis on business. Farmer at first said he didn’t understand how the fan recognized him, that it must have been by the initials on the bag he was carrying or maybe the Browns logo on his jacket.
Nope. Farmer has a fancy new title, new responsibility and a new profile. This won’t be his last chance meeting with someone who might not have recognized him a week ago.
"A season ticket holder since ’99," Farmer said of the fan he met, like he’d been told that more than once.
Through all the losing, all the change, all the unbelievable moments and even the few believable ones, too, there’s been one constant for the Browns.
Fan loyalty. Fan passion. A desire for somebody, anybody, to get it right, help return the Browns first to the ranks of the NFL living and then, eventually, to the elite.
Farmer is next up in the seat. Fans not only know him but are counting on him. He should get used to this. He’s next.
He met with the Cleveland area media at the combine on Thursday morning, and one of his first answers was that "all of the (combines) are the same to me."
Here’s a bet that by Monday or Tuesday — and certainly a month from now — that morning coffee tastes a little differently.
The Browns have a lot of work to do, a lot of decisions to make, a lot to get right. Farmer didn’t want to talk specifics about decisions in the near or distant future. He’s here to study players, to get to know them, to spend time with a staff of coaches and scouts who have either been through a bunch of change or didn’t know the guy in the adjacent office’s name a week ago.
The decisions that are now best for all of those involved go through Farmer’s desk for final approval.
"I’ll stick with who I am," Farmer said. "My philosophy has been that I want to find good football players. I want scouts who have an eye for talent and understand why one guy is better than the next. I think one of the things I’m really keen on is not stifling innovation. We have a lot of young guys and generally when you have young guys in an organization, if I speak too quickly or the person in charge speaks too quickly, then they tend to buy in. They’ll just filter in with what they’ve heard ahead of them.
"Having those young guys have a voice and giving them an opportunity to speak, gives us a chance to have real information and balance. Those younger guys get their opportunity. On our staff and individually, they’ll get the opportunity to determine, Ã«Who are those better players?’ I’ll take in all the information. I’ll comment in the end. We’ll make decisions as a group and move forward."
Farmer has trained his entire professional career for this, but not necessarily for this. He played college football at Duke and then started 16 games over three years for the Philadelphia Eagles, recording two career sacks and one interception. He worked for the Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs before coming to the Browns last March but never in a spotlight role.
Farmer was in the Browns draft room last year, along with three men who no longer work for the team. Everything’s new, and Farmer said he’ll handle his new responsibility by not thinking about anything other than what’s best for the team.
"Stay tried and true to the process," he said. "Don’t get out of your lane. Stay with what you know and live in the moment. A big part of my plan is to simply create the (draft) board and live by the board. The board is what will guide us to where we want to go. It’s really about the process. It’s like baseball. A guy gets up to bat and when he takes a good at-bat, the hits will come. The hits will definitely come but you’ve got to approach it the right way. You can’t go up and just wing it or think ‘I’m going to hit a fastball.’ You’ve got to take your time, you’ve got to know what the pitcher is capable of doing, and you’ve got to have a good at-bat. The hits will come."
Farmer has been in lots of draft rooms. He’s tried to make his two cents count before. It’s just that now, they count more than ever.
If he gets a few of these most important calls right, he’ll never pay for a cup of coffee in Cleveland.