INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Browns general manager Ray Farmer took responsibility Thursday for breaking the NFL’s rules about text messages — and selecting Johnny Manziel in last year’s draft.
He wasted no time apologizing for one clear mistake, sending messages to the sideline last season, before telling reporters it was his decision to use the 22nd overall draft pick on the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. Manziel entered a treatment program earlier this year, leaving significant questions about whether the Browns finally have a long-term answer at the most important position in football.
“Coach (Mike) Pettine has articulated that he wants a starter, and we’re going to do the things we’ve got to do to get him somebody that he feels comfortable with as a starter,” Farmer said.
It’s unclear whether the Browns are looking to fill that void through the draft or free agency.
Veteran Brian Hoyer, who opened last season as the starter, is set to become a free agent and it’s unclear whether he’ll leave. It’s also unclear when Manziel will finish his treatment, for an undisclosed condition, and return to the team.
That has led to speculation about whether the Browns could use another first-round pick on a quarterback this year. When asked Wednesday about the Browns’ quarterback situation, Pettine said he would “be scared” if there was a game scheduled for this weekend.
But with nearly seven months to go until the regular season begins, Pettine is looking for help.
“That’s probably accurate just because you look at the uncertainty of where he is,” Pettine said, responding to a question about needing a new starter. “Just given the small sample size, we still don’t know based on what he was going through whether or not he is that answer. There’s too much unknown.”
One possible replacement could be Marcus Mariota.
Like Manziel, Mariota won a Heisman Trophy.
Unlike Manziel, Mariota isn’t known for a partying lifestyle. Mariota also happens to be working out with new Browns quarterback coach Kevin O’Connell in San Diego.
“That would be awesome to have an opportunity to play for the Browns,” Mariota said.
Cleveland’s continual quarterback carousel has been spinning since 1999. It has used 22 different starters including Manziel, who threw two interceptions in a 30-0 loss in his first career start and then injured his hamstring the next week. He didn’t play again in 2014.
Both of last year’s first-round choices, cornerback Justin Gilbert and Manziel, struggled, so Farmer came to this year’s combine with a different approach.
“I think we’ll be more prepared this year because of the different timeframe of me having the position for a year now, instead of getting that appointment late February last year,” Farmer said.
Personnel decisions have been only part of Cleveland’s problem.
Farmer fessed up to texting his head coach during a game this season, something prohibited by league rules. The team is now awaiting a decision about possible punishment from the league, which has not provided an update on the investigation all week.
Pettine said that while he wasn’t “thrilled” by the texts, his relationship with Farmer remains strong.
“It’s not an excuse, but sometimes your emotions get the best of you,” Farmer said. “This was solely me. This was a decision that I made and I’m owning that mistake.”
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