Ray Farmer

Texans To Interview Ray Farmer For GM Job

The Texans started their latest GM search quickly. Less than 24 hours after Brian Gaine‘s firing, the Texans are interviewing former Browns GM Ray Farmer, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This meeting is indeed occurring Saturday, per Fox 26’s Mark Berman (on Twitter).

This is the first known GM interview Farmer has received since the Browns fired him after the 2015 season. He spent two years running Cleveland’s front office, and like most modern Browns proceedings, it was a messy tenure. But the Fritz Pollard Alliance named Farmer one of its GM candidates entering the 2018 offseason.

Farmer, 44, spent one season as Cleveland’s assistant GM before Jimmy Haslam promoted him — after February 2014 ousters of the previous regime. The 2014 draft, which featured first-round picks of Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel (neither having played since the 2016 season), preceded a rocky two years. Farmer was not believed to be on board with either pick, with Haslam and Mike Pettine interceding. In 2015, the NFL suspended Farmer four games for texting coaches during games in 2014. This makes for an interesting start to Houston’s latest round of GM interviews.

A former NFL linebacker, Farmer spent seven seasons as Chiefs director of pro personnel before moving to Cleveland. He also worked as a Rams consultant since his Browns dismissal. While Farmer is the first known candidate, and one who was not connected to the Texans’ 2018 GM search, it is likely the franchise will soon involve executives who have been candidates for GM jobs in recent years in its interview process.

AFC Rumors: Chiefs, Raiders, Steelers

De’Anthony Thomas was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia possession on Saturday, according to the Allen County (Kan.) Sheriff’s Office (via KMBC.com). The Chiefs wide receiver has since been released from Allen County Jail on bond. Thomas has played his entire NFL career with the Chiefs, signing a one-year deal to return to the team in 2018 after his rookie contract expired. The wideout’s latest Kansas City deal expired after this season. Thomas, 26, landed on IR in October.

As the Patriots venture to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII, here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Needs exist at many spots on the Raiders‘ roster, but they are expected to conduct a defense-heavy draft, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. Oakland added several defenders in free agency last year, most of whom on one-year deals. The Silver and Black finished with an incredible 13 sacks — 17 fewer than the next-closest team (the Giants) this season and fewest in a season since the 2008 Chiefs, who also traded their best pass rusher that year (Jared Allen), recorded just 10 — and lack long-term answers at just about every position defensively. The Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades garnered the Raiders, whose own first-round pick became No. 4 overall, the Nos. 24 and 27 selections.
  • The Steelers exercised Bud Dupree‘s fifth-year option last May but have not decided on his long-term status with the team, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dupree collected 5.5 sacks this season and has 20 in his career but has not lived up to his first-round billing. Dupree’s option price is $9.23MM. It would not be surprising if neither Dupree nor 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns inked second contracts with the Steelers, Fittipaldo writes. Burns’ fifth-year option decision is due in May. Considering Burns played just 308 snaps this season and will carry an option cost of close to $10MM, it would be incredibly surprising if Pittsburgh exercised it.
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered an injury in Sunday’s Pro Bowl. While the Associated Press notes the injury that caused the Steelers wideout to leave the game was just a bruised knee, the second-year wideout was limping en route to the AFC team bus. Smith-Schuster may be on the verge of becoming Pittsburgh’s centerpiece receiver, should Antonio Brown be dealt. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be in danger of missing OTA time, however.
  • Included in Seth Wickersham’s must-read ESPN.com piece about the Jimmy Haslam-era Browns: a near-deal that would have added to the Browns and Texans‘ unique quarterback pipeline. After Cleveland chose Johnny Manziel in the 2014 first round, then-Browns GM Ray Farmer had to calm down a “furious” Brian Hoyer. The Texans soon called to offer their No. 33 overall pick for Cleveland’s then-starting quarterback, but Farmer declined the deal to get control of a draft that had gone haywire (with Mike Pettine leading the way for Justin Gilbert and Haslam behind the Manziel move). Hoyer played one more season with the Browns and in 2015 signed with the Texans, who used that No. 33 pick on offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo.

Pollard Alliance Releases HC, GM Candidates

The Fritz Pollard Alliance met with the NFL this week and submitted names of suggested GM and head coaching candidates. The list, which is distributed to teams each year, recommends minority candidates for openings around the league. Teryl Austin (vertical)

This year’s candidates for GM jobs are Joey Clinkscales (Raiders), Alonzo Highsmith (Packers), Ray Farmer (Rams consultant), Will McClay (Cowboys), and Doug Williams (Redskins), according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The head coaching candidates are Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Vikings DC George Edwards, Panthers DC Steve Wilks, and Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Farmer has ten years of front office experience under his belt, including two as the Browns’ GM. The team went 10-22 under his watch, so wouldn’t necessarily be an exciting choice for a team this offseason. The other four suggested candidates would be first-time GMs, if hired.

Austin has been considered a bonafide head coaching candidate for some time, but he has been left in a holding pattern. In the 2016 offseason, Austin opined that two of his four interviews were done solely to satisfy the Rooney Rule. This past year, he interviewed with the Rams and Chargers.

Absent from the list is former Bills GM Doug Whaley, who received a potentially bogus interview with the Browns this week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Suisham, Manziel

Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham is supposed to be in a roster battle with Chris Boswell, but there might not be much of a fight if Suisham doesn’t get healthy soon, as Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Suisham says he has yet to recover from a torn ACL that he suffered last year and he has not attempted a kick since then. Now, Suisham isn’t sure if he will be ready for training camp at the end of July.

Any sort of a battle is not an issue with me right now because I am not healthy,” Suisham said. “I will continue to work to get there, but I don’t know when that will be. I don’t have a time frame. Hopefully, it is for training camp.”

Suisham signed a four-year, $12.5MM extension in 2014, making him one of the top 10 highest-paid kickers in the NFL. The Steelers would save $2.4MM by releasing him. Boswell, meanwhile, makes the NFL minimum $525K.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

Browns Links: Coaching/GM Search, Manziel, Thomas

The Browns have promoted executive vice president/general counsel Sashi Brown to executive VP of football operations, tweets ESPN’s Adam Caplan. Brown will join owner Jimmy Haslam, Dee Haslam (Jimmy’s wife), and consultant Jed Hughes in finding the club’s next head coach, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (on Twitter) and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). The coach will then help them hire a general manager (Twitter link via Ulrich). The new GM will report to Brown and the coach will report to Haslam, according to Ulrich (via Twitter). The GM’s duties will center on talent acquisition and scouting, while Brown will handle the 53-man roster and salary cap (via Ulrich on Twitter).

More on the Browns as they embark on another new era:

  • Haslam acknowledged that the Browns are in for a long rebuild. Thus, they’ll add talent through the draft and, for the time being, avoid spending big on free agents (Twitter link via Ulrich).
  • A report Sunday night stated Jacksonville assistant Doug Marrone would be the first to interview for the Browns’ head coaching vacancy. However, Haslam shot down the notion of Marrone being first in line, according to Cabot (Twitter link). No word yet on whether the team will speak with Marrone.
  • The Browns will interview Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin for their head coaching opening in the coming days, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
  • Haslam informed previous GM Ray Farmer he was firing him before the Browns’ loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, not after, reports Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link). Further, Haslam notifed the coaches of the Farmer and Mike Pettine firings via email, tweets Rapoport.
  • More Johnny Manziel drama, courtesy of Peter King of TheMMQB.com: The two-year veteran didn’t show up to concussion protocol at 9 a.m. Sunday, which is a team requirement even if the player is inactive. Moreover, Manziel was unreachable via phone when the Browns tried to contact him. King now doubts the quarterback will ever play another down for the Browns. The 2014 first-round pick would prefer to go to the Cowboys (Twitter links: 1; 2; 3).
  • Perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, who has been in Cleveland since it drafted him third overall in 2007, is unsure about whether he’ll be a Brown next season. “When there’s turnover in the coaching staff, a lot of good players end up leaving, a lot of good coaches leave,” he said, according to ESPN’s Tony Grossi. “There’s a lot of uncertainty when there’s turnover in the coaching staff. Certainly I could be one of them not here next year.” On whether he even wants to stay a Brown, Thomas stated, “I’ll have to wait and see what happens with everything next week.” Thomas had previously hoped Pettine would return, per Grossi. Whether Pettine’s firing affects Thomas’ relationship with the Browns remains to be seen. For what it’s worth, Thomas has three years and $29.5MM left on his contract, which contains no dead money.

Browns Fire Mike Pettine, Ray Farmer

6:14pm: The Browns have made the respective releases of Pettine and Farmer official. Haslam has issued a statement promising a “methodical” search to replace both (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today). They’ll get to work early in trying to fill the void of Pettine, according to ESPN’s Dianna Marie Russini, who tweets Cleveland will interview Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

4:53pm: Browns head coach Mike Pettine will meet with owner Jimmy Haslam at 7pm Eastern Time, at which point he is expected to be fired, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link). General manager Ray Farmer met with ownership prior to today’s game, and he is also being fired, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

It comes as no surprise that Pettine’s tenure in Cleveland is over, as reports over the weekend indicated that his job was in severe jeopardy. The 49-year-old ends his two-year Browns career with a 10-21 record, and the fact that the club backslid from a 7-9 mark in 2014 to a 3-13 record this Dec 13, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine watches the video board during players introductions against the San Francisco 49ers at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns defeated the 49ers 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sportsseason can’t have helped his case. Perhaps most striking was the club’s defensive performance — Pettine, a former defensive coordinator with the Jets and Bills, oversaw a unit that finished 31st in defensive DVOA.

For the Browns, Pettine’s dismissal only adds to the level of dysfunction and frustration that the club has experienced since the organization returned to Cleveland in 1999. Pettine is the fourth consecutive Browns coach to fail to last more than two seasons, and no Cleveland head coach has lasted more than four years since that ’99 return. The team will now be hiring its fifth head coach since the 2009 season.

Farmer, 41, also leaves Cleveland after two seasons at the helm as general manager (he spent the 2013 season as assistant GM). It’s hard to paint a positive picture of Farmer’s time with the Browns, though some draft picks (Joel Bitonio) and free agent signings (Andrew Hawkins, Josh McCown) did work out. But for the most part, Farmer failed in both areas of player procurement, handing $9MM in guaranteed money to receiver Dwayne Bowe (who has five receptions on the year) and using first-round picks on Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert.

Cleveland’s record of general manger hires is nearly as rocky as its success with head coaches. The Browns will now be hiring their sixth GM since the 2005 season, and have to hope that their next candidate has a longer tenure than Farmer. Ownership has given very little rope in terms of GMs, as George Kokinis and Michael Lombardi each lasted only one season, while Farmer last just two.

Browns Likely To Fire Mike Pettine, Ray Farmer

SATURDAY, 8:22pm: The Browns are expected to fire both Pettine and Farmer, perhaps as early as Sunday night, according to Cabot. Haslam has already begun the process of finding replacements and could start scheduling interviews tomorrow night.

SATURDAY, 8:45am: According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Pettine explicitly asked Haslam whether he’d be retained for next season. The owner reportedly refused to answer.

“Pettine actually asked him, ‘Have you made a decision about my future?’ And Haslam would not answer, and that essentially ended that meeting,” Rapoport said on NFL Network (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com).

FRIDAY, 8:18pm: Browns staffers came out of a Friday meeting with head coach Mike Pettine with the sense that he’ll be fired in the coming days, sources told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Sources also indicated owner Jimmy Haslam informed Pettine that a decision won’t be made until Monday, one day after the 3-12 Browns end their season against AFC North rival Pittsburgh.

Further, a move in the personnel department Monday could precede a possible Pettine firing. That would put second-year general manager Ray Farmer in jeopardy, as Cabot reports. During their run as GM and coach, Farmer and Pettine have combined to lead the Browns to a 10-21 mark. Haslam preached stability regarding both jobs over the summer, but that was before a disastrous 2015-16 campaign that will likely force him to make major changes.

Regardless of whether Farmer or someone else is the Browns’ GM, there will be obstacles standing in the way of finding a quality Pettine replacement. Cabot points to a lack of past stability with Browns coaches, plenty of other openings around the NFL, and the absence of a franchise quarterback as issues Cleveland will have to overcome. Since Haslam took over the team in 2012, he has already fired two head coaches. Pettine would be the third, and Haslam’s perceived trigger-happy nature in firing coaches might scare off candidates this year.

AFC Rumors: Dolphins, Browns

The latest on a couple of AFC teams that are on the cusp of major overhauls:

  • Doug Marrone and Jim Schwartz were the head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively, of a 2014 Bills team that finished 9-7. They could reunite soon in the same roles for the AFC East rival Dolphins, multiple sources have told the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero (Twitter link). Marrone, who is currently an assistant in Jacksonville, was the Jets’ offensive line coach in 2002-05. Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum was also with the Jets then, as Salguero notes (on Twitter), so Tannenbaum and Marrone are familiar with one another. Further, the Tannenbaum-led Dolphins reached out to Schwartz earlier this season when the team fired defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.
  • In other important Dolphins news, they could soon name director of college scouting Chris Grier their next general manager, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. They’ll first have to fire current GM Dennis Hickey, which appears likely. If the Dolphins do ax Hickey, they’ll be able to quickly promote Grier – a minority candidate – instead of having to follow the Rooney Rule process.
  • Significant changes to both the Browns’ front office and coaching staff seem imminent, as the team is expected to fire general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine. As a result, names that will be connected to the club in the coming days include Adam Gase, Tom Cable and the aforementioned Doug Marrone as head coaching candidates and Green Bay executive Eliot Wolf as a GM possibility (via ESPNCleveland.com’s Tony Grossi on Twitter). Interestingly, if the Browns hire Gase, their quarterback next season could be Peyton Manning, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Gase and Manning worked closely together in Denver from 2012-14.

Latest On Browns’ Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine

Earlier this month, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com suggested that it’s not realistic to expect Browns general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine to both return to Cleveland next year. According to Rapoport’s report, the deteriorating relationship between the coaching staff and the front office made it “unfathomable” that the Browns would want to have Farmer and Pettine continue working together in 2016.

Today, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) explores that same line of thinking. Citing sources within the Browns organization, Cole reports that Farmer’s seat appears hotter than Pettine’s, with the head coach considered the more likely candidate to keep his job. Cole’s sources indicate that Farmer’s draft selections and roster decisions are more to blame for Cleveland’s struggles this season than the job Pettine has done with the talent – or lack thereof – he has been given.

While Cole doesn’t go so far as to say that the Browns will fire Farmer in January, it sounds like that’s a realistic possibility. If owner Jimmy Haslam does decide to replace Farmer, Cole expects Chris Ballard (Chiefs), George Paton (Vikings), and Duke Tobin (Bengals) to receive consideration for the job, since those executives are viewed by the NFL as some of the top general manager candidates around the league.

With one week until the NFL’s Black Monday, I’d imagine there are several scenarios still in play in Cleveland, but it sounds like any outcome that involves both Pettine and Farmer staying in their current roles is extremely unlikely.

North Notes: Browns, Austin, Wolf

Browns head coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer will not both be back with the team next season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (article via Conor Orr of NFL.com). Pettine had hinted at some discord between the Cleveland front office and coaching staff last week, but apparently the situation is more toxic than originally believed.

According to Rapoport, the coaching staff believes the scouting department does not provide the team enough information to effectively execute the game plan, and the scouting department believes the coaching staff does not effectively utilize its personnel. Neither the front office nor the coaches, of course, are without fault. Farmer has blown two consecutive drafts, which has hamstrung Pettine’s efforts quite a bit, but Pettine has not been an especially savvy in-game strategist and has failed to establish the hard-nosed, defensive-minded mentality he promised when he was hired. If owner Jimmy Haslam chooses to keep one of the Pettine/Farmer duo, the smart money may be on Pettine, but it seems clear that at least one of those men will be out of a job at the end of the season, and perhaps both will be looking for a new position.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from the league’s north divisions:

  • Although Kyle Meinke of MLive.com believes Lions head coach Jim Caldwell‘s fate is sealed–no one believes he will return to Detroit next season–the futures of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter are more uncertain. Austin, for the second season in a row, has done an excellent job leading the Lions’ defense, and although Cooter has less of a track record, he has successfully turned around an offense that crashed and burned under Joe Lombardi. If Austin does not get a head coaching position this offseason–he could even wind up as the Lions’ head coach–he is certainly a viable candidate to return as DC, and Meinke believes Cooter is deserving of an extended look as OC.
  • Though Austin will be a candidate for the Lions‘ head coaching position, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that current Bears OC Adam Gase will be a “top target” for the club.
  • Packers pro personnel director Eliot Wolf is a hot name among teams searching for a GM this offseason, but per La Canfora, it is highly unlikely Wolf will be leaving Green Bay. Wolf, who has steadily risen through the ranks of the Packers organization, is seen as the heir apparent to current GM Ted Thompson, and he would be exceedingly selective if he were to consider any position outside of Green Bay. La Canfora’s report does not come as much of a surprise, as Wolf has been a popular GM candidate for several years now.
  • Although Steelers tackle Mike Adams is technically in the final year of his rookie contract, he will remain under club control in 2016, according to Mark Kaboly of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Adams was placed on the PUP list before the start of training camp, he never returned to the active roster, and he was not removed from the PUP list, which means that his contract will be tolled and he will be back with Pittsburgh in 2016 at the same salary he earned in 2015 (roughly $873K). Adams could still hit the open market if the Steelers choose to cut him, of course, but given the team’s lack of depth at tackle, Kaboly does not see that as a real option.