October 1, 2014

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Browns Notes: New GM Ray Farmer didn’t hire coach Mike Pettine, but says they have good relationship

Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer answers questions during a news-conference Tuesday in Berea. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer answers questions during a news-conference Tuesday in Berea. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

BEREA — New Browns general manager Ray Farmer didn’t hire Mike Pettine, but knows it’s his job to make the new coach look good.

“It was explained to me that a general manager’s role is to ensure the success of his head coach, so I will work in tandem with Coach Pettine to make sure we find the right players for him to succeed,” Farmer said Tuesday after being promoted from assistant general manager.

Pettine was hired Jan. 23. Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner led the 25-day search, with general manager Michael Lombardi and president Alec Scheiner also participating.

Lombardi was fired Tuesday by Haslam, and Banner will leave in the next few months. Farmer and Scheiner remain in Berea with increased power.

Farmer, who will run the football operations, downplayed the fact he had his first coach picked for him.

“I didn’t have hiring authority, but I definitely was aware and communicated with the search party,” he said. “So I did my brand of research on Mike Pettine. I have a really good relationship with Mike Pettine.

“I actually spent some one-on-one time after the decision was made to really solidify that relationship. I’m excited about the opportunity. I think he is as well and I think we’re going to work well together.”

Farmer said he’s a big believer in relationships and that it’s critical to build trust.

“I’ve been in every meeting where the coaches have talked about the players and who they like and what they think,” Farmer said. “So I’ve been right there in lockstep with Coach Pettine from the beginning. I think we both have the same thing in my mind, which is making the Cleveland Browns a winner.

“We’ll work in collaboration. I think both of us have ideas of what needs to happen. He’s already set forth the players and how they kind of stack up for his scheme. The importance of one position versus another and I think as we work through those, then I’ll get a better idea of what he needs to be successful.”

SUPPORT FOR PETTINE
Haslam said he would’ve fired coach Rob Chudzinski and hired Pettine even without the influence of Banner and Lombardi.

“Those are hard decisions,” Haslam said when asked about replacing Chudzinski after one season on the job. “I think we made the right decisions, we’re really excited about Coach Pettine.”

In the minutes after Pettine’s introductory news conference, Banner said picking Pettine rather than waiting for another interview with Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn — who was preparing for the Super Bowl — was the toughest decision of the search. Haslam was asked if he and Banner were on the same page regarding Quinn.

“I would not do one thing different in the search and I think we got the best person available,” Haslam said.

PICKING A QB
Farmer has never been a general manager or in charge of a draft, but he’s confident he can find the right quarterback in the top five. The Browns hold the fourth pick but could try to move up to land the quarterback they desire.

“Regardless of who the player is or what position he plays, I’ll make the right decision,” Farmer said. “I think it’s more a collaborative thing. I’m definitely going to be aware how the coaches feel. I’m going to be aware how the scouts feel. I’ll be aware how I feel. I’ll mesh those opinions as well as the other ones we have and make the right decision on the quarterback moving forward assuming that that’s the position we actually take at that point.”

FAST HIRE
Farmer has the first addition to his staff lined up. A league source confirmed Bill Kuharich will be hired, and is expected to serve as a consultant. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was first to report the news.

Kuharich was Farmer’s boss in Kansas City. He served as vice president of player personnel and director of pro personnel and previously worked for the Saints for 14 years, including as general manager.

Farmer didn’t reveal names during his news conference, but said he would seek outside help in preparation for free agency and the draft.

“I’ll use all the resources I have available to me, including talking to bright, smart, creative people that I think can help me,” he said.

BADGERS COACH SAID NO
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said Tuesday he met with the Browns during the coaching search but chose not to go after the job.

“After our initial conversation, I decided not to pursue the position,” Andersen said in a statement. “I am committed to the University of Wisconsin and the student-athletes in our program.”

The Associated Press reported the Browns initiated the contact and the parties met for a couple of hours while Andersen was on the road recruiting.

Andersen’s first year with the Badgers was in 2013. The school recently extended his contract.

TO-DO LIST
Farmer will have to make several decisions regarding the roster in the next month or so. He was asked about a few key ones.

** Troubled receiver Davone Bess, who could be released at anytime.

“Davone’s care and his concern is our biggest thing right now,” Farmer said. “Moving forward, we’ll make the decision that we need to make for our franchise, as well as making sure that he’s going to get the care and the things that he needs in the process.”

** The possibility of using the franchise tag on center Alex Mack or strong safety T.J. Ward. They are scheduled to become free agents March 11.

“I don’t think right now is the right time to talk about what negotiations may be going on or where we’re at with anyone specific,” Farmer said. “But I will tell you that we’ll do everything in our power to make sure we have the right players for this football team moving forward.”

** Paying a $4.1 million roster bonus due to linebacker D’Qwell Jackson in March.

“Those decisions are going to be made in time,” Farmer said. “We have an idea of what we want to do and we’ll move forward in that regard.”

HASLAM MUM ON PILOT
Haslam declined to answer when asked about the ongoing federal investigation of Pilot Flying J regarding fraud in the company’s rebate program. Several employees have pleaded guilty, and Haslam could still face indictment.

“I don’t think this is the place to address the Pilot Flying J situation,” Haslam said.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.