ORLANDO, Fla.: Browns General Manager Ray Farmer insists he would be “comfortable” with Brian Hoyer entering next season as the team’s No. 1 quarterback.
Farmer made the assertion Monday during a 23-minute interview with beat writers from Northeast Ohio during the NFL owners meetings at the swanky Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes hotel.
But just how comfortable he would truly be remains to be seen.
The organization might be comfortable enough to pass on drafting a quarterback fourth overall on May 8. On the other hand, the franchise is probably not comfortable enough to pass on a quarterback later in the opening round when, it’s scheduled to pick 26th overall, or early in the second round, when it’s set to be on the clock at No. 35 overall.
“I don’t think we’re compelled to pick a quarterback at No. 4,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said Monday during a 19-minute interview with the contingent of writers who cover his team. “We don’t know that yet. The draft is May 8, so it’s still six, seven weeks [away], and Ray and his team and [coach Mike Pettine] and his team have a lot of work to do between now and then.”
This is the time of year when NFL teams routinely set smokescreens, but the Browns certainly have behaved like they’re not compelled to use the fourth overall pick on one of the three top-rated quarterbacks from this year’s class: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
Farmer revealed he would not attend Manziel’s pro day workout Thursday. He reportedly attended the pro day workouts of Bortles and Bridgewater, but Pettine and his assistant coaches did not.
“I will not be going to Johnny Manziel’s workout,” Farmer said. “There’s definitely a schedule conflict and definitely opportunities to talk to all parties that we may or may not be interested in.
“A pro day of orchestrated throws, I don’t know what that tells you. It’s a piece of it that people blow up into this great thing. I went to a lot of games and practices this fall. I’ve seen them throw the ball.”
The Browns also did not conduct any formal interviews with quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Farmer defended the franchise’s odd pre-draft approach toward quarterbacks. He emphasized the importance of the team being able to host draft prospects for visits and conduct separate private workouts with them.
“We will have our opportunities to have private workouts,” Farmer said. “Being in charge of that workout is different than being at a pro day where it’s orchestrated and scripted. There will be times for us to truly get into having guys in on visits and get the knowledge we want out of this process and not just generics.
“There’s no more football being played. Your resume’s on tape. You’ll see people drop and fall and go high and grow [after pro days]. Yet there’s no football being played. So it’s interesting to me all the excitement built around playing the game in shorts.”
The Browns have been purposefully secretive about who has represented them at pro days.
“No one really knows what we’re doing,” Farmer said. “Keeping everybody guessing is a positive. There’s this notion that we have to take a quarterback, that we have to do certain things. I would say be careful of the ‘have-tos.’ ”
So is Farmer leaning toward picking a player at a position other than quarterback at No. 4?
“I’m not leaning in any direction,” Farmer said. … “We’re on the balance beam, and it’s flat, so we’re good.”
The decision, of course, will be influenced partly by the organization’s opinion of Hoyer, 28. A North Olmsted native and St. Ignatius High School graduate, Hoyer led the Browns to back-to-back wins in September before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Oct. 3. So far, he has rebounded well from the injury, but with only four regular-season starts in his career, there is a lot of unknown with Hoyer.
“Here’s a guy that’s had NFL experience,” Farmer said. “He’s been in NFL camps. He has some tools to move forward with. The notion of experience is one that, to me, it can get overplayed. You have to identify truly what the young man is going to be asked to do and can he perform in that role. And if he can, don’t be afraid to move forward in that direction.”
Farmer said Hoyer’s success last season didn’t surprise him.
“Why would it?” Farmer said. “He was brought here for a purpose. We knew he was smart. We knew he was a gym rat. We knew he worked hard. We knew he could process. We knew he could put all the things in place. So I don’t know why it would be shocking that when he actually got an opportunity to do those things that he would do them.”
Hoyer and Alex Tanney, who’s never appeared in an NFL regular-season game, are the only quarterbacks on the Browns’ roster, so they must add reinforcements this offseason. They’ll likely sign a veteran and draft at least one quarterback. Farmer said Hoyer’s competition could come from anywhere, including the draft.
Haslam said he also would be comfortable with Hoyer as the starter heading into next season. However, Haslam wouldn’t go as far as to say he’d be OK with Hoyer receiving a full-season trial, and he stressed the importance of competition.
“I think Hoyer’s a gamer,” Haslam said. “He’s proved to be a winner. I think we all understand the importance of the quarterback position, and we’re going to utilize whatever assets necessary to be successful there.”
Farmer acknowledged the organization considered making a play for quarterback Matt Schaub, who spent three seasons with new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan when they were with the Houston Texans. However, the Oakland Raiders traded a sixth-round pick to the Texans in exchange for Schaub last week.
Farmer was vague about the Browns’ reported interest in quarterback Mark Sanchez, whom the New York Jets cut last week after they signed Michael Vick. The Philadelphia Eagles are likely to sign Sanchez, but will examine his surgically repaired shoulder before sealing a deal, according to reports.
Would it make more sense anyway for the Browns to sign a quarterback who’s played for Shanahan like Redskins free-agent Rex Grossman?
“It’s really about driving competition,” Farmer said. “If we think that guy can come in and compete to be a quality starter, then, yeah, we’ll definitely be interested.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.