Whether they like it or not, the reputation of a general manger in the NFL is always connected to whom they draft. Sure, people may remember a big trade or a solid offseason signing but no one ever forgets a bad draft pick.
That is why the Cleveland Browns have run through so many regimes since 1999.
Browns general manager Ray Farmer is entering his first draft fully in charge, and he faces some serious questions. The biggest is what to do if Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is available when they are ready to pick with the fourth overall selection.
If he is still on the board, and it looks like he will be, then Farmer and Manziel will forever be connected.
Sure, every general manager who passes on Manziel will have a stain if he turns out great but none more than Farmer. The Browns have not had a legitimate quarterback since their return in 1999 and currently hold two picks in the first round. There is also speculation by TheMMQB.com’s Peter King that the Browns could deal for a third first-round selection.
If Farmer passes on Manziel and he ends up becoming the next big star of the league, it will haunt him no matter whom he chooses in this draft. They will ask how he could pass on a guy who threw for 7,820 yards with 63 touchdowns and just 22 interceptions in two seasons of college football. Even taking three other Pro Bowl players, like Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome did in his first draft, would not save him from the scrutiny.
They will also ask why he did not have the guts to pull the trigger on one of the most controversial figures to ever come out of college football. Did Manziel’s love of rap music and tendency to show up at big sporting events really keep him out of Cleveland?
All signs point to Farmer passing on Manziel. Even one of the most trusted names in NFL reporting said the Browns are looking elsewhere:
Browns won't be drafting Manziel at #4. I know it's been out there a ton that they will but no that's not how they have it— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) May 6, 2014
However, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen expects the Browns to grab Manziel if he is available when they hit the clock (via Adam Schefter):
And @mortreport reports he'd expect the Browns to snap up QB Johnny Manziel with the No. 4 pick if he's still there.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 5, 2014
What if Farmer does select Manziel? Most likely it will be the move that defines his career no matter how it plays out.
If Manziel is the guy who turns around the Browns and makes them into a perennial playoff contender then Farmer will be worshiped as a hero. He will be known as the general manager who had the guts to pull the trigger on the biggest boom-or-bust NFL prospect of the 21st century thus far.
Farmer could cruise on that selection in Cleveland for well over a decade. At the very least his ticket would be punched throughout Manziel’s time with the team.
What if he takes Manziel and he is a bust? This is a very real possibility and if Farmer hasn't ruled out taking the signal-caller, then the prospects of Manziel failing in the NFL has probably crossed Farmer’s mind a number of times in preparing for this draft.
Selecting Manziel would come off as desperate to some around the league. If the pick fails to pan out then Farmer will be run out of Cleveland on roller skates. How could he possibly throw away the Browns' biggest draft since their return to the NFL on a 5’11” quarterback who never stays in the pocket?
It will look so obvious in hindsight. You mean the kid who partied too much, had shaky mechanics and threw most of his passes to NFL receivers in college did not work at the next level? “Well color me surprised,” they will say.
The final scenario is that Farmer passes on Manziel and he ends up busting for someone else. This is the only scenario where Farmer and Manziel will not be 150 percent connected league wide. In Cleveland, however, he will be the guy who was smart enough to avoid the hype. He will be the general manager who finally gets how to draft in order to build a franchise the right way.
If Farmer passes on Manziel and he busts elsewhere then people will applaud him for recognizing that the flashy young quarterback just wasn’t a Cleveland type of guy in the first place. No one here would hang out with rap stars (except Josh Gordon, Joe Haden, Greg Little, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters…).
So as long as Manziel is on the board, no matter what decision Farmer makes the two will always be associated. When you decide that becoming a NFL general manager is your career goal you understand along with that comes pressure.
I don’t think Farmer ever imagined that possibly his biggest, most pressurized decision would center around a player just 5’11” tall who already has an entire Nike branding campaign rolling out before he hits the NFL. And all of this in his first ever draft as the Cleveland GM.
Welcome to the big leagues, Ray.