As more and more people throughout the league become convinced that owner Jimmy Haslam had a lot to do with the decision to use the 22nd pick in the 2014 draft on Johnny Manziel, the Browns are trying harder and harder to convince anyone and everyone that Haslam had nothing to do with it.
“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that Jimmy Haslam at no point demanded, requested, tried to influence the process in any way,” Farmer told reporters after the draft concluded on Saturday, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He definitely asked questions, he’ll definitely give his opinion of what he thinks and all of those things are fine. But at the end of the day, he trusted the football staff to make the decisions that we thought were the right decisions for this football team.”
But here’s where the logic collapses onto itself. Owning the team means not having to demand, request, or try to influence the process. His mere involvement in the process necessarily will influence it, whether he tries to or not.
Anyone who has ever worked for someone, and who has managed to survive in that job, understands the dynamic. Anything and everything the boss says needs to be analyzed for messages, whether the boss intends to send messages or otherwise.
If the boss mentions that he likes the smell of the new soap in the bathroom near the reception area, every bathroom in the building needs to have that soap in it. If the boss mentions that he likes the leg room in the back seat of the vehicle that picked him up at the airport, that same vehicle needs to be used to take him wherever he wants to go.
The same thinking applies for an NFL team, if the owner has any involvement in the player-acquisition process. Every question asked contains a message. Every opinion articulated definitely sends a message.
As one league insider remarked to PFT this morning, “If Haslam mentioned this week that he had a good meal at Mexican restaurant, the buffet in the draft room would have been burritos and tacos.”
There’s no way Haslam can be involved in the process and not influence it. The only way to truly not influence the process is to stay out of it completely.
In the end, the owner has the right to be involved. But it’s foolish to expect the media and the fans to think that he didn’t influence it, especially when the team traded up for a potentially franchise-altering quarterback.
And if Farmer picked Manziel or anyone else in a way that ignored Haslam’s questions or conflicted with his opinions, Farmer had better hope that the team vindicates him with wins, or Farmer will be the next former G.M. who has a difficult time becoming a G.M. ever again.