Haslam expects QB competition

Matthew Florjancic, WKYC

CANTON, Ohio (WKYC) -- Honesty is the best policy, and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was honest about his expectations of new quarterback Johnny Manziel, whom the team selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft last Thursday.

Speaking to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton on Monday, Haslam said he expects Manziel to compete for the starting job, but has told the former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft that he is the backup to starter Brian Hoyer and needs to approach the game as such.

"I thought it was important to draft a quarterback," Haslam said. "Brian Hoyer is a great guy, but he hasn't played a lot and is coming off of an injury. We drafted the highest-rated quarterback on our board.

"Brian Hoyer is our starting quarterback. Johnny is the backup. They'll compete. If Brian wins, he will start. If Johnny wins, he'll start. Brian is a good person who will work hard."

In addition to Manziel, the Browns drafted cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir, linebacker Christian Kirksey, running back Terrance West and offensive lineman Joel Bitonio in this year's draft, something Haslam expects will add depth and production to the roster.

"Quarterback aside, we got five really good football players," Haslam said. "When you take these guys and add them to the free agents we signed, we changed our team significantly.

"I'm really excited about the leadership group we put together, and the team we're building. We saw a lot of our team needs and positioned ourselves to address those needs next year. We also have $35-40 million to spend in the salary cap."

In building the roster, Haslam trusts Ray Farmer for acquiring the talent and coach Mike Pettine to develop them.

"In my business, and there's a lot of business people in the crowd, when you're conducting a head-coaching search, you can't rush it," Haslam said. "I think we got a good head football coach. I think he's a Cleveland kind of guy. He's a very smart man.

"He's tough. He is a tough guy. It's not just his look. He's a tough guy. He grew up in football. His father was a legendary high school football coach.

"(Farmer) has paid his dues. He came up, and when we were interviewing for GM jobs last year, we almost hired him. He got an opportunity to be the Dolphins' GM, but passed that up, and I'm grateful that he did. He's only 39 years old, and he's one of the rising stars."

And Haslam is hoping the "rising star" will lead the team to playing meaningful games in December, when the prime-time lights are shining on the Browns with the snow blowing and having a playoff berth on the line, much like fellow AFC North Division teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, seemingly play in every season.

"What we admire about them is they've had good teams for a long time," Haslam said. "That's the kind of team we want to put on the field for the Cleveland Browns, but mostly, for you people. Our fan support has got to be the best in the country.

"You want to be competitive in our division. We have not been competitive for a long time. We don't talk about if we turn it around, but when we turn it around, and we look forward to it."


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