The Browns have denied a report that, after trading up to pick No. 22, they were prepared to take quarterback Teddy Bridgewater -- and even had his name on the draft card -- before changing that pick to Johnny Manziel with 10 seconds left on the clock because of owner Jimmy Haslam.
“That is not true,” said Zak Gilbert told ESPNCleveland.com's Tony Grossi, who wrote about the story. “I was in the draft room. That didn't happen.”
First-year coach Mike Pettine echoed those sentiments Monday while at a charity golf event.
HC Mike Pettine said a report that the #Browns had bridgewater's name on the card first before Manziel is "beyond laughable."— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) May 12, 2014
Of course, shortly after Manziel was drafted, we heard the story that Haslam said a homeless person convinced him to take Johnny Football.
"Here in Cleveland, everywhere I go people know me," ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported Haslam said. "And I was out to dinner recently and a homeless person was out on the street, looked up at me and said 'Draft Manziel.'"
Back on Earth, it's not a surprise that the Browns may have had interest in Bridgewater. Leading up to the draft, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported that the team, under the previous regime, had commissioned, at a cost of more than $100,000, to identify the traits successful NFL quarterbacks share. And the conclusion was that Bridgewater best fit that profile among 2014 draft prospects.
But La Canfora concluded that, "By no means would [the study] be the deciding factor," and Browns general manager Ray Farmer has insisted that the owner didn't strong-arm the front office and coaching staff to get his way.
“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that Jimmy Haslam at no point demanded, requested or tried to influence the process in any way. He definitely asked questions," Farmer told reporters. "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.”
Farmer explained Saturday that, “We chose Johnny Manziel because we had an opportunity to get a player that we really liked and we really wanted.”
Now the Browns just need to find somebody for him to throw to.