The Cleveland Browns have long been considered a strong possibility as a landing spot for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but head coach Mike Pettine told reporters this week that the team did not meet with him at last month's combine.
While ousted team president Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi were reportedly very interested in Manziel, it appears new general manager Ray Farmer may not be as enamored with the former Heisman Trophy winner.
Teams are allowed 60 interviews at the combine, each lasting 15 minutes.
"We didn't speak to him at the combine,'' Pettine told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "I didn't personally. He was not part of the formal interviews.''
The Browns are still expected to meet with Manziel before the May 8-10 draft. He will host a personal pro day at Texas A&M on March 27, and the team may bring him to Cleveland for a private workout and meeting with team officials.
"I would say that regardless, if we meet them here or we meet them somewhere else, there'll be an opportunity for us to spend time with everybody that we really want to get to and understand who they are," Farmer said at the combine.
The No. 8-rated overall prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, Manziel has long been one of the most polarizing prospects in this class. While Rob Rang has Manziel rated No. 13 on his latest Big Board, fellow NFLDraftScout.com analyst Dane Brugler has him at No. 33, although both have Manziel going within the top five picks in their mock drafts.
Smokescreens are standard operating procedure in the weeks leading up to the draft, but if teams including the Browns and Oakland Raiders, owners of the No. 5 overall pick, truly aren't sold on Manziel it could lead to a significant slide come draft day. The Browns also have the No. 26 overall pick, and Cleveland (No. 35 overall) and Oakland (No. 36) will also have early second-round selections.
There is a strong group of second-level quarterbacks, led by Fresno State senior Derek Carr, the No. 29-rated prospect. Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo and Alabama's A.J. McCarron are also considered top 100 selections, while some teams also believe LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Georgia's Aaron Murray are potential NFL starters.
Farmer has given no indication that he feels compelled to land a franchise quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick.
"You could talk to Joe Montana, you could talk to Tom Brady, you could talk to a number of guys that were not high picks," he said in Indianapolis. "They were later-round finds. Inevitably you've got to find the guy that displays the characteristics that you're looking for and then give him an opportunity to go into that role.
"Aaron Rodgers wasn't a top-five pick. There was speculation as to whether he would be or not, but nevertheless you just want to find the right guy for your system."
Farmer may decide the more prudent road is to lean on Brian Hoyer for 2014 and select a quarterback in the second or third round that the Browns can develop behind him rather than reach for a boom-or-bust passer at No. 4.
Some critics have pointed to Cleveland's winter climate during football season as a potential hurdle for the undersized Manziel.
"Any circumstances, any situation that's thrown my way, that's part of being a quarterback," Manziel said at the combine. "You have to handle what's thrown your way, whether it's cold weather, rain, you look at some of these games this year, Jacksonville, Arizona, whoever these warm teams are, these teams still play in the cold.
"It's football, it's a man's game and it's played in the snow, it's played in the wet weather, it's played in tough environments."