Photo credit: Erik Drost
Author: Joey Carr
With the exception of maybe Tim Tebow, there has never been, in the history of the NFL, a more talked about BACKUP quarterback than Johnny Football. Yes, he was a polarizing figure in college football for two years. Yes, he won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman. Yes, he does party and get into trouble more than the average human being. And yes, he is a backup, and at one point third string, quarterback for the most laughable and disappointing sports franchise of possibly all time: the Cleveland Browns. So why do we talk about him so much? Because the media made him a much bigger deal than he needed to be, which can, to a point, contribute to his immaturity and partying ways. Think about it: has there ever been, in any sport at any level, a spotlight bigger than the one unwillingly placed on Johnny Manziel after he won the Heisman? Maybe, but Johnny has to easily take the cake for this century. He was only a teenager when all of this scrutiny and limelight was bestowed upon him; it just seems natural that no teenager or 20-year old could handle that kind of pressure. So, Johnny turned to partying. And that’s not to say that he wouldn’t have partied a lot even if he didn’t have so much pressure, but the media certainly didn’t help the maturity of the young Browns QB. But, even with all of the glamor and media attention, Manziel finds himself on the backend of the quarterback totem pole for Cleveland of all places and with the NFL Draft coming up, the Browns might end up having to take yet another “Franchise Quarterback”. And if they do, what happens to the former TAMU Aggie?
I’m sure a lot of you are suggesting that Johnny should just cool down, lay low, pay his dues, and return to Cleveland for a third year and enter another quarterback competition during training camp. While that seems all nice and dandy, there’s one person that might throw a cog into that plan: head coach Mike Pettine. Pettine does not like Manziel at all, that much is clear. He refuses to let him develop as a starter and he’s constantly finding new ways to keep Manziel off the playing field. Of course, Johnny doesn’t make it easy on Pettine to let him get playing time with all of his off the field antics. For example: Just a couple of days after being named the full time Starting Quarterback for the Browns, a video surfaces of Manziel partying on the team’s bye week (week 11). The video shows Johnny holding stacks of money while clearly intoxicated, which violates his rehab probation. The Browns wasted no time in demoting the former Heisman winner to third string, effectively ending Manziel’s reign as starter after only one short week. However, after Josh McCown was sidelined with a collarbone injury after Monday’s dramatic loss to the Ravens, you would think, “Well now they have no choice to start Manziel. I mean who are they going to start instead, Austin Davis?” Well as it turns out that’s exactly what Cleveland did. That move makes it apparent that the Browns have no interest in furthering developing the young playmaker, thus raising the question, “What happens to Johnny in the offseason if the Browns draft a quarterback?” The answer is simple: Manziel gets shipped off to a willing buyer/risk-taker.
While it’s known that Johnny Football is a troublemaker, it’s also known that he is a natural playmaker. He can maneuver his way out of trouble in the backfield (if only he could do that off the field) and escape a sack better than almost anyone in the NFL. His passing is average, but can get much better if he’s given the opportunity to develop it. The Browns, clearly, aren’t interested in doing that. With an aging and injury-prone Josh McCown as their number one QB going into 2016, Cleveland might have no other choice but to take a quarterback given that they are poised for another high draft pick. There are a couple of appealing options that they could consider: Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, Paxton Lynch of Memphis, Trevone Boykin of TCU, and the list goes on. Although, given their rich history of drafting quarterbacks in the draft, the Browns might want to steer clear of yet another wasted draft pick. But it’s the Browns, and if anyone can screw something up, it’s them (refer to Monday’s loss to the Ravens).
It’s obvious that Cleveland and Johnny Manziel aren’t a good fit, and perhaps never were. In the eyes of most NFL fans and experts, it would best for the two of them to go their separate ways and try to advance themselves without one another. The big question is, however, who would be willing to take a chance on the former Aggie? That question might soon be answered, and we might be seeing Johnny Manziel don some new colors and be partying in a new town come next fall.
Possible Landing Spots for Manziel (In order from most likely to least likely): Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams.
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