Turd or no, with the Browns at 2-7 this year, the Browns must pray this rambling, troubling college QB winner, can rebound.
‘Cause, so far, Johnny’s been a professional loser.
But against the 7-0 Bengals, in Cincinnati this Thursday, after the Browns played just this past Sunday, Manziel showed plenty of promise – in the first half. He was engaged, got the running game going, was pretty deadly throwing out of the pocket, made his teammates better – and had his team close, behind 14-10 at the half.
The second half? Fuhgeddaboudit.
The Bengals romped in the 2nd half and won going away 31-10. You know, if they could keep Manziel on the field and away from his life off it, Cleveland might have a someday-star on their hands.
The only reason Johnny started was because regular QB, Josh McCown, with his wonky right shoulder and sore ribs, could not move the team a lick in the second half of their losing effort (34-20) against the Cardinals and needed to heal. He didn’t even dress against the mighty Bengals.
So short term Manziel’s a keeper. But long term, do the Browns need Johnny’s lifestyle loony distractions, the latest disaster being his public-whilst-driving-erratically fight with his girlfriend? No charges were laid and so far the NFL has not taken disciplinary action on the “domestic incident.” Johnny tweeted he was embarrassed by it all, said it wasn’t serious...despite the 911 call a 3rd party made.
Basically, before this Bengal-Browns game, in the two years with the Browns his glory, short story, has come from 3 TD passes thrown earlier this season. (He didn’t throw any his first year.) Lotsa hype, definitely flashes of lift-fans-from-the-seats potential, but so far, based on performances and professionalism (save for a Cleveland Clinic Children’s Camp and other hospital and school visits) he should be a second stringer, not a starter.
The long-suffering Browns’ fans drool over his highlight clips from his days at Texas A & M, sprinting out of busted plays to end zones...But that was then. He’s been, since turning pro, a slightly above-average quarterback and a below average in-maturity man.
The Browns picked him 22nd ( a first rounder) because as a college freshman, he broke the mold winning three awards: the Heisman Trophy; The Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, and the Manning Award. When asked what the “Dawg Pound” could expect he replied: “Man, I’m going to pour my heart out for this team...”
But since then...
He could circumvent college defenses, but his greatest escaping act as a pro might be him circumventing his team’s stated desire for him to lose his girlfriend, Colleen Crowley.
But the team should know it’s easier to poke at the periphery with respect to Manziel’s hanky panky, but centrally, ultimately, she ain’t the problem, he is.
Johnny’s on a four-year contract. If he can play as well as he did against Cincinnati, and if his behavior markedly improves, going forward, perhaps Cleveland should exercise the option on the 5th year. But if he screws up again outside of football...He’s a big boy. He’s made his bed. He can sleep on it - in another NFL city.
The Browns could trade him. Remember that rumor of his going to the Eagles for their QB, Sam Bradford? The trade died on the vine. Still, Manziel’s not out of the woods yet. He’s got to mind his P’s and Q’s and learn those X’s and O’s.
But here’s why the Browns might keep him A) Coach Pettine thinks Manziel’s still respected by teammates; B) he’s a FIRST ROUND draft pick; C) he shows more than flashes of living up to his promise; D) the organization is now slightly irrational on Johnny, given their big emotional, promotional, and financial investment in him; E) Because Manziel’s two long bomb TD passes to Travis Benjamin – the first in which he threw from the pocket - in Johnny’s start, and win, against the Titans in week 2, has to have them dreaming of Manziel as a complete, confident, quarterback, and not just as a mad-dasher-scrambler...
Yet, yet...yeah, while the Browns have had trouble drafting star quarterbacks (Brandon Weeden and Brady Quinn, first rounders didn’t pan out) and while in jettisoning Johnny, they’d add to that sorry record in picking pivots, nevertheless, if he has one more off-field snafu, get something for him.
“Johnny Football” is in no-man’s land. If the Browns do keep him, they gotta keep him on a short leash. Johnny has football smarts, but street smarts...aren’t in his repertoire.
Remember he entered rehab this past winter? (A rolled-bill in his hot little hands set the voluntary rehab idea into motion.) So what was he doing having a couple of drinks with his girlfriend in his latest scuffle? Shouldn’t he be staying away from alcohol like crazy?
The Browns, therefore, face a tough decision with Manziel because he’s Kentucky Fried Chicken: people either love or hate him - but his polarization is a small worry. Their biggest worry is whether, apart from the awful flurry of off-field publicity he brings to the team (save for his hospital and school visits – and they were part of his rehab treatment) is whether his lousy judgments in life will mean lousy judgments on the gridiron.
Do they want to return to winning ways, with a guy leading the way, the “Quarterback of the Future” who seems to have no perspective, or memory – a fellow who, apparently, can’t learn from his mistakes, his past? A guy who talks the talk about professionalism, platitudes perfectly, but can’t walk the walk?
Johnny may end up being a drop out. He’s stopped flashing his “money sign” because he knows it grates. He could, however, take some small solace that if the Browns clean house, and he flops elsewhere, his money sign is now immortalized as an emoji on SportsManias. Not much, but something.
It could be the longest lasting keepsake of Johnny Manziel, not the expected Manziel mania, but a miniscule jot of Johnny trivia...unless he can conduct himself off field - sharply and smartly - like he did against the Bengals in that first 30 minutes of football.
The ball’s in his court.