The development of a player can be a quick or a long process. Some players simply are that good right away and can transfer from high school to college very quickly. Others do take a year or two to begin to play to their potential. And some are in the middle and develop better once they get to college.
In the case of Texas A&M Aggies‘ quarterback Johnny Manziel, he’s an example of someone who seems to have made the transition, but not so quick that he doesn’t still have things to learn.
Before today, Manziel was in the middle of a fantastic freshman season. Even if the team’s stature has gone down over the last decade or two, being a freshman and being the starting quarterback for the Aggies is a pressure-filled life. And Manziel has answered that pressure very well so far with the Aggies only suffering a close loss to the Florida Gators to begin their 2012 season before winning five straight games.
The winning streak featured a couple close games, but also featured some really great performances from Manziel. So much have these performances won him support that the “Johnny Football” nickname he possesses seems fitting rather than premature.
Some quick facts to know about Manziel’s season up until today: he hadn’t failed to score a rushing touchdown in a game, he only failed to pass for a touchdown in the opener against the Gators, and he only failed to throw for 200 yards & rush for 100 yards in a game twice. His best performance of the year was just last weekend in helping the Aggies fend off the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
The game turned into a shootout and Manziel did his part with nearly 200 yards rushing, nearly 400 yards passing, and six touchdowns, three of them rushing. The Aggies won 59-57.
But that was all in the past.
Today, Manziel and the Aggies suffered their second loss of the year and their second inside the SEC with the LSU Tigers getting the better of the Aggies 24-19.
The loss may not seem bad, though the Aggies lead the game 12-0 late into the second quarter, but the day was a bad one for Manziel. In a way it was a rite of passage, and something that every quarterback gets at one point in his development as a player: his first beating.
Manziel certainly got that today. With the running game shut down by the Tigers’ defense, even more weight was put on Manziel to perform against the best defense he’s faced in over a month. He couldn’t handle the pressure that the Tigers provided after they took control of the game. Manziel’s day included season highs in completions (29) and pass attempts (56), another way the lack of a productive running game in this one forced things even more toward Manziel’s arm.
A huge indicator of his day was that Manziel was kept out of the end-zone completely for the first time this season. And while he was still able to gain yards through the air, he couldn’t on the ground and was held to just 27 yards rushing.
It is my belief that this is something that needs to happen, and it’s better when it happens early. It’s negative reinforcement if a player is a winner from the time he enters college. I’m not saying that it’s good if someone has a 3-9 season, but it is better for a player to learn about defeat early.
For one thing, it makes future defeats on the playing field that much easier to deal with. More importantly, it increases the notion that the player is still learning. For a freshman to believe that he can’t learn anything new and that he is always going to win, that is the exact opposite kind of thinking that a player still developing his skills needs.