For a guy who has yet to take a single snap in the NFL, Johnny Manziel sure does seem to wield an enormous amount of power. Magazine covers, t-shirts, new custom Manziel cleats from Nike – the sheer amount of hoopla around a guy who hasn’t set foot on a pro football field yet is astounding.
But we’re now learning that even before he was drafted, Johnny Football apparently carried a much bigger stick than we’d originally thought. It’s not every rookie who can say “jump,” and have a franchise say “how high?” In a radio interview, Cleveland Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains said that as Manziel slid down the draft board, he received a text message from Manziel.
I wish you guys would come get me. Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there.
Loggains shared the text with team owner Jimmy Haslam and head coach Mike Pettine, urging them to make a move. Immediately after that, on Haslam’s orders, the Browns worked a deal to move from the 26th pick to the 22nd in order to draft Manziel, and the rest is history.
There are a couple of different ways of looking at the situation. One of course is that they admired his hutzpah, and thought enough of him as a quarterback to warrant the move up. Of course, this is despite the fact that they knew WR Josh Gordon was likely lost for the season because of his impending drug suspension, and that the team had a desperate need for receivers.
The Browns can spin it all they want, but Miles Austin and Earl Bennett can’t fill the holes that Gordon’s forthcoming ban will leave in Cleveland’s offense.
Another way of looking at it is that Manziel is carrying an enormous stick, and is apparently calling the shots in Cleveland. The fact that Manziel fired off a text message and that the Browns moved so quickly to accommodate his wishes is pretty amazing when you consider the fact that he’s a rookie, completely untested in the NFL.
Manziel is an exciting player who had a terrific college career, and did some pretty amazing things at that level. But then again, so did Tim Tebow. The fact that he generates such an amazing amount of hype and apparently wields the sort of power he does seems fairly insane, and quite possibly portends problems in the future for Cleveland.
Plenty of questions about Manziel remain unanswered at this point: his size, his durability, and his freewheeling, gunslinging, improvisational style. How will his game translate to the pros? Will it translate?
But even bigger questions about his hard-drinking, hard-partying ways loom even larger. There are still plenty of character issues about Manziel that have yet to be fully reconciled. How will he adjust to his life as an NFL quarterback constantly under intense scrutiny? How will he adjust to the pressure of it all? Will he adjust to it? Or will his drinking, something his father says he does to cope with being “Johnny Football”, take control of his life?
Those are all questions that will need to be answered at some point. But perhaps the more immediate concern is the abundance of egos in the room and whether they can all co-exist. That Manziel was able to snap his fingers and have Cleveland draft him undoubtedly infuses him with a sense of power and entitlement. But by all reports, the Browns’ camp was split on Manziel, with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan opposed to drafting him.
Shanahan was in a similar situation with Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins, and that eventually broke out into open warfare which led to his dismissal from the team. Is it really a stretch to see history repeating itself here?
Whatever ends up happening when the inevitable explosion of egos comes down and the team is split between the Manziel and anti-Manziel camps, Haslam and the Browns only have themselves to blame – after all, they’re the ones who put the stick in Manziel’s hand.