Don’t Buy the Johnny Manziel Reclamation Story Just Yet

By Casey Drottar
Streeter Lecka-Getty Images
Streeter Lecka-Getty Images

At this point in the NFL offseason, you really can’t make too much of a big deal when you hear coaches or players doling out compliments about a teammate. In terms of player activity, all we’ve really seen is optional workouts and rookie minicamp. Nobody has put on pads, everyone is still learning and slowly, but surely getting back into the swing of things. Because of this, high praise of any individual really has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Of course, when it comes to embattled Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, it’s tough to ignore the commendation coming his way lately, especially since it’s coming in high volume.

Manziel spent the first couple months in rehab after his notorious off-the-field issues crept into his on-the-field play, making him severely ineffective to the point in which many wrote off his NFL career after just about seven quarters. Since returning to the team facility, though, he’s been the recipient of a significant amount of admiration.

So far, Joe Thomas, Joe Haden, Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby have all gone out of their way to note how different Manziel has been in his short time out of treatment. Most of these players weren’t shy about critiquing him last season, so it’s a little surprising to hear them not hold back in terms of heaping on the praise.

The latest wave of positive vibes from came from new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. When asked about how his time with Manziel has been so far, he had nothing but encouraging things to say.

“All I know is this: From the moment he stepped in this building from the last two weeks, he’s been nothing but a consummate professional,” DeFilippo said this past Saturday. “He’s spent every hour that he’s been allowed to spend in this building.

“I can’t predict the future, but all I can do is tell you right now Johnny Manziel is putting himself in a position to be a quarterback in the NFL.”

It’s definitely promising to hear so many hopeful things about a player who couldn’t have had a worse rookie season if he tried. It’s especially important due to the fact that, based on Cleveland’s recent draft, you’re forced to believe they still intend on keeping Manziel in their plans. At the same time, despite the fact Manziel is receiving great reviews so far, I wouldn’t get overexcited about him potentially turning his career around just yet.

I’ll say this much: I’m really happy to hear Manziel is finally taking the right steps in his professional life. His practically living in the team facility since returning, his move from a ritzy downtown condo to the quiet suburbs, these are important changes to make. It shows he’s dedicating himself to learning a new offense, and is also trying to do what he can to cut out any and all distractions.

Despite all of this, it needs to be repeated that it’s all occurring off the field. While he’s taken the smart route since leaving rehab, and therefore initially proving the time in treatment was effective, we have yet to see how it translates on the field. Until we do, you really can’t put that much stock in all the talk about his being a changed man.

This isn’t to be a wet blanket about what certainly sounds like some progress being made with someone who desperately needed it. It’s just to point out that, while it sounds like Manziel is improving as a person, we don’t know if he’s improved as a player yet.

To their credit, the revised offseason plan the Browns are implementing with Manziel could go a long way towards helping him do just that.

Cleveland is actually doing the right thing – yes, you read that correctly – by just outright tabbing Josh McCown as their starter. Obviously, the journeyman veteran is hardly the solution to the Browns’ never-ending QB carousel. At the same time, the quarterback competition from last offseason made a mess of training camp, pitting a desperate-to-start Brian Hoyer against the much-hyped Manziel. By erasing the concept of a competition now, it’ll remove some stress from practice this time around.

This is Cleveland’s way of saying nothing is going to be handed to Manziel, only this time around you’d hope they actually mean it. I have no doubt they’re psyched to see him showing much more commitment, but I also think they’re appropriately in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to giving him a legitimate evaluation.

If Manziel being clearheaded and focused results in him finally living up to his potential, this would obvioulsy be a great story for a franchise which has been dying to find anything remotely resembling a franchise quarterback. But we’re a long way from finding out if such a miracle is actually going to come to fruition.

Until we get to that point, take all of the Manziel accolades for what they are: encouraging complements about someone who still has a lot left to prove.

Casey Drottar is the Cleveland Beat Writer for Follow him on Twitter or “Like” him on Facebook

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