AFC North: Cleveland Browns

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CLEVELAND -- I was in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl when the Cleveland Browns hired John DeFilippo and held a news conference introducing him, so perhaps it's not too late to share a few thoughts on the hire and where the Browns' offense might go:

  • No retreads: In a game with coaching staffs more repackaged than Tupperware, I can respect the Browns taking a chance on an up-and-comer. DeFilippo is 36, open-minded to new ideas and did good work with Oakland's Derek Carr last season (3,200-plus yards, 21 TDs, 12 INTs as a rookie). DeFilippo will be less set in his ways than a coordinator that's been fired elsewhere.
  • That said, this better work: Make no mistake, this is classic risk-reward for the Browns and coach Mike Pettine, who seemed to lean heavily on past relationships in the interview process. The Browns had a good shot at Marc Trestman if they wanted him. They basically picked DeFilippo over Trestman. That's fine -- if it works.
  • Won't matter who's the OC without better QB/WR play: With the staff almost finalized, the Browns should focus on a five-point offseason plan -- 1) Hope Johnny Manziel develops in the next seven months, 2) explore potential quarterback trades for Sam Bradford or Nick Foles, 3) Look at Brian Hoyer, Mark Sanchez and Jake Locker in free agency. 4) Make at least one big-money push for a top receiver in a loaded class (Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Torrey Smith, etc.), 5) Get a playmaker with one of your first two picks.
  • Mixed messages on Manziel's role: The Browns will find a quarterback or die trying. That was basically the message last week, from DeFilippo to Jimmy Haslam. Searching for a quarterback suggests you don't have one. But the hiring of DeFilippo, coupled with the interview of former Manziel consultant Kevin O'Connell as quarterback coach, says maximizing Manziel's potential is a top priority for the Browns. Regardless of whether Cleveland signs a quarterback through free agency or the draft, Manziel will be in training camp to compete.
  • Expect more zone blocking: The Kyle Shanahan era ended poorly, but he leaves the Browns with something -- encouragement that the zone scheme will best suit a talented offensive line. The offense was humming with nearly 150 rushing yards in five games with a healthy Alex Mack. Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West should grow in their zone-running roles, though the Browns could add another back for insurance.
Three thoughts on the letter by Browns receiver Josh Gordon, which was posted on the Cauldron website:

Gordon
Gordon
1. Gordon’s note seemed heartfelt and sincere. He might not have written every word, but the sentiment in it was his, and it spoke for him. He painted himself as the most unfortunate of victims. He failed a marijuana test from secondhand smoke. He was arrested for DWI when his blood-alcohol limit was barely above the legal limit. He tested positive for alcohol, a drug he shouldn't have been tested for, when he had four drinks on a private plane to Las Vegas with teammates. But he did not hide from accountability and said he had failed many people, including himself. I respect his right to state his case. His letter is worth reading.

2. I’m the kind of guy who goes upstairs specifically to get one thing, then comes back down with nothing and forgets what I went upstairs for in the first place. The point: I’m neither qualified nor inclined to judge whether Gordon is an addict. That is up to him.

3. Gordon explains much about himself and his past, but in his explanation he also makes clear he was responsible for failing the substance-abuse tests. Whatever the reason, he failed the tests, and the league makes it very clear it looks at the test results, not the reasons or explanations. Barring a miracle, there will be no Gordon in Cleveland this season.
One was an absolute wrecking ball on defense, consistently finding his way to the football. The other was eased into his team's offense before ultimately taking it over the second half of the season, and helping it earn a postseason berth.

But only one would be named the AFC North's Rookie of the Year.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Mosley
Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesIn his rookie season, Ravens LB C.J. Mosley registered five or more tackles in every game.
That honor went to Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, who barely edged out Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill. From the five-person voting panel, Mosley received 12 overall points to Hill's 11. Mosley also had three first-place votes to the two that went to Hill.

Out of the pair, Hill is the only one up for the NFL's Rookie of the Year award that will be announced this weekend in Arizona. He's the only AFC North representative, contending with a group made up of all offensive players. Receiver Odell Beckham Jr., quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, receiver Mike Evans and receiver Sammy Watkins also are up for the honor. No defensive player has earned the award since 2010, when Ndamukong Suh received it.

Mosley was seemingly everywhere for the Ravens this season. He had 129 tackles, the eighth-highest total for any defender in the league. He also was part of a defense that ranked eighth in the league.

In addition to the 129 tackles, Mosley also had three sacks, two interceptions and forced and recovered a fumble. The Alabama product also had 19 tackles in the Ravens' two playoff games, including 10 in the divisional-round loss to the Patriots. In a Week 5 loss at Indianapolis, he had a season-high 14 stops.

Hill became a threat for the Bengals starting in Week 9 when he rushed for a season-high 154 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-23 win against the Jaguars. It was his 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that helped ice the win, and firmly put him in his fan base's consciousness. That week, and for the two after it, Hill started in place of Giovani Bernard. The third-year running back was resting after experiencing a series of injuries following hard hits in previous games.

Also during Bernard's absence, Hill rushed for 152 yards in a homecoming game at New Orleans. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native and LSU product went on to become the Bengals' top option at running back after Bernard returned. Across the final nine weeks of the season, Hill rushed for 929 yards, more than any other back in that stretch.

In addition to their Rookie of the Year award, ESPN.com's AFC North reporters voted on four other honors for the division (Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player). We've been handing out the awards daily since Monday.

Mosley finished third in the division Defensive Player of the Year voting, and Hill finished third in Offensive Player of the Year voting.

AFC North Rookie of the Year: Mosley, 12 points; Hill, 11; Joel Bitonio, 8, Cleveland; Martavis Bryant, 1, Pittsburgh.

Panel of voters: Scott Brown, Jeremy Fowler, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon.
Adam Schefter broke the news Wednesday that the Cleveland Browns were interviewing Kevin O’Connell to be the team’s quarterbacks coach.

Because he’d never coached in the NFL, the news sent me to Google to find out more about him.

Hoyer
Manziel
Here’s what I learned:
  • O’Connell came out of San Diego State with good size (6-foot-6) and the ability to run.
  • Prior to the draft he was tutored by a group that included former Browns quarterback Charlie Frye.
  • He was drafted by New England in the third round in 2008.
  • He originally was the third quarterback but moved up to backup when Tom Brady tore a knee ligament in the season opener. Matt Cassel started that season and won 10 games.
  • O’Connell threw six passes and completed four, for 23 yards.
  • The next season, O’Connell was cut after he was beat out for the backup spot by Brian Hoyer, an undrafted rookie.
  • O’Connell bounced around the league but was only on an active roster again with the Jets, where Mike Pettine worked as defensive coordinator. Apparently the two have remained close since.
  • After 2011, O’Connell became a private quarterback tutor.
  • Last offseason, he worked extensively with Johnny Manziel to prepare him for the NFL. O’Connell was invited to George Whitfield’s quarterback camp, where O’Connell spent a lot of time with Manziel.
  • At last year’s NFL draft combine, O’Connell told ESPN's Field Yates that if he were Houston he’d take Manziel with the first pick, though he admitted he was biased because he worked with Manziel.
  • After the draft, O’Connell gave this honest assessment in a podcast with CBSSports.com: “I think the decision personally is this guy can win us games by being a playmaker, and when the throw is there to be made he’s going to make that throw. And if he doesn't, either because he’s not protected or he doesn’t understand the protections, he’s gonna then ... his creativity and natural ability will take over and he’ll move on from there and make a play. With the NFL, what scares people is defenses are just too darn good. And the speed ... you saw it a little bit last year ... sideline to sideline closing on RGIII in his second year vs. the first year. I mean, you have to have a passing concept. You have to have the ability to read the entire field. Evaluate matchups. Understand the weakness of the defense.”
  • O’Connell added that Manziel needed to combine his playmaking ability with the preparation of a Russell Wilson and improve his understanding of NFL defenses if he wanted to succeed. O’Connell stressed Manziel’s success would depend on his work ethic but said Manziel would be “fantastic” if he dedicated himself.
  • During training camp, Pettine had O’Connell spend a few days with the team, both in the meeting rooms and on the field.
  • O’Connell was an analyst on CBS for Mountain West games last season.
ESPN.com's AFC North reporters voted on five awards for the division (Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player), and one will be handed out each day throughout this week. Consider this our version of the NFL Honors show.

For Wednesday, it's the 2014 AFC North Defensive Player of the Year ...

There was no overwhelmingly dominant defensive player in the AFC North in 2014. That’s the result of this voting, as eight players were nominated, the most for any award. No player received more than two first-place votes.

Dumervil
The winner: Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil, who led the division and ranked third in the league with 17 sacks. Dumervil paired with Terrell Suggs (who finished tied for third) to form the best pass-rushing tandem in the division, and perhaps the league. The two combined with 29 sacks.

Dumervil was a smart pickup by Ozzie Newsome after he left Denver following a snafu in faxing him a restructured contract offer in 2013. He had one game this past season with 3.5 sacks, and he set Baltimore’s single-season sack record.

Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden finished second, with Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley and Suggs tying for third.

Haden went to his second consecutive Pro Bowl after a season when he had three interceptions and 20 passes broken up. Haden ranked first in the division and second in the league in passes defensed.

Suggs had his usual excellent season with 61 tackles and 12 sacks. Mosley’s 133 tackles ranked seventh in the league.

Dumervil had two first-place votes, with Pittsburgh linebacker Lawrence Timmons, Suggs and Mosley receiving one vote each.

AFC North Defensive Player of the Year: Elvis Dumervil, 10 points; Joe Haden, 5; C.J. Mosley, 4; Terrell Suggs, 4; Lawrence Timmons, 3; Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland, 2; Vincent Rey, Cincinnati, 1; George Iloka, Cincinnati, 1.

Panel of voters: Scott Brown, Jeremy Fowler, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon.
Sans Josh Gordon, this is the group of wide receivers on the Cleveland Browns roster today: Miles Austin, Phil Bates, Travis Benjamin, Kevin Cone, Taylor Gabriel, Andrew Hawkins, Marlon Moore and Rodney Smith.

Take away Austin, who is headed to free agency, and the seven pass-catchers left have a combined 21 years experience.

They average for their careers 35 catches, 496 yards and two touchdowns. In 2014 alone, 121 receivers had more than 35 catches and 92 had more than 496 yards. Take away Hawkins, Gabriel and Benjamin and the other four have a combined 20 catches for 318 yards.

The NFL rookie receiving class in 2014 set rookie records. Eight had at least 50 catches, three had 1,000 yards and four had eight or more touchdowns.

The Browns drafted none of them. Their two first-round picks were used on Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel, both of whom enter their second season with serious question marks.

“The rookies this year -- phenomenal,” general manager Ray Farmer said two days after the season. “Great job by a lot of those guys. They were high-drafted or high selected oriented players on our board. I know I said I wouldn’t talk about our board but to that tune, they were high there as how we valued what they were capable of doing. But then again, can you piece it together? I think you most certainly can with guys that have traits that translate to the type of offense that you want to run.”

Despite the fact he said the rookie wide receivers were “phenomenal,” he had no regrets about not taking one.

“I know everyone says I’m stubborn,” he said, “or I’m going to be obstinate about this wide receiver position, but I just think that at the end of the day an offensive line(man) affects every single play of the game. A wide receiver may touch the ball 10 times if he’s having a great day so I just like the idea of ‘let’s get the guys that affect the game all the time and let’s try and get those guys and make a difference for our football team.’”

Farmer cautioned during the season against expecting too much when Gordon returned from suspension, and he was right. And there was a time before Gordon returned when the other receivers were a hard-working bunch doing things the right way -- and the Browns were winning.

“I’m a believer that this whole notion that you’ve got to have this one guy that’s the silver bullet is a myth,” he said. “I think it’s like trying to catch werewolves and vampires. They just don’t exist. I’m a big believer in it’s a team sport, and when we combine the requisite skill sets necessary to let guys have success we have that success. We saw that earlier this year that we were missing certain key components that people thought were high-value targets and assets for us, but we played team football. As a result of that, we were able to have success.”

The group the Browns had worked like mad. Hawkins, Gabriel and Benjamin may be small, but their hearts are large. Austin, too, played an important role. He was the bigger target outside, the guy who could be counted on to make the third-down catch. He led the team with 14 third-down catches in the 11 games he played. That was vital, because when Gordon returned he was not dependable and Austin’s absence to a lacerated kidney was noticed.

The Browns at present have two slot receivers (Hawkins and Gabriel) and one situational guy who can be very effective when used properly (Benjamin).

The team seems to have a glaring need for the starting type. There is time to try to bring back Austin, and free agency will provide players to peruse.

But the Browns have two first-round picks. Logic would say the receiver position has to be strongly in the discussion for one of the picks -- except Farmer doesn’t seem to buy into the conventional wisdom.

Johnny Manziel's rookie season in photos

January, 23, 2015
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Johnny Manziel might have been disappointed to fall to the No. 22 pick on draft night, but that paled in comparison to the problems he would later encounter during his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns.

From being fined for an obscene gesture during a preseason game to posting a 1.0 QBR in his debut to being fined for missing a treatment on his injured hamstring, Manziel stayed in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

Here is a look back in pictures at a much-publicized, if not successful, rookie season.

Johnny ManzielElsa/Getty ImagesFalling to Cleveland with the 22nd pick didn't humble Manziel, as the former Heisman winner flashed his money sign on stage. Within 25 minutes of Manziel's selection, the Browns had sold 200 season tickets and had 300 renewed.
Johnny ManzielESPNCoach Mike Pettine wasn't amused when he learned Manziel had flipped off taunters on the Redskins' sideline during a preseason game. Manziel was fined $12,000 by the league for his momentary loss of composure.
Johnny ManzielKevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsManziel led an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by his 10-yard run, on his first possession after subbing for a struggling Brian Hoyer against the Bills. It was the highlight of his rookie season.
Johnny ManzielAP Photo/David RichardManziel looked ill prepared in his first start, in Week 15 against the Bengals. He was 10-of-18 passing for 80 yards and two interceptions as Cleveland lost 30-0, its first shutout defeat in five years. Manziel's QBR was 1.0.
Johnny ManzielAP Photo/David RichardMoney signs were being flashed in Week 15, but not by Manziel. The Bengals had fun with his trademark gesture after smothering the rookie in his first start.
Johnny Manziel Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesA hamstring injury cut Manziel's season short, and being fined for not showing up for treatment on the injury the following week was one of the low points of his season.
Johnny ManzielAP Photo/Don WrightThe Browns' quarterback situation is as uncertain as ever after Manziel's performance on the field and questions about his commitment off the field. Brian Hoyer is an impending free agent whose return is in doubt.


The message from the Cleveland Browns about the team’s quarterback situation in 2015 remains consistent: Johnny Manziel is not a given.

The Browns are answering questions bluntly about Manziel by saying there is no certainty they will turn to him as their guy.

Manziel
Then again, they also said before last season that they didn’t want him to play at all as a rookie. Can’t ignore that fact.

What are the Browns saying?

Coach Mike Pettine the day after the season: "It's just still very early to tell just what [Manziel's] future holds for us."

General manager Ray Farmer two days after the season: "There could be any number of stones that we overturn to try to find the right [player] to bring in here to help improve our roster."

New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo on Thursday: "We're not sure if our starting quarterback is in the building right now or not."

Pettine on Thursday: The quarterback possibilities "are all items that will be on the table for discussion."

Even owner Jimmy Haslam weighed in the same way, speaking to a group of reporters at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards Thursday night.

"We don't know who our quarterback's going to be next season," Haslam said.

The clear message is that the Browns, publicly at least, are not willing to commit to Manziel based on the six quarters they saw from him as the starter. They don't seem inclined to cut ties with him, but they don't seem inclined to anoint him, either.

Couple that with the reality that the team reached out to Brian Hoyer about returning -- no numbers discussed yet -- and the message delivered is that the Browns are pondering options.

And while they ponder, they are evaluating Manziel and his future.

To hear the Browns, they don't know how it will play out.

It's not exactly a comforting feeling to see a team be so open about the uncertain status of its most important position, but it is January. A lot can happen before minicamp, let alone training camp.

But there seem to be some very clear and direct signals going from the team to its second-year quarterback.
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Two interesting things happened related to the Cleveland Browns quarterback situation on a usually meaningless mid-January day.

First, new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said the team really doesn’t know who the quarterback will be in 2015.

Manziel
Hoyer
Speaking with head coach Mike Pettine sitting next to him, DeFilippo said: "We're not sure if our starting quarterback is in the building right now or not. If he is, great. If he's not, that's great too."

Shortly after the news conference, Brian Hoyer's agent Joe Linta told Browns writer Jeremy Fowler that the team had reached out to him about a contract extension.

"We've left the door open both ways," Linta said.

Time will tell what it all means, but it is interesting. Clearly, though, the details are what matters. If the Browns offer Hoyer backup money, he will go to free agency.

Last offseason the team declined to offer more than that. Hoyer declined to sign. Now the Browns have their new offensive coordinator talking about not knowing the quarterback.

DeFilippo's statement, like the Browns' negotiations with Hoyer, comes down to details. Because DeFilippo admitted he was eager to work with Johnny Manziel, or whoever walked through the door. DeFilippo said he’s used to late adjustments, and mentioned guys like Derek Carr, Matt Flynn, and Matt Schaub arriving as free agents or via the drafts.

The problem is that neither Flynn nor Schaub did a whole lot of anything in Oakland. Flynn had one start and 34 pass attempts. Schaub had 10 passes while Carr played throughout his rookie season.

Carr did well, but the veterans on the free agent market this offseason are kind of reminiscent of Flynn and Schaub. Jake Locker. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ryan Mallett. There really isn’t a lot of there there to add to that ever-growing Browns jersey with the list of names.

Hoyer is among the free agents, and the Browns at least know him. He might be amenable to a deal that pays him if he performs -- with incentives for things like wins and playoff appearances -- but he will be starting with a new system as well.

Hoyer would not be afraid of competition, but given the water under the bridge, it would probably take a pretty significant offer for Hoyer not to at least see what is out there for him in free agency.

As for Manziel, the message seemed to be that nothing will be granted.

If Manziel earns the job, he earns it. But as of this moment, the job is not his. At least that is what DeFilippo and Pettine tried to convey.

DeFilippo is the sixth offensive coordinator in six seasons.

He’s just the latest to walk into the Browns annual uncertainty at the team’s most important position.
The Cleveland Browns made official the hiring of John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator late Tuesday.

The team’s news release had several quotes from coach Mike Pettine and DeFilippo on how he would approach the job.

The best news?

DeFilippo said he would not insist on changing everything just for the sake of change, that if the team is comfortable doing something a certain way or hearing it a certain way, he will not force the entire offense to adjust. Instead, he will adjust.

“We're going to make this offense, the transition, as simple as we can for our players,” DeFilippo said in a news release provided by the team.

He also said he would work with all the quarterbacks on the team equally.

“This isn't going to be my offense or ‘so and so's’ offense," DeFilippo said. "This is going to be the Cleveland Browns' offense. Whatever that is to get our best players the football, it's going to be very flexible.

"We're not going to just scrap something just because I'm here. I don't have that type of ego. If something's good that our players do well and they know, we're going to keep doing it.

"That's going to be my job here the next few weeks is I'm going to really study our last 16 games of this season and see what we're good at, see where it fits and see where it meshes with myself and Coach Pettine seeing this offense.”

Pettine called DeFillipo the "total package."

“That was a big part of it, making sure we weren't bringing in just a playbook ... we were bringing in a good person," Pettine said. "That, to me, is one of the biggest reasons why he's here.”

MOBILE, Ala. -- NFL teams interview dozens of players each year at the Senior Bowl, but I found it interesting that the Cleveland Browns were very impressed with Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty's demeanor in their talk with him, and notified of such on the field Wednesday. This is no surprise -- Petty comes across as genuine and is from a good family.

"Whatever it entails to be a great NFL quarterback, that’s what I want to do," Petty told reporters after a Senior Bowl practice session.

Petty is adjusting from Baylor's no-huddle offense to an NFL system, which could take time. Petty looked rusty in the first session Tuesday, but threw with more confidence Wednesday. Oregon State's Sean Mannion might have looked the most comfortable among quarterbacks throwing Wednesday morning.

But Petty could be an intriguing option for the Browns, possibly as a one- or two-year stash option to develop him behind the scenes. Petty has good size (6-foot-2 3/4, 230 pounds) and wasn't overly accurate at Baylor (low-60s completion percentages) but made up for that by averaging nearly 10 yards per passing attempt over two seasons as a starter. He's athletic for his size, notching 20 rushing touchdowns the last two seasons.

"I hope they are patient and understand I want to be here and learn," Petty said about whichever team drafts him. "I’m going to give it all I’ve got, that’s for sure. Step one is being here."

Petty admits he's had to think through plays the first two days at the Senior Bowl, which is less ideal than mastering the concepts and reacting, but he's getting more comfortable every day.

He knows the last two high-profile Big 12 quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden, have had their struggles in the pros. Weeden was out of a starting job in Cleveland after two years.

"All that will and prove that I can learn an NFL offense and hopefully it won't be two years -- it will be 15," said Petty, who noted he would be comfortable going "anywhere" on the NFL map. "I have no doubt I can transition. It’s just about getting in there and doing it."
The Cleveland Browns didn't draft Derek Carr, but they hired the quarterbacks coach who guided him.

That the coach just so happened to interview to be the team's offensive coordinator a year ago probably was a pleasant coincidence.

Manziel
John DeFilippo, a 36-year-old Youngstown, Ohio, native, will take over for Kyle Shanahan. The team is expected to make the announcement Wednesday.

What this means about Johnny Manziel will remain to be seen, but it's pretty clear the Browns' emphasis was on finding someone they believe could get the most out of him.

DeFilippo's resume shows a lot of work with young quarterbacks.

Carr had a better-than-expected rookie season, throwing for 3,270 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. DeFilippo will be tied to his rookie season.

In 2013, DeFilippo was responsible for Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin, and they threw for a combined 3,345 yards.

The major concern: He has never called plays in the NFL, though he did when he was offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at San Jose State in 2011, according to his bio in the Raiders' media guide.

In 2011, San Jose State averaged 30 runs per game and 40 passes. The team gained 276 yards passing per game, 101 rushing.

Quarterback Matt Faulkner was credited for throwing for 3,149 yards, but he had 13 interceptions to go with 13 touchdowns.

His numbers with DeFilippo calling plays translate to an NFL passer rating of 84.7.

In the NFL, DeFilippo has been a quality control coach for the Giants, assistant quarterbacks coach for the Jets and twice was quarterbacks coach for the Raiders -- the stints sandwiched around his tenure at San Jose State.

Was DeFilippo hired to maximize Manziel? The Browns didn't hire several veteran coordinators who, in theory at least, might be more set in their ways.

Shanahan left the Browns in part because he didn't believe in Manziel, according to several sources.

The Browns turned to a coordinator coach Mike Pettine worked with in New York and interviewed one year ago, a young coordinator who has had experience with young quarterbacks.

It's not too complicated to connect all these dots.
Johnny Manziel had a rocky rookie season, but his jerseys sold well enough in the offseason that he ranks fifth in the NFL in jersey sales at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Manziel
That information came in a jersey sale report posted by the store. The page includes all kinds of interesting ways to compare jersey sales, and see how they progressed during the season.

Manziel’s sales ranked overall behind Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Luke Kuechly.

However, Manziel’s sales dropped as the season progressed.

Around the time of the draft, a chart on the the sporting goods site (click on Manziel's name) shows that Manziel had 55 percent of the jersey sales. That number was at 5 percent around the time of the season opener and at zero percent by season’s end. By comparison, New England quarterback Tom Brady was at 3 percent in May and 24 percent by last week.

In July, the NFL reported that Manziel's jersey led all sales at NFLShop.com.

Manziel is the fourth-ranked offensive player in jersey sales at Dick's, and the top rookie. The Browns ranked fifth in the league in overall jersey sales, behind Seattle, Denver, Carolina and Chicago. Joe Haden was the Browns' top selling defensive jersey, third overall, with Donte Whitner 21st. Offensively, Brian Hoyer was the second-ranked Brown, 28th among players on that side of the ball.
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A couple years back I had the honor and pleasure of being able to sit down with Ted Ginn Sr. for an interview about 'What He'd Learned' for Cleveland Magazine.

Ginn is a Cleveland legend, the football coach and product of Glenville High School. But he’s more than a coach. He’s a leader in his community, a man who develops kids into men and helps them rise out of difficult circumstances. The Browns' Donte Whitner is one of many who have gone on to success after playing for Ginn.

When I talked to him, Ginn had just recovered from a bout with pancreatic cancer. He explained he was a living miracle and he was brought back to do important work.

Some of the things Ginn said then resonated when quarterback Cardale Jones announced Thursday that he would return to Ohio State to get his degree.

"One of the most important things for me is to graduate," Jones said.

Ginn runs The Ginn Academy, and kids who go to school there play at Glenville, where he coaches.

But Ginn said he doesn’t like football.

"It gets in the way of the truth," he said. "It gets in the way of what we’re really trying to do. We’re trying to save lives."

His purpose with football?

"You teach them how to take football and education and navigate their way throughout the world," he said. "It takes money to be educated. It takes money to live. It takes money to raise, to guide. They have to understand how to parlay all that stuff into how to be a man, a great father, a great kid, a leader."

Ginn talked about where he lives, works and grew up and admitted "people make us think we’re nowhere."

His view: "This is a diamond mine, brother. I’m the only person who stayed after 30 or 40 years. People been walking among all these diamonds, without picking them up. They didn’t pick me up. And all I did was pick them up, brush them off and polish them off."

Jones is a product of that environment. He played for Glenville, then went to Ohio State where he made mistakes. Jones has gone from an infamous tweet he posted as a freshman asking why he had to go to class, to deciding that getting his degree is his top priority. Ginn never gives up on one of his pupils, and when Jones made his announcement Ginn stood behind him.

Jones seems to have grown up. He says many right things. He accepts all that happened to him with the national championship with humility and amazement. He will make mistakes again -- don’t we all -- but he’s come a long way. And he’s staying in college to finish his education because he said that is what is important.

There was some pushback and snark at Jones’ decision. Why have a news conference if he’s staying?

Which is fine if you haven’t been around Ginn or the Ginn Academy or Glenville. The idea behind having Jones make this announcement on Thursday was to send the message to the other kids in Cleveland who were listening.

Education matters, and who better to hear it from than one of their own, who skipped the easy money and took the longer route.

Ginn does not let his kids turn left when walking in the hallways at The Ginn Academy.

"They come out of a door, and their next class is a few feet away, I make them walk all the way around to go in that door to their left," Ginn said. "They ask why, and I say, 'That’s the shortcut. Go right, man. Just stay right.' ... Because if you do everything right, you can’t go wrong."

Jones seems to have listened to that lesson.

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