Johnny Manziel on Wednesday reported for his first professional training camp with the Cleveland Browns' rookies, quarterbacks and other players recovering from injury, which means for Manziel and the Manziel-watchers in the world, things get really real immediately.
Manziel will compete with Brian Hoyer to be the team’s starter, but Hoyer is the starter heading into camp.
How does Manziel win the job?
Be a gamer:NFL football is quite the interesting phenomenon. Players spend hours in meetings, they lift weights, they work out, they practice for hours and then they watch every single play of practice. And whether they make the team or don’t comes down to a handful of plays in the third quarter of a practice game with the stands half full. Practice makes perfect, but how Manziel performs in a game will determine whether he starts. That means executing the offense with precision, and showing the knowledge required to read, understand and attack an NFL defense -- vanilla as it will be in preseason. Practices will matter, but the most important days of Manziel’s first training camp will be in Detroit and Washington in the practice games.
Be ready: Know the playbook and the plays and the calls and the reads. There is not time for learning on the fly anymore. Jobs are at stake at every position on the field, and the team can’t live with an uncertain quarterback botching the plays. This work had to be done in the offseason, and if Manziel didn’t do it there will be issues.
Don’t throw away a single rep: It would be interesting if every profession operated the way NFL teams do. Imagine the cashier filmed for every transaction, the placement of hands while giving change, the way he or she scans items. Imagine if the lawyer were videoed during every argument, an accountant during a tax audit. NFL players have every play, every snap scrutinized. If they mess up on the field, they hear about it after -- and they watch it. Manziel can’t afford half-hearted plays or silly mistakes. He needs to be aware, smart and careful. It’s not easy while trying to learn a new offense and teammates, but that is what is expected. There are no throwaway plays in training camp.
Protect the ball: Mike Pettine is a studier of the game, and he no doubt knows that a team that does not turn the ball over has a better chance to win. Since 1999, the year of the Browns' return, teams that had a turnover margin of plus-two in a game won 88 percent of the time (per profootballreference.com). Teams that had one more turnover than the opposition won 79 percent of the time. The fastest way for a quarterback to be shown the bench -- especially a rookie -- is to turn the ball over frequently in camp and in preseason games (vanilla defenses come to mind).
Ditch the parties; act like a professional: It might not be necessary to state this, because Manziel might have this planned regardless. But what has become clear about Manziel since he joined the Browns is that he knows how to have a good time. From town to town and beverage to beverage, he was a regular presence on the Internet. Manziel is not innocent in this either; he willingly posed or posted some of the photos. He can still enjoy himself, but nobody who puts the fun ahead of his profession succeeds in the long run. At this point, it’s up to Manziel to show his teammates and his team that the parties were simply an offseason pursuit.