AFC West: David Fales

Jon Gruden: 'I want Manziel'

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
Johnny Manziel might be the most polarizing quarterback in next week’s NFL draft, but he has a fan in former Oakland Raiders coach-turned-ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden.

And if Gruden was still coaching an NFL team?

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesJon Gruden on QB Johnny Manziel: "He will excel at whatever you ask him to do."
“I don’t have any concerns,” Gruden said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. “I'm a Manziel -- I don’t know what the word I should use is -- advocate, proponent. I want Manziel. I realize he's under six feet tall. Maybe he can't see over the line. We blew that theory in the water last year with (Russell) Wilson and (Drew) Brees. I know he can learn. I spent two days with him, and I know he wants to learn. He had four different offensive coordinators at Texas A&M. He had two different head coaches. It didn't matter. He adapted and did extremely well.

“This is the first Heisman Trophy winner as a freshman. In two years at Texas A&M, he had the most productive back-to-back seasons in SEC history. I don't know what you want him to do. He threw for eight thousand, ran for two thousand, he has 93 touchdowns. All I know is I want Manziel.”

The Raiders hold the No. 5 overall pick, and though they did acquire Matt Schaub to be the starting quarterback for the next two years at least, their QB-of-the-future situation is murky at best.

Manziel has visited the Raiders' complex, as has Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage. Oakland has also had reported meetings with Fresno State’s Derek Carr, San Jose State’s David Fales, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Clemson’s Tahj Boyd.

But taking Manziel and all that his celebrity entails would seemingly work against the Raiders’ mission after acquiring Schaub. Fans would want to see Manziel immediately, or as soon as Schaub, who needs to get his confidence back after a down year in Houston, throws his first interception.

None of that, though, matters much to Gruden, from afar. Even if Manziel is lacking in some areas.

“He has no experience coming out of the huddle really, handling the pass protections, doing some of the things that you've seen some of the conventional pro quarterbacks do,” he said of Manziel. “It's going to be a huge adjustment for him. It might not happen for him by opening day.

“But I'm convinced that he will learn it. He will excel at whatever you ask him to do. But, remember, he did redshirt at Texas A&M. Maybe he needs a redshirt year in pro football. I'm not going to say that's going to happen or that's a certainty. But it will be an adjustment for Manziel making the adjustment as a young player at this position at the next level. But I'm sure he can do it.”
Like he did three years ago when he nabbed Colin Kaepernick in the second round, San Francisco 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh is spending a portion of this offseason working out quarterback draft prospects.

The odds are the 49ers will use one of their 11 draft picks, likely in the mid rounds, on a quarterback to groom as a backup behind Kaepernick. Harbaugh has already personally worked out Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo. He has upcoming workouts with Fresno Sate’s Derek Carr (who will likely be taken earlier than the 49ers want to take a quarterback) and San Jose State’s David Fales.

Harbaugh indicted he could work out more quarterbacks prior to the May 8-10 draft. Harbaugh, who was a quarterback in the NFL for 14 years, likes to play catch with the prospect during his private workouts.

“(I want to) see how he throws the football, more how they throw than the look in their eye,” Harbaugh said. “You’re always sizing somebody up as a player and so I kind of just use that in coaching as well to evaluate guys, try to size them up.”

He said the private workouts are an invaluable way to access a quarterback.

“Like to play catch with them. Like to see them throw,” Harbaugh said. "Go through their workout, see what kind of condition they’re in, and meet with them, talk to them. Talk football with them, protections. Try to get a feel for how much they know football-wise. Basically just talking football. Things you can’t do from watching the tape of a pro day.”



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