Brown, the greatest Cleveland Brown and an all-time NFL standout, pins his hopes on the team's the new coaching staff being better able to relate to Manziel, a player Brown said he liked.
"I know a lot of kids that if you don't know how to deal with them you lose them," Brown said at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards gathering Thursday night. "They don't come ready-made.
"But on the other hand, the argument is that he's a man. He should know how to conduct himself. He has an an opportunity. We've got all of that.
"But I like him and I hope that they are able to relate, and I think if they're able to relate that he will respect the coach.
"I don't want to see him traded or anything like that. I just think that's never the answer to anything."
Manziel has been the subject of much discussion since he missed the Browns' season finale and was reported to be in Las Vegas. Social-media sites have placed the 23-year-old in Dallas during the past week.
Owner Jimmy Haslam was noncommittal on Manziel's future, repeating the team's mantra that any decision will belong to coach Hue Jackson and director of football operations Sashi Brown.
"Your leadership has to be able to deal with players and I don't think that Johnny is a bad guy," Brown said. "But I think he needs someone to deal with him, give him an opportunity to be the nice Johnny, the intelligent Johnny.
"From all I hear, he should know what is right and wrong, et cetera. But we never know what is in the background of any of these youngsters. Since I deal with them and I deal with the ones that are hardcore, I know that if you deal with them properly they'll respect you and you can get them to do what's needed to be done.
"So I think that the leadership with him has not been there and it puts everything up in the air."
Brown specifically referred to his work with gangs in inner-city Los Angeles. Brown brought gang members to his L.A. home and arranged unprecedented agreements between disparate groups.
He emphasized he was only offering his opinion on Manziel, and any decision about Manziel's future belongs to Jackson.
"I would never second-guess the coach who's coming in," Brown said, "and his decision is going to be the one I support."