Manziel brings jolt of excitement, scrutiny
May, 9, 2014
By Pat McManamon | ESPN.com
BEREA, Ohio -- NFL map, this is Cleveland, Ohio.
It has been missing for quite some time. No, it hasn't disappeared. It just hasn't been able to stop tripping over itself as it tries to put a winning team on your cartography.
That's right, Cleveland is right there by Lake Erie. You got it.
Now you need to start paying more attention to this place because Johnny Football will be in Cleveland , and how this goes will be a story worth watching.
Because the Browns' move to trade up and select Johnny Manziel with the 22nd overall pick in Thursday's draft means the Browns are again a story, again worth paying attention to. A team that needed some kind of boost got it with the selection of Manziel. And the fact that the Browns did it with the 22nd pick and not the fourth somehow makes the story that much more relevant, because the risk is lower.
Elsa/Getty ImagesRegardless of how he fares with the team, Johnny Manziel has made the Browns relevant.
Manziel brings the same baggage he would have brought had he been taken fourth. He spends too much time wandering around the pocket. He freelances too much. He's not a pure pocket passer. He won't get away with all the jitterbugging in the NFL that he did in college. And if he starts right away, he gets a huge faceful of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener, a group of guys who have done serious damage to past Browns quarterbacks, a group that would no doubt love to teach Manziel a quick lesson about life in the NFL and AFC North.
All that has to be dealt with, worked on and overcome. The Browns' history with 22nd picks at quarterback certainly does not bode well -- what with Brandon Weeden and Brady Quinn washing out after being taken there.
But perhaps the third time is a charm, and perhaps general manager Ray Farmer's strategizing will finally pan out for the long-suffering fan base of the Cleveland Browns. Because this pick provides the Browns an electrifying jolt of excitement and national interest that has been missing for a long, long time.
The Browns pulled off a trade after Manziel had waited nearly three hours to be picked. Fox's Jay Glazer reported on Twitter that the Minnesota Vikings were trying to trade up for Manziel and thought they had a deal with the Eagles, but the Browns called with a better offer -- their first-round pick (No. 26) and a third-round choice.
Which means former team president Joe Banner's trade of Trent Richardson last season wound up bringing Manziel to the Browns.
The interesting thing will be how the Browns handle the circus that goes with Manziel. His every move will be watched, his every pass scrutinized. Every Brian Hoyer incompletion or interception will lead to cries for Johnny. Hoyer is the clear loser in this; he's worked his whole life to start for his hometown team, and less than an hour after Manziel's selection, Browns vice president of fan engagement Kevin Griffin was tweeting a photo of a Manziel jersey.
Handling all this will take some finessing, and the Browns have a first-year coach on the job. The intense scrutiny and attention will at times be overwhelming. Tim Tebow to the ninth power.
New coach Mike Pettine has said over and over he does not want a rookie quarterback to start. Good luck with that, keeping Manziel on the bench. Doing so would take serious intestinal fortitude.
But it also took serious intestinal fortitude for Farmer to bypass Manziel at No. 4, then at No. 9 after a trade down, then at No. 8 after a trade up. He didn't. He stuck to his plan and took Justin Gilbert, a cornerback, with Manziel watching in New York.
When Dallas passed on Manziel at No. 16, it opened things up again for the Browns. They knew that Philadelphia might be a trade partner, and when the chance came at No. 22, they made the move. It's no coincidence that the Browns moved ahead of Kansas City, another team that might have been interested in Manziel.
Instead he comes to Cleveland, which seems on some levels to be so odd. A guy who's been seen at every major sporting event around the country and clearly seems to like staying out until the wee hours comes to ... Cleveland. A guy whose nickname is after the sport itself comes to the place where Paul Brown developed the game without fanfare or self-promotion.
If history has taught anything in Cleveland, it's that simply arriving guarantees nothing. The names of failed Browns quarterbacks who had their confidence chewed up and their careers spit out is long.
Manziel can be the guy to change that. But if Browns fans know nothing else, it's that it's not automatic.
But it sure will be fun to see him try.