Thursday, May 29, 2014
Clarifying Manziel/Browns misconceptions
By Pat McManamon
Impressions fly fast these days, and there are a lot or impressions about the Cleveland Browns and Johnny Manziel flying around. Let's try to clarify some:
Johnny Manziel, here with UFC president Dana White during the Memorial Day weekend, informed the Browns about his trip before heading to Vegas.
Impression: The Browns banned national media from rookie minicamp.
Reality: The Browns did not have to open any part of the rookie minicamp to any media, but they decided to do the locals a good turn and opened it to them. There were adjustments made once Manziel was drafted, which is not outrageous. The thinking before the draft was to open it on Saturday and Sunday to local media. Once Manziel was drafted, the team decided to cut the Sunday access and open the first 15 minutes on Saturday. Their thinking: This was the rookies' first taste of the NFL, and the team knew a lot of media would be present. The Browns weren't worried about Manziel with the media; they and everyone can see he handles himself well. The Browns simply wanted all the rookies to experience their first camp without a ton of sideshow. So they slowed up the media side of things. The Browns didn't even have to make Manziel available for a news conference, but they did.
Impression: The Browns berated Johnny Manziel to "be a backup."
Reality: The Browns basically told him he had to earn his spot, that he'd start as a backup. This may be part how the message was delivered, part how the message was heard. When Jimmy Haslam told a Canton luncheon that's what Manziel was told, it came across stronger than it should have. But the message was right, and if anyone knows that it's Clevelanders who have watched entitled quarterbacks walk on the field over and over since 1999. Telling Manziel he has to earn his spot isn't a case of "Bambi meets Godzilla" (check it out on YouTube if you've never seen it) with Manziel's personality being squashed. It's a case of telling a guy he has to learn, then earn the right to start.
Impression: The Browns don't want "Johnny Football" in Cleveland.
Reality: Mike Pettine said the exact opposite; they want the Johnny Football they saw in college, but they want to control what they can to benefit the team. Johnny Football was a player. Why in the world would an NFL team not want that? If it means he's visible on social media while not breaking any laws and having a good time and the team wins because of his play, well then it's all part of the package under the tree. The Browns weren't blind when they drafted him.
Impression: The Browns are trying to "protect" Manziel.
Reality: It takes about two seconds to realize Manziel can handle himself and doesn't need protection. The Browns' decisions are for the team, to limit the circus and, as Pettine has said, to control what it can control in the best interests of the team.
Impression: The Browns don't want Manziel to start.
Reality: The Browns want the best quarterback to start. Whether it's Manziel, Brian Hoyer or Connor Shaw, a team is not going to keep the best guy on the bench if it means it impedes winning. They know that Manziel has a lot of adjustments on his plate, especially involving reading defenses and pre-snap reads. That's a big step, as any coach who has worked in college and the pros can attest. In the two practices open to the media, Manziel has thrown good passes, which shows the ability is there. But he's also thrown really poor ones. He has not given indication in two open practices that he's Andrew Luck, ready to step right in. This is not discouraging or a surprise. Manziel hasn't even been a Brown for a month. Rookies need time. How much Manziel needs is yet to be seen.
Impression: The Browns will keep Manziel in a cocoon.
Reality: The Browns know what awaits during training camp, and they understand they'll have to deal with it. League rules say that the final minicamp and the training camp practices are open to the media, with training camp open to fans. It would be foolish and silly for the team to draft a guy knowing the hype that follows him and not embrace it when they know what it means to the team and the fan base.
Impression: The Browns will have armed guards at training camp to scare people away.
Reality: OK, it's a joke. The Browns want their fans to enjoy Manziel. The team is not overly worried about how Manziel acts with the fans and media; he can handle it. They will welcome as many fans as they can. They simply want to allow Manziel to be a football player and the Browns to operate as a team as much as they can within the rules that the league mandates.
Impression: The Browns were surprised that Manziel made the trip to Vegas.
Reality: Manziel advised them of the trip before going, and Pettine signed off on it while also warning Manziel that it would be discussed. It would be pretty ridiculous for the team to draft a guy knowing his background expecting this kind of trip not to happen. Pettine told Manziel: Have fun. The team has taken the approach that Manziel is a man and should be treated as such, which is not a bad thing. They expect him to work when he's in Cleveland, and he has. When he's on his free time, he's allowed to go to Vegas and enjoy himself, just like some of his teammates were allowed to go to Miami Beach.