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Cleveland Browns: The Dangers of Rushing Johnny Manziel into Action
When the Cleveland Browns drafted Texas A&M’s Heisman-winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel, they knew well in advance that the fan reaction would be to throw him in from Day 1. So far, the Browns coaching staff has done a remarkable job in keeping fan outcry to a minimum, but the question is how long they will last.
In a recent ESPN poll, 52 percent of the nation feels that Manziel should get the nod in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite the fact that they have seen very limited actual tape of Browns training camp. The hype behind Manziel is very real, but the team has seen hype before, and they will need to decide in the coming weeks if he is the Week 1 starter or if Brian Hoyer will hold onto his spot.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to rookie quarterbacks. Many feel the best likelihood of success comes from starting them as soon as possible to generate actual game experience, while old school wisdom dictates that sitting behind a veteran and watching will better prepare that rookie for the NFL. In Manziel’s case, it can not be stressed enough that he simply needs time to sit.
Throughout the course of the offseason, Manziel has demonstrated that mentally he is not prepared to represent an NFL franchise. From off-field antics like drunkenly riding an inflatable swan with a champagne bottle, to the money-phone incident, to the parties around the country with the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Justin Bieber, to the dollar-bill incident in the bathroom—Manziel has strayed from his word time and time again.
When John McClain of the Houston Chronicle interviewed Manziel in February, it was described as the definitive interview behind the character of the young passer, as he vowed that the partying lifestyle was behind him.
“I was a kid who made some goofball decisions,” he said. “That’s been part of my journey. Maybe it’s part of the whole Johnny Football deal that I’m trying to get away from. I’m trying to show people I’ve grown up and I’ve learned from my experiences. I feel like you’re a stupid person if you continue to make the same wrong decisions. I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, anybody in his situation would have been doing the same thing.’ I’m 100 percent responsible for my actions.”
While the off-field concerns are certainly an issue, the on-field concerns are still in the forefront. The simple reality is that Manziel is not a conventional quarterback. His ability to ad-lib and make decisions on the fly with his athleticism may be his most attractive attribute, but it is also the one that could find him in a heap of trouble in a hurry.
Throwing Manziel into the fray before he is ready provides him with a very real risk of seeing him be broken, both physically and mentally. If the coaching staff is able to work with him a year, while teaching him to avoid danger on the field while still being effective, he has a much higher probability of success. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is no stranger to seeing a mobile rookie passer’s season cut short by injury, as he experienced the same thing with RG3 in Washington, and he should take the lead in the decision of when Manziel should start.
With a minimal playbook at Texas A&M, Manziel is already behind the 8-ball in the NFL, and he needs the time to learn to work through his progressions and to get the ball out sooner. The quicker he learns this, the more it will help him to avoid sacks and injury with his small frame and readiness to run.
With the Browns top receiver, Josh Gordon, looking at a lengthy suspension, as well as the team implementing new systems with new coaches and new players, the time is right to make the smart decision and let Manziel sit and learn. If he is truly the franchise passer the team believes him to be, the team will be ready and loaded in 2015 with their star receiver catching touchdowns from a smarter and more experienced Manziel at the helm.
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