Were You Surprised by Johnny Manziel’s Performance ??

I think the Browns and their fans were both faced firmly with the realization that Brian Hoyer, despite his local roots, was a big reason why the playoffs were slipping away. He has some leadership skills and talent for sure but his consistency was nowhere to be found. Hoyer showed that he was a “rhythm” quarterback. When he hit some throws and especially when they were in the hurry up offense, he would keep doing well and seem to make high quality throws. If the team or he hit a skid, he seemed to fight to find that rhythm and for the final 3 weeks he never found it.

That is why I called that the time was right for Manziel prior to the Colts game. However, I was never under the delusion that Manziel had a high chance of success. It is just that we needed a change and I had hoped that sitting on the bench all of those weeks might have helped him prepare. I guess I was wrong about that but I was hoping.

I want to reprise my “draft analysis” of the Johnny Manziel pick to clarify that I knew what we were up against from the beginning with “Johnny Football”. I suspect that many of my readers knew as well. Here it is:

Johnny Manziel, QB:

By some projections, Manziel was the best QB in the draft. He is also a lightning rod for controversy, scrutiny and another potential “black eye” for the city of Cleveland and it’s sports teams. If you wanted Manziel because he finally “puts Cleveland on the map”, you are in for a rude awakening. He will only put us “on the map” if he succeeds and the Browns win football games. That would have happened anyway if this storied franchise began to win and contend for titles. If he fails (which is a strong possibility), he will put Cleveland “on the map” again for late night jokes and ridicule. So watch what you wish for. It might not be what you think.

That being said, if the multiple flaws translatable to the NFL that Manziel possesses are conquered or controlled, his good traits could make this a draft to remember for our lifetime. He has a quick release, enough arm strength to function at the pro level, enough accuracy on short/intermediate throws to be successful, and an uncanny ability to sense pressure and escape it. Those traits are good a good fit with our scheme and he has enough talent to pull it off. If it weren’t for all of those critical talent/character flaws in his game, his chance of boom would be better than bust. I will outline the flaws in depth in a separate analysis but by way of summary here they are: 1) A sense he needs to escape when he doesn’t and then run 2) Inability to go through full progressions with his reads 3) Predictable methods of pocket escape that places his offensive tackles in “no win” scenarios 4) Questionable accuracy on deep throws 5) Instincts to run before finding open receivers 6) No demonstrated ability to slide and step up in the pocket to throw 7) No demonstrated ability to command the game from behind center – strictly shotgun/pistol 8) Virtually never pitching or handing the ball off on read options 9) No demonstrated ball skills to handle play-action sets and create deception without the ball 10) Serious questions about work ethic, sense of entitlement, ego getting in the way of progress, and willingness to be a student of the game (knowing playbook better than anyone, studying game film of opponent, etc.). I’ll stop there and save the rest for later. As a Brown’s fan, I am hopeful but far away from crowning “Johnny Football” as the savior of Cleveland sports.”

Here is my full draft analysis: Browns Draft Analysis

It is interesting to look back at what I thought and how things are working out thus far.  But I think the Manziel analysis clearly pointed out nearly everything you have seen from Manziel since he became a Brown, during his first start, and the “rumors” of poor preparation being circulated since his start. My point here is that this abysmal initial failure by Manziel should have been predicted by his characteristics before we drafted him. I was hoping he had fixed at least some but I saw no real evidence of that during the game. God help the Browns if he had started the season as our quarterback. I think it is safe to say we probably never sniff the playoffs if that had happened. At least now, after 13 games on the bench, there is some hope going forward.

My current opinion of Manziel has not changed. The 10 flaws pointed out were all in evidence since his arrival and in the Bengals game. However, I said then and will say now, if he can overcome these multiple flaws and learn from his mistakes, we have a chance to see a good quality and exciting quarterback for many years. I happen to think it is CRITICAL for the Browns to do well and hopefully win at least 1 out of their last 2 games. The fans and the organization cannot have another off-season of turmoil and change. Winning is only bred by winning and that is what the Browns must do. Losing to improve draft order is a worthless hope and an even more worthless goal.

So I happen to think that Manziel will show a significant improvement this week. The time on the bench and the utter humiliation suffered against Cincinnati is bound to wake him up a bit. He is not a dummy. He understands the concept of heroic legacy versus comical bust. If he does “bust out” as his flaws would suggest, he will be more than a forgettable bust. He will be a historic bust. I really think that might be just the motivation Johnny needs to improve.

If he uses his gifts that are transferrable to NFL play, he has a chance (if only a small one) to be “Johnny Football” again. I hope that is possible because I want to believe in him. I want the Browns to succeed. Needing to replace Manziel before he really gets a solid chance seems like a bad strategy. So I will root for him and hope we see a “new” Johnny Manziel on Sunday. And, even more importantly, I hope we see a new Browns team against the Panthers. The one that played against Cincinnati must be dead and buried forever.