Browns Need Manziel To Deliver
By John Ventola
It is Cleveland, Ohio, not New Jersey, but there are plenty of new jerseys to go around the city. Prodigal son LeBron James will take back his No. 23 Cavaliers jersey (leaving behind his Miami Heat No. 6 for South Beach residents to think about what might have been) in a few months, and Browns first round draft pick Johnny Manziel will be sporting the No. 2 he made famous as the elusive Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Texas A & M.
The city of Cleveland needs some good news, sports wise and otherwise. The establishment there of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has helped some, but the blight that exists in the main parts of the city were pretty much uncovered and put out there for the whole world to see with the Ariel Castro kidnapping tragedy. Except for nice
showings by the Cavaliers in LeBron’s last season of his first tour, heartbreaking World Series appearances in 1995 and 1997, and a American League pennant loss in 2007 by the Indians, there has been little major sport success in Cleveland over the past fifty years.
Even in those successful years, the city appeared to have been snakebit, being beaten by Atlanta in their first World Series in forty-one seasons, blowing a 2-1 ninth inning lead in the seventh game of the ’97 World Series, and losing three straight to Boston after taking a 3-1 series lead. Throw in a mediocre 18-22 playoff record by the Browns with no Super Bowl appearances, and the hope and desire for a championship can be understood.
Surely, LeBron will have the Cavaliers in the thick of things next season, but Browns’ football comes first, and there is excitement brewing over what Manziel can possibly bring to the team. New head coach Mike Pettine, who has been around the NFL as a defensive assistant, hired young (34) Kyle Shanahan, son of Washington head coach Mike Shanahan, to be the offensive coordinator and put a system in place to fully use the abilities of Manziel.
Having watched Manziel against a better than average collegiate defensive team (LSU) last season in person (Manziel struggled and A & M lost) and numerous times on television and replays, it is this writer’s opinion that systemizing Manziel may prove to be his biggest obstacle of the season. He excels when everything is helter skelter and undetermined, and he can use his maneuverability, quick release, and uncanny, anticipation to find intermediate area receivers. I personally enjoy watching the guy play football and feel he can be successful in the NFL providing he tames down some of his on-field aggressiveness, and takes full advantage of his skill set, which is quite impressive.
As varied as his skill set is, Manziel’s arm strength is questionable, his long range accuracy is inconsistent, and his ability to read professional defenses and account for
the closing speed of defensive backs is still to be determined. He possesses above average speed himself, but whereas he seemingly played around with pursuing defenders in college, he will learn quickly not to taunt or tease professionals with his antics. However, one thing football fans can count on, Manziel will operate with great self-confidence and make things exciting. He knows no other way.
Shanahan, who grew up watching his dad coach John Elway, has ten years NFL experience already, the last four in Washington, where it was his job to reel in a similarly gifted player like Manziel and find the best way to utilize his talents. Robert Griffin III, another Heisman winner, 2011, brought the same helter skelter action from Baylor to the NFL two years ago, and a nasty injury taught him to quit going for the knockout punch on every down and learn to get down and avoid contact whenever possible. Griffin showed improvement doing that last season and Manziel, I am sure, is hearing a lot about RGIII’s 2013 campaign during the Browns’ training camp.
“Johnny Football” is in competition with Brian Hoyer for the starting QB role, but there is no doubt he will be under center as soon as he shows he has the offensive scheme down, and has learned that it will be better for him, and the team, if he is avoids unnecessary physical contact. NFL Johnny, better to get down, and be able to play another down!
Hoyer started only three Browns games last season while journeymen quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden started eight and five games, respectively. The Dawg Pound section at First Energy Stadium should be howling a lot this year if Manziel can find a way to utilize his abilities and avoid trying to stretch them too far.
Brady Quinn, the former Notre Dame All-American quarterback, failed miserably in his time in Cleveland, The Browns do not need another first round bust. Quinn, drafted with the twenty-second pick of the first round in 2007, played sparingly for Cleveland during his three year stint and threw ten touchdown passes with nine interceptions.
This from a guy who won the Sammy Baugh Trophy for his 2005 junior season and was the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (best college quarterback) and Maxwell Award (best college football player). Quinn has bounced around the league, playing only briefly with the Kansas City Chiefs where he had two touchdown passes and eight interceptions in 2012. He has worn Denver, Seattle, New York Jets, St. Louis Rams jerseys without playing in a regular season game, and yesterday he agreed to give it one last try with New England to try and back up Tom Brady. Quinn’s skill set did not translate to the NFL and neither did Tim Tebow’s. Both were highly rated college players. Johnny Manziel is now on the clock.
All-time great Jim Brown (he was great, but they did not name the team for him) led the Browns of Coach Paul Brown (the team’s actual namesake) to nine competitive seasons and a couple of NFL championships (pre Super Bowl era) during his nine-year career in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, but too few football victories and owner Art Modell’s battle with the city led to a team move to Baltimore after the 1995 season. Baltimore got there Ravens, and Cleveland kept their team name and got a new expansion franchise. The city got rid of the “Mistake on the Lake”, the massive Municipal Stadium that housed both the Browns and Indians, and built the new First Energy Stadium on the site. Jacobs Field, now called Progressive Field, was opened in 1994 for the Indians. Despite these community efforts, championships have not come to the shores of Lake Erie.
Championship banners may not fly anytime soon for the Browns but if Manziel is able to bring some of his college swagger, stay healthy, and up the sound meter with under control performances, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might be forced to issue some remakes of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode.