Monday, February 24, 2014

If Manziel is there for the Browns, grab him

So why should the Browns hope they are in position to select Johnny Manziel with the fourth pick in the first round of the National Football League’s college football draft?

Three words: He. Makes. Plays.

It’s really that simple. In two seasons at Texas A&M, he made plays on a regular basis. Nothing fluky. Just run-of-the-mill clutch plays when his team needed them. He made them every which way, not including standing on his head.

He has what some call the “it” factor. 

Call what he has accomplished dumb luck. Call it anything you want. You do it long enough and it ceases to be dumb luck. His accomplishments speak volumes for themselves. Manziel is one impressive football player. 

When facing the media for the first time at the National Football League Scouting Combine in Indianapolis recently, he handled himself like a 10-year veteran. Poise oozed from his pores.

Quarterbacks like Manziel do not come along often. But when they do, teams like the Browns need to make certain he winds up in their colors. Cleveland desperately needs a quarterback. And there’s a good chance he’ll be there for the taking.

Right now, there is no question Manziel would much rather be selected by his home state Houston Texans, who own the first pick of the draft. He has made that quite clear. There are those who think the Texans are a good quarterback away from being a playoff contender. If they do take one, Manziel might not be the one they have in mind.

Manziel, who hails from Earl Campbell’s hometown of Tyler, said earlier this week he’d have no problem playing for Cleveland if the Browns drafted him. He handled that possibility like a politician.

He arrives in professional football with a few negatives and truckloads of positives. Yes, he doesn’t have a bazooka arm. Yes, he has trouble staying in the pocket. And yes, he is shorter than former – and failed – Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy. But . . .

He. Makes. Plays.

If there is anyone who can help him make a smooth transition to the NFL, it’s new Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who shepherded Robert Griffin III through his rookie season in Washington in spectacular fashion. Griffin and Manziel operated similar offenses in college.

There are those in Browns Nation fearful that Manziel is nothing more than a smaller McCoy, whose stay in Cleveland was short and woefully unproductive. But Manziel has something McCoy never came close to winning: A Heisman Trophy.

His collegiate numbers in key areas dwarf those of McCoy. They are close in completion percentage (McCoy leading, 70.3% to 69%), but Manziel tops him in just about every other category.

For example, Manziel accounted for 93 touchdowns (63 passing and 30 running) in just two seasons. McCoy needed four seasons to account for 132 (112 passing and 20 running). And Manziel’s 2,169 rushing yards easily top McCoy’s 1,571.

There is something wonderfully magical about Manziel. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but you just know something special is going to happen when he’s on the field. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens often enough to the point where you can’t take your eyes off of him.

He is a great play waiting to happen. The only mystery is when.

Too many experts are making a big deal about Manziel’s height, a smidge and a quarter under six feet tall. Small quarterbacks do not translate well to the NFL, they believe. They have to get on their tiptoes to see over their offensive line.

Tell that to Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Fran Tarkenton, shorties who helped guide their teams to the Super Bowl. What they lacked in height they more than made up for with their almost fanatical desire to win.

Brees, Wilson and Tarkenton are (were) overachievers, that small group of athletes who play well beyond what others perceive as talent limitations.

Are they exceptions to the rule? Of course. But who’s to say Manziel can’t be the next exception? Who’s to say he can’t come right in and work his magic on the elite NFL level?

He has that capability. His ability to will his team to play above its talent level is why the Aggies played well enough to appear in a couple of BCS bowl games in his two seasons there.

His critics don’t take into consideration his wonderful feel for the game. That can’t be taught. Either you have it or you don’t. He is not the fastest quarterback, but overcomes that with his amazing quickness. He is a play extender.

Manziel is mindful of another small quarterback who had that innate ability to overcome his physical shortcomings and take the Browns to within a shouting distance of the Super Bowl in the early 1980s.

Brian Sipe was not a big guy. He was listed at 6-1, 195 pounds but stood much closer to 6-0 and maybe 185. He was the classic overachiever who played much better through sheer desire and determination. He was the quintessential leader.

The Browns need a leader like Manziel. They need someone who can lead by example. That’s what he did in College Station for two seasons. There is no reason to believe he won’t be able to do the same thing with the Browns.

All he needs is a chance. The question is whether the Browns, should they get that opportunity, can pull the trigger on a short quarterback whose confidence level couldn’t be any higher.

If there is one franchise that badly needs an infusion of confidence and attitude, especially on offense, it’s the Browns. If Manziel is there when Roger Goodell puts them on the clock with the fourth pick, they have to take him.

But if he’s not, I do not advocate trading up to get him. As much as I like him, and with other viable quarterbacks in the mix, trading draft picks is an ill-advised venture. They are nuggets that must be mined, especially this year with 10 picks in a draft labeled by many as the deepest in a decade.

So cross your fingers Browns fans aching to see Manziel in Seal Brown and Orange and hope Houston and maybe Jacksonville don't believe he is the next coming of Brees, Wilson or Tarkenton and take a pass.


  1. Would you trade up for him? If so, how much would you be willing to give up? I'm not sure he's there at 4. Paul from Seattle.

    1. Answered that one in the penultimate paragraph, Paul. I value draft picks way too much; even more so on this deep draft.

      If Houston or Jacksonville come calling, I'd say no thanks if I were the Browns. But that's just me.

  2. Do you really want every Sunday in Cleveland to be known as "A Day At The Improv"? Still too much of a gamble(IMHO). When you say he has a feel for the game, obviously you mean the college game, since he has yet to experience the NFL game. You can get away with a lot of sandlot dramatics at the college level, but when the best in the business get involved, things change.

    1. Maybe so, South. But I stick to my guns and believe he will translate well to the NFL.

      Of course, it's a gamble. Isn't the college draft one big gamble? There are no guarantees.

    2. Some bets are safer than others, but again we agree to disagree.