Time for action
So the Browns have shut down Johnny Manziel for the rest of the exhibition season. Perhaps it’s time to take this situation more seriously.
It’s time for General Manager Ray Farmer to become proactive. Hoping Manziel’s elbow injury gets better isn’t going to make it better. Farmer needs to act and act now.
It requires a bold, somewhat radical move. And it will have to be made out of desperation because the Browns cannot afford to enter the 2016 season with a 36-year-old quarterback whose backup is Thad Lewis.
There is a quarterback out there who can be had for the right price. Right now, he is firmly ensconced at No. 2 on the depth chart behind rookie sensation Marcus Mariota down in Tennessee.
Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner seems to have made a smooth transition to the more conventional style of quarterbacking in the National Football League, cementing Zach Mettenberger to the Titans’ bench.
And wouldn’t Mettenberger look good in the Seal Brown and Orange. All it will take is for Farmer, before he begins his four-game suspension at the beginning of the regular season, to make Tennessee General Manager Ruston Webster an offer for Mettenberger he can’t refuse.
He needs to pick up the phone, call Webster and do a whatever-it-takes deal that brings the big quarterback to Cleveland. If that means giving up as high as a third-round choice in next year’s college draft, so be it. Maybe even a second-rounder.
The 6-5, 225-pound Mettenberger, who has a howitzer attached to his right arm, has what scouts love to call a very high upside. The fact he operated a pro-style offense at Louisiana State University also works in his favor.
There is no way he grows in Tennessee with Mariota, the club’s No. 1 draft pick, firmly locked into the starting role. If Mettenberger can be pried away, the Titans still have veteran Charlie Whitehurst to back up Mariota in the event of an emergency.
Even though Mettenberger was only a sixth-round pick in the 2014 college draft, it would behoove Farmer to consider dangling that very high pick to bring him to Cleveland, where his immediate future would be much brighter since he would have only 36-year-old Josh McCown in front of him.
Mettenberger, who would automatically become the club’s second-best quarterback, also would bring NFL starting experience. He appeared in seven games (six starts) as a rookie for the Titans in the second half of last season and threw for 1,412 yards, completing 59.8% of his passes for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Skeptics of such a proposal might ask, “Why panic? Manziel will be all right. Settle down.” Let’s take a look at that.
Some quarterbacks normally go through a dead-arm period at some time during training camp. The velocity is down, the ball rotation isn’t there, the sharpness is missing. They usually recover.
But there’s nothing dead about Manziel’s arm. It’s his throwing elbow that aches. It hurts. When the only thing he can do with a football for the time being is just toss to himself in the air to while away the time, that’s cause for worrying.
When the club shuts him down completely until the start of the regular season, that’s a big red flag. There is no guarantee he will be healthy enough to suit up for the regular season. If the Browns have to rely on Lewis and and/or recently signed Pat Devlin to back up McCown, that’s cause for concern.
This isn’t to say the club is minimizing the situation with Manziel, but it is most unusual for any team to shut down any quarterback for a relatively prolonged period of time.
Dead arms eventually come back to life. Elbows that hurt, on the other hand, are much more delicate. Just ask any major league pitcher with an elbow ligament problem. Can you say Tommy John surgery? That’s the surgery for any pitcher with a major elbow injury.
Quarterbacks whose delivery is more over the top usually experience shoulder problems, not elbow pain. Perhaps a change in delivery is in order for Manziel, whose three-quarters release might be the culprit causing his pain.
Browns coach Mike Pettine revealed the other day that Manziel has experienced this pain since high school, which makes his collegiate exploits all the more remarkable. So why are we just now finding out about his elbow woes?
Manziel’s MRI indicates there is no structural damage. If that’s the case, why then is his hinge still bothering him? Something’s wrong inside. Right now, team physicians obviously believe complete rest is the best cure.
But complete rest takes Manziel further away from being ready for the season opener two weeks from Sunday against the New York Jets. Rust begins to grow with inactivity. He is missing the repetitions needed to remain sharp.
Staying mentally ready is one thing. It remains to be seen how the physical inactivity will affect him. How ready is he going to be if something happens to McCown once the regular season commences?
If that’s the case and Manziel’s problems don’t go away, major problems loom. It’s quite clear the Browns need help at the most vital position on a football team. It’s time for Farmer to do something about it.