Another season concludes in Cleveland, with many of the same long-standing questions lingering for the organization. Ongoing issues with Josh Gordon, Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert continue to make the team look dysfunctional to outsiders.
The three players named created enough of a stir amongst the locker room that they have been deemed distractions and rightfully called out by players, the head coach, general manager and team owner
Still, on the inside, the picture is being clarified.
For the first time in a few years, the head coach will return for a second season. Mike Pettine did a solid job in his first season at the helm in Cleveland and has earned every right to lead this team going forward.
This isn’t to say Pettine doesn’t have areas within his game to improve upon – he certainly does. Clock management ranks right up there with them, but don’t disregard the job he did in getting a locker room to buy into his tough talk about accountability. With a handful of young players challenging Pettine’s emphasis within the locker room, Pettine maintained a much-needed balance – but his decision to start rookie Johnny Manziel was the one move which his team leadership weren’t onboard with.
The Fast Lane had reported throughout the season that Manziel didn’t play due to not being ready. There were always questions regarding how diligent he was, only to learn he was improving. The talk about the rookie improving continued, but the extent of this improvement was unknown until his number was called one frightening afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Heading into Manziel’s first start, nobody within the organization truly knew what to expect. Players within the locker room anticipated the change at QB due to the offense being stagnant for weeks, but were also not convinced Manziel was ready for the spotlight.
The Browns performance in arguably the biggest game of the season for them only clarified the position of those within the locker room – the belief in the rookie wasn’t there and the team was troubled with the decision to start Manziel.
Following two performances deemed as poor by many within the organization and after disclosing what we already knew, Manziel openly admitted he didn’t work nearly as hard as he should have and needed to. He wasn’t as prepared as he should have been and was disappointed in his play. The rookie took his place within the locker room for granted.
Many argue the point Manziel has the right to do what he wants during his off-time, and they are correct. But, to be “the man”, a leader of men and the QB of an NFL team, you can’t skate by doing the minimum. Manziel’s every move is watched, scrutinized and watched some more. His teammates hear the stories, see he hasn’t been working as hard as the guy (Brian Hoyer) on the depth chart and doesn’t display the seriousness and attentiveness of the starter, nor the rookie QB on the practice squad, Connor Shaw.
Manziel wasn’t the problem child much of the discussion would lead you to believe though. Granted, he was late for a handful of team functions. He wouldn’t be the guy you’d see in the facility much earlier than when required and wasn’t a guy that stayed late often.
He wasn’t breaking the rules, but he simply wasn’t putting himself out there and showing he wanted it. All eyes simply saw him for what he is at this time: an immature rookie in the NFL that hasn’t experienced the grind of having to be held to a higher standard without special treatment.
With that, if Johnny Manziel is to become a viable solution for the Browns QB woes, he may want to heed the advice many have attempted to provide him within the Cleveland Browns organization.
“This isn’t Texas A&M, Johnny. Nobody here cares what you did yesterday; it’s all about what you are doing now – today, tomorrow and so on. When you’re out there having a ball, think about these guys in the locker room that sacrifice. Play the game as if it could be their last opportunity.”