BEREA, Ohio—Jimmy Haslam met with the local media and insisted he didn’t meddle in the draft.
Haslam also was asked about drafting Manziel.
“Let me give you the full story and I’ve never said anything about this because I don’t like getting into he said, she said type conversations, but it started when Sal Paolantonio was here for the draft and I’d never met Sal and he came back to my office and he said ‘isn’t Cleveland a wonderful football town’ and I said ‘it really is’ and I said ’let me give you an example,” Haslam said. “And I told him about going to give the speech at the, I can’t remember I think it was a Boy Scout dinner, Boys Club, Girls Club, whatever it was and the homeless person saying draft Manziel. The point was not that that’s why we picked Manziel. My point was everybody’s interested in football and he took that and I’m going to assume there was nothing malicious but ran with it. It made a great story, okay?
“The organization agreed we were going to pick a quarterback, Johnny was the top-rated quarterback on the board at this time and I know everybody’s down on Johnny right now, but go back and look at all the mock picks, go back and look at all the ratings, Johnny’s obviously controversial, but every single person had him just about in the top, in the first round,” he said. “You asked about the draft. One of our guys handed me something the other day. I think Cleveland.com rated us an A, you know?
“USA Today had us No. 1 out of the 32,” he continued. “We didn’t get all excited about that you’ve got to let these things, it’s like recruiting classes, you’ve got to let it pan out and see. We’ll know in a couple years. But that’s the full Manziel story. We were going to pick a quarterback. When our pick came, he was our top-ranked quarterback on the board. We picked Manziel. If his name had been Joe Smith we would’ve picked him, okay? Because he’s Johnny Manziel and Johnny Football, it makes a great story, ownership, president football, etc. that’s just not the case. I’m not going to get into the Dowell (Loggains) stuff, just to say that his story is inaccurate and I’ll just leave it at that.”
Haslam was asked about Manziel’s character and background.
“Let me say this: I don’t know how much of Johnny’s personal life was known by everybody then and I don’t know how much it’s known now,” Haslam said. “I’ll go back to what I’m saying: Prolific college career and by almost everybody rated as a first-round pick. You might have had him as the first, second or third quarterback, but a few people didn’t like him but a lot of people really liked him.
“I think it’s way too early to give up on Johnny,” he said. “I do. I think it’s way too early to give up on him. We certainly haven’t given up on him. Now, if it’s two years from now and Johnny hasn’t played any and doesn’t have his personal life together, that’s different, but it’s way too early. I think everybody is way too harsh – he’s an easy guy to pile on – for everybody to give up on him."