Johnny Manziel and the Theory of Relativity

Many are excited about what they saw from Cleveland Browns' QB Johnny Manziel on Friday Night. I take a look at how the Theory of Relativity might be clouding our judgement.

My freshman year of college was interesting for a myriad of reasons. Two of my best friends were a big part of it. The three of us were a unique group. One guy was about 6'4" and worked out a lot. The other guy was extremely intelligent and very caring/friendly. Then there was me: The loud mouth, extrovert. Combined we were fun to be around and had all the bases covered.

Until one day one of our friends, a freshman girl, said the following: "_____ has the looks, _____ has the brains and Jared has the personality. Put you three together and you'd be the perfect guy."

The reality was pretty simple: The first guy was good looking because the other two of us were nothing too impressive to look at. The other showed as smart because the good looking guy focused on working out and I was too busy being funny. And compared to me, almost everyone seemed to have a very reserved personality.

It's the Theory of Relativity. We all know it. I look tall when I play basketball because most of the other guys are 5'9". I was a shrimp, at 5'11", Friday night interviewing some of the Cleveland Browns players. 

The Theory of Relativity is all about what you are surrounded by or being compared to. In the case of Johnny Manziel this theory is very important as we look at him during Training Camp and the Pre-Season.

I covered Friday Night's Scrimmage from on the field. Something we don't really get to do during the season, it was a great chance to watch all the details and nuance of the game. When I returned to the press box after the game, it was interesting to hear far different opinions about Manziel's performance than from what I gathered up close.

There were obviously reasons to be positive. 

  • Johnny was unofficially was 9-11 for 93 yards and a touchdown.
  • He looked in control of the offense.
  • Manziel stayed in the pocket primarily both in drills and in the 11 on 11s.
  • His back shoulder throw to Josh Lenz was amazing! He went through his progressions and threw his man open with a perfectly placed ball.

Taking that video from the sideline gave me a different perspective, the view from above was even better.

These things are what led many in the media to be excited about Manziel's chances this season. Some even took Joe Thomas's words out of context when he talked about Manziel, via Cleveland.com:

"He's really proved to a lot of people that this is important to him and he's ready to be an NFL starting quarterback,'' said Thomas. "Playing well in the scrimmage tonight and looking like an NFL quarterback is another good step in the direction that he wants to go. He's just earning that trust of his teammates that he's going to need to do if he wants to be that starter. He impressed a lot of people out here tonight.''

He clarified that Josh McCown was the team's starter and that it wasn't even a discussion on who should be the team's starter, yet the above quotes drove the narrative: "Joe Thomas Thinks Manziel Could Be Starter."

Have to wonder if Thomas is struggling with a little Theory of Relativity bias himself. This is a player that was very hard on Manziel last year and has watched every movement of Johnny since entering the league.

This isn't to rain on any parade but to point out some obvious facts. Johnny Manziel is much better than he was last year but last year he was a dumpster fire. What he has shown so far this would have been great last year but is just the start. He has a lot of things to work on before really being starting level quality.

There were a few things I saw from field level that "proved" this fact to me:

  • Manziel has developed a Brandon Weeden-esque ball pat when he is trying to find an open receiver. He stops right before throwing, a clear giveaway to the defensive line.
  • He still waited, on almost every throw besides the Lenz one, until receivers broke open to throw the ball instead of throwing them open.
  • Johnny still stares down receivers.
  • Manziel's accuracy, something I praised him for coming out of college, was still not great:

Finally, many are pointing to him having two TD passes but that is more of a reaction to the boxscore than the actual play. From the press box, neither our own Fred Greetham or ESPN's Pat McManamon were able to see the quality of the pass on one of the TDs. The ball to rookie E.J. Bibbs was late, wobbly and floated. Bibbs made a great adjustment of his body and showed off his great hands (I love what I saw from the undrafted rookie) to haul in the pass. So while fans and media might be excited, the Browns are probably far less so about this TD.

Johnny Manziel got a ton of love following Friday Night's Scrimmage. Much of it was deserved but much of it was because of the Theory of Relativity. Relative to last year's performance, any type of competent QB play from Manziel will get high praise. 

If he can continue this development (this year is in essence his rookie season) the Browns could just have their QB of the Future already on their roster. The guy Friday Night was just much better than the Johnny Football on 2014. Perspective is key.

Where do you sit with your thoughts on Johnny Manziel: Very excited, cautiously optimistic or has the ship sailed for you?


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