When Johnny Manziel joined the Browns, he said he wanted to ‘wreck this league’.
Manziel was partly right, but he did more ‘wrecking’ of himself, as well as the Browns.
Browns quarterback coach at the time, Dowell Loggains re-told the story on Arkansas ESPN after the 2014 NFL Draft:
“We're sitting there and they keep showing Johnny on TV and Johnny and I are texting and he shoots me a text and he says, 'I wish you guys would come get me. Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together.' “
On Tuesday, when Sashi Brown put out a statement regarding Manziel it certainly allowed one to read between the lines and leave a clear message that Manziel and the Browns will soon be officially parting ways.
The whole Manziel experiment was doomed from the start. Leading up to the draft, most draft experts said either Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater would be better fits for the Browns. I never really thought Manziel was seriously considered as a candidate for the Browns because league sources told me before the draft that Ray Farmer liked Carr and Bridgewater better than Manziel. It made sense to me because in what I knew of Farmer, Manziel did not seem to fit the profile of the type of player that Farmer would be interested in, nor would want to stake his reputation to him. Add in the fact, Mike Pettine as a first time head coach, didn’t seem to be the type of coach that would want to tie his first head coaching stint to an under-sized quarterback who had never been in a pro style structured offense—not to mention had a history of being a party animal.
There is the whole Jimmy Haslam conspiracy that he ordered Farmer to draft Manziel—which Haslam has denied, but that is a story for another day.
By the way, the other two aforementioned second-year quarterbacks appeared in their first Pro Bowls last weekend. Meanwhile, Manziel was being searched for in Texas by a police helicopter.
I remember distinctly the night Manziel joined the Browns. I was doing a live draft show on the first night of the 2014 NFL Draft on FoxSports/SportsTimeOhio. The Browns had the 26th pick in the first round after making two trades earlier that night and drafting Justin Gilbert eighth overall. My scheduled appearance was supposed to be about an hour before the Browns made their next selection. However, while we were discussing what the Browns might do, the producer of the show, Gene Winters held up a sign that said “trade”. We knew of all the talk and rumors about the Browns possibly having an interest in Manziel, but certainly the Browns were not trading up to get Manziel.
When the move was confirmed that the Browns had indeed drafted Manziel while we were talking, respected college football analyst Phil Steele and show host, Bruce Drennan were virtually speechless. The three of us all were trying to process the news on live television as it was happening.
Manziel showed progress on the field in his second season, throwing for 1,500 yards in six starts. He finished with seven touchdowns and five interceptions with a 79.4 rating in year two after posting a dismal 42.0 rating as rookie. However, every time he started to take a step forward, he took two steps backwards.
After being named the starting quarterback for the final six games after putting up 372 yards in a loss to the Steelers, Manziel was benched for lying to the coaches and trying to cover it up about his activities during the bye week.
When Manziel was given another chance to start, he had mixed results but finished the season on a down note as he reported concussion-like symptoms mid-week of the season finale and after being declared out for the last game, missed a concussion treatment as well as the game on Sunday with reports he was in Las Vegas partying under the alias name of “Billy”.
There is no question that Manziel progressed on the field from his rookie season to his second season, but off the field, not so much.
With new coach Hue Jackson taking over the Browns, it is time for a fresh start for all involved. Jackson, as of yet, has not specifically talked about Manziel, but his description of the type of quarterback he envisions doesn’t fit the profile of Manziel. However, even if Manziel was Jackson’s type of quarterback on the field, there is no way he or the Browns can trust Manziel to turn over the keys to the franchise with his history off the field. If Manziel was going to be the team’s quarterback, the Browns would have to commit to him and build around him this off-season.
If not, they need to part ways. Manziel brings too much attention to the team —mostly negative— and as a backup quarterback is not worth the headache for all involved.
Manziel’s career in Cleveland started with a lot of mixed opinions and it will certainly end the same. When Manziel was drafted, the consensus was Manziel was a ‘boom or bust’ draft choice, and unfortunately for the Browns, it appears—at least for now—it was the latter.