Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cleveland is the Best Match for Manziel

 Can Johnny maintain his concentration on football?   We'll find out...

   There is a lot of media buzz that says the Cleveland Browns need to jetison Johnny Manziel as quickly as possible so that some team like the Dallas Cowboys can pick him up and allow him to reinvent himself.    In this fan's humble opinion, that is nonsense.  Cleveland is a good place for a troubled but talented football player trying to find himself, and the Browns have no compelling need to replace him.

Make no mistake, Manziel is a high risk project and may fall prey to an off the field substance abuse problem.  Nobody really knows for sure if he can or should handle alcohol at this point, or whether he would be better off going to rehab.  Then there is some question whether he can actually play, though if you look at the numbers they are actually rather encouraging.  

But if you think in terms of rookie quarterbacks, ALL rookie quarterbacks are  at risk of failure for one reason or another.   The success rate is not better than 50%.  Manziel came out of college two years early, so 2016 should have been his rookie year. Looking at him that way, he's about where he should be:   promising but with considerable doubt whether he will make it or not.  The Browns could take Pax Lynch, Connor Cook or Jared Goff, but nobody knows whether they will succeed brilliantly, and it is even less likely that they will be ready for stardom in 2016.  No, if Manziel were allowed to be re-drafted, I imagine he would slide some because of his off-the-field issues, but he would still be taken in an early round.    

Another point I would like to make is that just because he was a first round draft pick does not mean that he has to be a superstar to justify the pick. He was drafted with the 23rd pick, and many felt that guys like Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Terry Bridgewater and maybe Jimmy Garoppolo might be better.  In his draft position, he projects to maybe the 15th to 20th best quarterback in the NFL after a few years, and maybe some additional upside.  In other words, he might be as good as Josh McCown is now based on statistical ranking.   That's very reasonable.  

The  Browns are able to play without him in 2016.  They probably aren't contending for the Super Bowl anyway, and if Manziel were unavailable due to injury or some off the field issue, they have Josh McCown, Austin Davis and Connor Shaw available.   Everyone seems to deplore McCown, but the fact is that his rating of 93.3 ranks 14th in the NFL, far and away the best rating achieved by a Brown since their return to the NFL.  Austin Davis won 3 games as a substitute starter for the Rams in 2014, and Connor Shaw has been studying the playbook for two years.   These guys are all capable backups, now with an extra year to study the team, should Manziel not be available.  Conversely, if they draft a developmental quarterback, they would have to cut Davis or McCown in favor of the rookie with limited experience with the playbook.  Unless it's a true franchise qb, he won't have a major impact in 2016.  

Browns fans think that all the quarterbacks are horrible, but this is not true.  In reality they are four deep, though none is a star.  

Absolutely nothing good would happen if the Browns throw in the towel on Manziel.   He's under contract thru 2017 with an option year for 2018.  Since he gets guaranteed money, the Browns would incur a salary cap  penalty if they cut ties with him early.  What possible purpose does that serve?

    The Browns are clearly uncomfortable having a controversial and highly visible personality representing their team.  Pettine in particular appears to have cracked due to the pressure and interest surrounding Manziel and whether or not he will start or be kicked off the team or whatever.  But other sports figures generate huge media following and endless questions.  Joe Namath, Fernando Valenzuela, Ichiro Suzuki and Tim Tebow come to mind, just to name a few.   That's part of being in the sports and entertainment business.  

Manziel's issues involving substance abuse are potentially very serious not only to the team but also his life. That needs to be separated from the media publicity surrounding his every move.  If Manziel needs to go back to treatment, that's one thing.  But the fact that he goes to Texas and get kissed by pretty girls should not embarrass the team. What's the matter with you guys? That's not embarrassing.  The rest of us should be so lucky! The media spotlight, though perhaps a pain sometimes, should absolutely not deter the team from keeping him.  If you don't like fame and publicity, you shouldn't operate in the NFL.    

Controversy surrounding Manziel is dwarfed by the larger-than-life exploits of other quarterbacks including Joe Namath.  Cleveland, get used to it.  Coach Pettine, quit your whining.  New York has ten times as much media scrutiny and pressure as Cleveland.  

I think if they wanted to improve the offense quickly, an impact wide receiver and running back would be a better investment.  Our existing qbs would be better if the Browns were better than last place in rushing, and after Travis Benjamin we really have no receiver to scare the likes of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.   

So I think we should definitely keep Manziel for another year and see if he can work through his problems, maybe with a better coaching staff to help out.  Not interested in drafting another quarterback unless there is some hotshot that is just too good to pass up.  Draft a running back and wide receiver instead and maybe a lineman in a later round.  

There are a lot of areas that need to be fixed on a team that is close to last in rushing offense, rushing defense and overall defense. Quarterback is not great, but is adequate for at least the next year even if Manziel doesn't play a down.    Manziel offers upside, and the main negative is psychological as the fan base and front office have trouble dealing with their feelings about him.  

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