Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Let's look at the Cleveland Browns

Studying preparatory game film, no doubt:
Tyreese, Justin Bieber, Floyd Mayweather and
Johnny Manziel at about 1:30 a.m. Monday night
That brown splotch on the map of Northern Ohio is home to the woeful Cleheaveland Browns. Let's take a closer look: Yep, same as it ever was.

The 2014 Cleveland Browns have a new head coach, new coordinators and a new quarterback.

The 2013 Cleveland Browns had a new head coach, new coordinators and a new quarterback.

Yep, same as it ever was.

This new quarterback is different, some would say. Well ... Johnny Manziel was taken with the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 draft. Brandon Weeden was taken with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft. Brady Quinn was taken with the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. They keep making the same mistake.

But Johnny Manziel is different, some would say. Yeah, with about three weeks to go before start of his first training camp, he's partying with Justin Bieber and Floyd Mayweather, among others.

Man, Justin Bieber? Come on, Johnny Sporkball, can't you do better than that?  There's a saying: "Make friends with people who can make you a better person." And another: "You are known by the company you keep."

Johnny Manziel
But then, Johnny boy never had to worry much about consequences. He comes from a rich family. He's had luck, beautiful girlfriends, every opportunity, and no matter what he does, somebody is there to defend him.

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls don't care about any of that.

Because Manziel is the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, our arch-rival for the past 55 years or so, and the face of the franchise -- we care about how Manziel will perform between the white lines on the field -- just like he says is what's most important to him.

If Johnny Manziel wants to be the reincarnation of Bobby Layne, let him -- if he can pull it off.  Let him knock himself out.

Our question is about how he will perform in NFL stadiums and, particularly, against the Pittsburgh Steelers -- starting Week One of the 2014 NFL season

If he can beat out Brian Hoyer (?!), Tyler Thigpen and Connor Shaw for the starting job, the opportunity for stardom is there for Manziel, if he can reach out and grab it.  But, to us outsiders, it doesn't appear his focus is on doing that. And yet training camp is just around the corner.

Ready or not ...
The NFL game can be unforgiving. It will come at Manziel fast. He hasn't played one snap in the NFL, but first he has to navigate about two months of: The playbook, the terminology, head coach Mike Pettine, the digital-film review sessions, quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, the Cleveland media, the coaching sessions, the fans, mainstream media, the dorms in Berea, social media, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the already-questioning teammates, his agent, advertisers clamoring for him to do car commercials, workouts, scrimmages, Twitter,  the internal competition, Brian Hoyer, hangers-on, girlfriends, pre-season games (Lions, Redskins, Rams, Bears), distractions galore, Instagram, the NFL Network, ESPN, Deadspin, Entertainment Tonight, Justin Bieber, TMZ, the fans, groupies, etcetera, etc.

And then the Steelers. Week One, Sept. 7. In Pittsburgh. And the next week, the Saints, in his first home game. Then the Ravens. And the Titans. And the Steelers again. He may not see any action in any of those games.  He may not be ready.

Whether Manziel plays or not, he will get a first-hand look at three quarterbacks, in those first three games, who have won Super Bowls: Ben Roethlisberger; Drew Brees; Joe Flacco. Professional quarterbacks.

Ready or not, it will all come at Manziel fast. If he thinks all the partying he's doing this summer will help him prepare, then so be it. If he's going to play, though, he'd better be ready, and he'd better start getting ready, now. He's young, but late-night partying has a way of sapping physical energy and mental focus, quickly. But Manziel doesn't seem too serious or particularly studious about much of anything. Or mature.  Russell Wilson, he's not.

Johnny Manziel, preparing for training camp.
If what Manziel has done the past few weeks is his way of getting prepared, well, maybe it will work for him. But playing quarterback in the NFL has humbled better, more accomplished players.

And that's what we wonder about Johnny Manziel. Is he really an NFL-quality quarterback?

Again, he hasn't played a down. But for Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, Manziel doesn't pass the eye test. He never did. He looks awkward. He's smallish. His arm strength looks so-so. The linebackers he out-ran in college won't be on the field in the NFL.  He won't have Michael Evans at wide receiver. He won't even have Josh Gordon, not for a while, at least.

What's more, he's never faced adversity. If, in one of his early games, he goes for 4 for 21 with three picks and two fumbles ... well, let the howling and second-guessing begin.

If the Browns were going to draft a quarterback at that spot in the first round, we'd think they would have taken a very close look at Derek Carr out of Fresno State, who went a few picks later in the draft to Oakland. But owner Jimmy Haslam wanted Manziel. Be careful what you wish for.

Maybe Manziel will carry his fairy dust from College Station to Cleveland and find that it dazzles Dick LeBeau and the Steelers' defense in Week One of the 2014 season. We wouldn't bet on it.

Our money says the boy with the "money phone" has a long way to go before he proves himself a man in the NFL.

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