Is Manziel’s Time Up in Cleveland?

Johnny Football came into the NFL with all the attention and allure of any player in recent memory. His ability in college to make amazing plays out of nothing, especially in the SEC, is what made Johnny such an icon and helped him earn the honor of the Heisman trophy. But once he stepped into the NFL, even more eyes were drawn to him because no one knew how he would perform. Experts and analysts made countless comparisons to Manziel. Gil Brandt compared him to Doug Flutie. Daniel Jeremiah made several characteristic based comparisons saying he has the ability improvise like Romo and the build of Jeff Garcia. But after playing basically 2 NFL games this season (7 quarters), the only comparison that can be made to Manziel currently is a dumpster fire.

Manziel and Hoyer competed in the preseason for the starting job with Hoyer winning after both had mediocre performances in their respective starts. Manziel also had his first immature moment of the season when he was caught flipping off the Redskins sideline after they began chirping him. His immaturity didn’t end here, but it didn’t start here either.

Before he was named the starter at Texas A&M, Manziel was arrested for a fight outside a bar in 2012. Then he had his Heisman season and became the Johnny Football we know today. Along with his on the field success, Johnny Manziel was photographed at countless parties, clubs, events, etc during his time at College Station. While in college he experienced several other troubles including being sent home from the Manning Passing Academy, being heckled at frat parties, and a half game suspension for alleged autograph sessions. More sketchy photos were released from this point including one that appears to be Johnny with a rolled up dollar bill in a public bathroom. He has shown he is unable to stay out of the media spotlight and the clubs and even up until recently was again involved in a scuffle with a fan at 2am. Manziel has salvaged any positive public image by saying all the right things during news conferences and he vows to focus next season but has not shown any real signs that this is truly the case.

When it comes to his one field play JFF didn’t show much promise either. Hoyer was the starter for the first 13 games of the season with a few impressive performances; but typically was managing games enough for the Browns to be in most of their games late. But after a several bad games in a row where he threw 7 interceptions and 0 touchdowns, he was benched for Johnny Manziel.

Manziel’s first real game experience came in Week 13 against the Bills. Manziel entered the game late in the 4th quarter. He immediately led a decisive touchdown drive capped by an 11-yd touchdown run by Manziel. Yet he did not start the following game against the Colts, where again Hoyer threw two interceptions and no touchdowns in a Browns loss. Manziel was finally given his first start in Week 15 against the Bengals. This game may go down as one of the worst starts by an NFL rookie ever in the NFL. They lost this game 30-0 in embarrassing fashion, as I viewed it live from the Dawg Pound. Johnny appeared skittish and ill-prepared and his receivers didn’t help him much with several dropped balls. Manziel finished the game with a 4.8 QBR. The majority of his passes were late or in the wrong spot. It was obvious he was not ready.

As far as his future goes, Manziel will definitely be competing for the starting spot next season in Cleveland. Browns GM Ray Farmer knows better than to judge Manziel on such a small sample size. JaMarcus Russell showed more promise than Manziel in his first games and Peyton Manning looked horrible in his first starts as well. Manziel has plenty of red flags that would scare any organization but what better options does Cleveland have? They can try and trade up for a Mariota or Winston in hopes that either will be unlike the last 20 other quarterbacks they have started. Or they can sign a veteran like Mark Sanchez or Matt Schaub to push Manziel to compete. In any case, Manziel is worth holding on to for the time being. He still has time to develop and is likely not valuable trade bait at the moment. For these reasons Johnny Manziel will likely stay put in Cleveland at least for another year.  This is not the case for the offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.  Both have left the Browns in hopes of landing jobs elsewhere.  Shanahan is interviewing for several other HC and OC jobs and it won’t be long till he is hired.  The revolving door that is Cleveland continues to turn.

 

~Aaron G. Guilkey

 

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Browns Season in Review

Cleveland has experienced an up-and-down season full of quarterback controversy, major injuries, money signs, and no playoffs. Yet, there is reason for Cleveland fans to be excited as ever for the direction the Browns organization is heading.

The Browns finish the season at 7-9 after losing to Baltimore in the final week of NFL regular season play. They finished the season losing 6 of their last 7 games, including 5 straight, after starting the year 6-3. But surprisingly, Cleveland is loaded with young talent on both sides of the ball and it won’t be long till they are in the playoffs.

This most recent draft the Browns selected cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel in the 1st round. Each player struggled during the season with their limited playing time but did show flashes of greatness. Manziel led a decisive touchdown drive late in the game against one of the NFL’s best defenses in Buffalo and Gilbert had an impressive pick-six versus the Colts. Both players were called out recently by veterans Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby for not taking this season as seriously as they should. They are playing two of the most difficult positions to translate into the NFL and will need another year or two to develop so hope is certainly not lost with these two. Their levels of maturity and commitment will be the deciding factors determining their future success. The other drafts picks OT Joel Bitonio, LB Christian Kirksey, RB Terrance West, and even CB Pierre Desir showed tremendous ability throughout the year. West, Kirksey, and Bitonio all played at some point during every single game this season with Bitonio having the best year by far from this group with an all-pro caliber season. Ray Farmer’s first draft class is strong and will get better. This offseason he will be armed with two more 1st round picks (#12 & #19) and a league high of 10 total picks, one in each round and two in rounds 1, 4, and 6. Look for Farmer to add more depth to the roster with these picks, specifically the WR, DL, ILB, and possibly QB in the mid to late rounds. The Browns will not likely use all 10 picks to draft but will utilize them as ammunition for trades for future picks to move up or down in this draft.

As far as this season goes, the Browns were a pleasant surprise to start the season with stunning 2nd half comebacks including the NFL’s greatest road comeback victory in Tennessee (25pts). A soft midseason schedule helped the Browns leap to the top of the AFC North, which only lasted one week. Losses to teams like the Jaguars, Texans, and Bills showed the Browns were still the Browns as their late season slide began. The events that were a catalyst to this late season skid encompass several key injuries to Jordan Cameron, Josh Gordon (suspension), Tashaun Gipson, the entire defensive front seven and most importantly center Alex Mack. When Mack went down in a 21-point rout of the Steelers the Browns offensive was never the same and they spent the rest of season rotating between three other severely inadequate replacements. The run game for the Browns never recovered fully after losing their Pro Bowl center and the run game is the reason for the Browns early season success on offense.

The defense this season proved to be opportunistic with Kruger brining in 11 sacks and 3 forced fumbles, Tashaun Gipson snagging 6 Int’s in 11 games, Haden and Skrine had a combined 7 Int’s, resulting in a +8 turnover differential even with turnover prone quarterback play. The Browns main defensive issue this season was stopping the run as they finished dead last in the league in terms of opponents rushing yards per game (141.6 yards). But the pass defense played at a top ten level for most the year with Joe Haden entrusted with the toughest assignments every week. Haden went up against the likes of Jimmy Graham, Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, plus Steve Smith Sr., AJ Green, and Antonio Brown twice each. He wasn’t able to shut them all down but he did do a good job of limiting their impact and opportunities. To be fair, Antonio Brown torched him this season with 100 yards in each game.

Overall the Browns improved on at basically every position on the field through development, draft picks, free agents, etc. Pettine proved to be a much needed stabilizing figure for the Browns organization showing zero emotion on the sidelines each game. At least his sideline demeanor is more comforting than say a Romeo Crennel or Pat Shurmur uneasiness. The Browns future is bright. The team is young and developing and finally has what appears to be some stability in Pettine and Farmer. This season ended poorly but look for Cleveland to make a splash next season and beyond.

 

~Aaron G. Guilkey

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