By Sam Torres
After the Cleveland Browns’ first preseason game, it is evident Johnny Manziel should start at QB.
The last time I saw Johnny Manziel playing football, it was in the Chick-Fil-A bowl on December 31, 2013. He was playing against the 23rd ranked Duke Blue Devils, but still he found himself down 38–17 at halftime. Then in the 2nd half Johnny Football did what Johnny Football does best: dominate. He showcased his electrifying backyard style of playing football, dodging and ducking burly lineman, while delivering on-point passes to his fellow Aggies downfield, all in route to a 52–48 comeback win and a stat line that reads: 30 for 38 for 382 yards passing and four touchdowns while collecting 73 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Gaudy numbers to say the least.
Reflecting back on that time, it’s easy to see why Manziel’s preseason debut against the Detroit Lions was receiving so much hype. Manziel was an absolute beast in college. There is no denying that, but what made the preseason debut so interesting was it gave a fair chance for all football fans to get their first crack to judging the former Aggie quarterback.
His staunchest supporters were looking for him to showcase his invigorating style of play, his “#MoneyManziel” swagger, and his smug Heisman-winning entitlement, all while proving you can play Broadway Johnny and act the part too. His haters, of course we’re looking to validate their year-long criticisms of Johnny being too involved with celebrities and partying, and not enough on football.
Personally, I never really had a problem with Manziel’s antics. Sure, he probably wouldn’t be the type of guy I’d like to spend my weekends with but at the end of the day, was what he really doing all that bad? Who are we to say that he must live his life a certain way in order to achieve success as an NFL quarterback? Molds are meant to be broken, and Johnny is aiming to be the guy who breaks it.
I think Saturday night was the beginning of that mold being broken.
During the game, Brian Hoyer was everything we thought he would be. He was accurate and efficient, looking much better than his 6 for 14 with 92 yards stat line. He had control of the huddle, effectively got the offense set up and looked much like the steady, veteran quarterback we expect him to be.
The problem for Hoyer was that Manziel was everything we expected him to be too. And I’m not talking about your off-the-wall, scrambling in circles, circus act that Manziel displayed at Texas A&M. I’m pretty sure everyone tempered their expectations for the rookie first round pick. But what we all did see were those flashes of what made him so special in college. He had a swift delivery, a spiraling touch that Hoyer just did not have. He was quick and agile in the pocket, creating several opportunities for the Brown’s offense when things fell apart. And when things weren’t falling apart, the Brown’s play callers still tried to feed Manziel’s backyard play with pistol offense formations and quarterback keep plays.
What we did see was the potential for Manziel to be a freak weapon at the quarterback position.
To be fair, Hoyer is good. He should get his shot to start on another team that needs a steady quarterback to orchestrate their offense (Hello Houston Texans?). But Manziel, already at this point, is better. And he’s only going to get better.
Even looking back at it, it’s crazy we doubted the kid. I mean, look past his ridiculous numbers in college and look at his skill set. It’s incredible.
In my opinion, most of the people who were calling Manziel a bust were either relying on two things: his size or his actions. In reality, neither were that important to his ability to play quarterback.
This day in the NFL there are plenty of successful quarterbacks his size or smaller like Super Bowl winners Russell Wilson and Drew Brees to name a few. As long as he slides, he should be fine. When it comes to his actions, they were really hurting nobody. Clearly this guy has the rare ability to live the lifestyle he does, and succeed at it. He has always put his money where his mouth is, so why would he change now?
Looking back it, Johnny Manziel has some of the rarest intangibles for the quarterback position we have seen in a long time.
He has been the biggest NFL sensation since Tim Tebow, but he is handling it just fine. He’s been touted as the savior of a desperate NFL franchise and a city, but he takes it in stride. He won one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports, the earliest anyone has ever won it, and he only responded stronger the next year. Not to mention between that time he won the Heisman and the present day, his stardom has burst into a supernova of superstar rappers and former Presidents.
Despite the frat-like celebratory times, Manziel has maintained that football is his main focus. He acknowledges that he doesn’t have the greatest size and that learning the playbook will be a process as an NFL rookie but he is willing and determined to improve. That is all you can ask for out of a rookie.
I think years from now we will look back and praise Manziel’s mental fortitude. To go through what he is going through, to be examined so closely under the microscope that his identity has surpassed himself and manifested into a national sensation, all while maintaining his cool, is simply an impressive feat.
Others have been in his position, but in an era with less media coverage, and have failed miserably. Remember Ryan Leaf? Manziel has been undeniably impressive. If Johnny Football can continue his success, as suggested by his 7 for 11 for 63 yards passing and 27 yards rushing stat line, one can only imagine how impressive he can be.