Browns reportedly ‘alarmed’ by Johnny Manziel’s partying, feel he’s regressed
Given his somewhat nefarious history and penchant for partying, not to mention his unorthodox style of quarterbacking, Johnny Manziel was perceived by many scouts, NFL front office types and others as something of a risk.
This presumably is why Manziel fell to the Cleveland Browns at the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft after earlier mocks and other assorted speculative wastes of time had him as a No. 1-overall-caliber player.
Manziel wowed the Browns with his performance during the team’s offseason organized team activities. But since then, Browns officials have become increasingly concerned about his commitment to developing as a quarterback as well as his well-publicized off-the-field endeavors, suspecting that the latter has a lot to do with the former and a subsequent perceived regression in his play.
Among the many tabloid-worthy “controversies” Manziel has found himself in, perhaps the most damning was when he was photographed in a Las Vegas bathroom appearing to roll up a $20 bill shortly after the July 4th weekend.
Some speculated at the time — perhaps rightfully, although nothing could possibly be gleaned, much less confirmed, from a photograph — that Manziel was engaging in behavior related to snorting cocaine.
Up to this week, Cleveland Browns head coach Pettine defended Manziel, suggesting that he believed once preparations for the season ramped up in earnest, Manziel would be able to flip the switch and turn off the bright lights on a lifestyle that at times was in essence a circus sideshow.
“I know as committed he is to football, once the season starts, it should not be an issue,” Pettine said. “People who know him have said it will stop.”
But that was then, this is now.
Pettine didn’t immediately go into damage control mode the instant the $20 bill photo was splashed all over the Internet, but he did apparently talk to Manziel last Monday about it, with the expectation that he would further discuss it with Manziel during the rookie portion of camp on Wednesday.
While his much ballyhooed party lifestyle reasonably is a source of concern within the Browns organization, the team reportedly is far more worried bout the negative effect the jet-setting lifestyle may be having upon the rookie’s development.
Sources indicate that after the great performance at OTAs, Manziel’s play in practice has regressed and some in the organization believe he should be keeping his nose in the playbook instead of sniffing out the next great party.
Despite the long-term concerns of Manziel’s hard-partying ways, his supposed regression has put the Browns arguably in a favorable position, as the team will not feel as compelled to rush the 21-year-old along, knowing that Brian Hoyer may be the more competent and better-prepared quarterback at this time.
That thought process seemed to jibe with the company line set forth by Pettine on Wednesday. With camp set to begin in full on Saturday, the head coach declared Hoyer the No. 1 quarterback headed into camp and that Manziel isn’t expected to get reps with the first team offense in the early days of training camp.
“Well, they’re going to compete, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to take equal time with the ones,” Pettine told The Chronicle-Telegram, as quoted in a report from The Plain Dealer. “Brian is the starting quarterback right now, we can still evaluate Johnny’s reps regardless of who he’s out there with. I think a lot will be made of, wait a minute, he hasn’t been with the (ones). To me, it’s something that we can still evaluate, give him a specific grade based on his footwork, how he called the play, what he read during that play — all the stuff that’s in his control.
“It doesn’t matter what group he’s with, he’s still getting graded. That’ll be a big part of the evaluation, it won’t be how he did when he was necessarily with a certain group.”
The Browns coach made the case that, while not impossible, it will be tough for Manziel to beat out Hoyer coming out of camp. Pettine previously has said he intends to name his starter before the team’s third preseason game on Aug. 23, meaning Manziel won’t even have the entire training camp to leapfrog Hoyer.
“I would say it’s a tall task, for a couple reasons,” Pettine said. “One, he’s a rookie coming in learning the system. It’s not like (Miami’s Ryan) Tannehill, who came in running his college system. He’s learning something that’s completely new to him, so he’s got all new verbiage and reads and that type of thing working against him.
“And then the guy he’s competing with is an NFL veteran who’s learned from one of the best in the game, who’s very prepared, very focused. It’s a very true statement, it will be difficult.”
While the quarterback situation in Cleveland has the appearances of settling into place even before a training camp snap is taken, it would be foolish to draw any conclusions at this point. Pettine could be taking pressure off Manziel and lightening the load on the rookie just as much as he is publicly expressing some modicum of frustration over Manziel’s performance both on and off the field. And if he’s smart, it’s probably some combination of both.
Manziel has insisted on several occasions that he has no plans nor the inclination to change his ways, so it will take a delicate touch to get the most out of Manziel, now and in the future. How long that future lasts may be as dependent on how the Browns handle Manziel as it is on how Manziel handles himself.