This is my Monday column on Johnny Manziel.
One week before the NFL Scouting Combine, Johnny Manziel – bless his heart – said he wanted to be the first rookie quarterback to win the Super Bowl.
Don’t count on it.
Manziel has a better chance to be the next Matt Leinart. Remember him? Won the Heisman Trophy at USC in 2004. The Arizona Cardinals drafted him with the 10th pick in 2006. Now, he’s out of the league.
Before he got drafted, his agent told NFL teams that Leinart would be the first quarterback in NFL history to “cross over.” No, not by communicating with the dead. The agent meant Leinart would become an elite NFL starting quarterback as well as a matinee idol, appearing in magazines, movies and television advertisements.
There is no way you can be both. Leinart became neither. He wasn’t even a decent backup quarterback, let alone a starter.
That brings us back to Manziel. He has a persona he calls, “Johnny Football.” He turned 21 three months ago and already he has appeared in a country music video, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after a 2012 bar fight, attended alcohol and anger counseling and shoved a graduate assistant after throwing an interception during a spring practice.
Even Manziel’s father, Paul, is concerned. “I don’t know where the anger comes from,” he told ESPN the Magazine. “I don’t think he knows. If it comes from his drinking, or if he’s mad at himself for not being a better person when he fails. If it makes him angry that he’s got demons in him.”
Some people can’t handle failure. Some people can’t handle success. Manziel can’t seem to handle either one.
Manziel mostly has had success. He was a college phenom, a precocious talent who won the Heisman as redshirt freshman mostly playing recess football – running and scrambling, removing structure from the offense. Coaches stayed away from coaching him and let him do his thing because it worked. But Manziel never became a disciplined player.
Manziel’s fans like to compare him to Russell Wilson – another short quarterback who can scramble. But that’s a bad comparison. Wilson is disciplined, has terrific footwork, throws accurately from inside the pocket, has a stronger arm and is a faster runner than Manziel.
Manziel almost never steps up in the pocket – he twists and dances out the back of it, even when there is no pressure. Sometimes, he sacks himself by dancing into blocked defensive ends.
In college, he could be undisciplined because he was one of the fastest players on the field, and he had outstanding teammates – left tackle Jake Matthews and No. 1 wide receiver Mike Evans in particular. They will be top picks in the upcoming draft.
When Manziel played a defense that had fast pass rushers, like LSU, Manziel was awful. He played them twice, lost both games, completed just 46.4 percent of his passes and threw one touchdown and five interceptions. Why would Manziel do better in the NFL against defenses that are faster than LSU?
Manziel believes he should be the top pick in the upcoming draft, believes the Houston Texans would be nuts to pass on him with that pick. “It would be the worst decision they’ve ever made,” Manziel told the Houston Chronicle.
Manziel has it backward. The worst decision they’ve ever made would be taking him with the No. 1 pick. He is the mistake they must avoid making. There are better players in this draft, players more worthy of the top pick, like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Manziel is not a franchise quarterback. The only reason the Texans or the Jaguars or the Browns or the Raiders might consider drafting him with a top-five pick is because those teams are desperate for a franchise quarterback, and there are no franchise quarterbacks in this draft.
No Andrew Lucks, no RGIII’s, not even any RG 2.5’s.
At best, Manziel is RG 1.7.
At worst, he’s Leinart 2.0.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.