There have been several reports and plenty of speculation that the Browns are ready to cut their losses with Johnny Football. Is this the right mindset, though? He’s an inexpensive player at the moment, and if he does work out in Cleveland, the Browns will finally have a franchise quarterback and a highly marketable one at that. But does Johnny Manziel have the skills to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL?
It’s easy to say, “Why not give Manziel a shot?” Tell that to Mike Pettine, though. If he lets Manziel play and the Browns finish 4-12, he might not be the head coach in Cleveland in 2016. The reward of playing Manziel has to be worth the risk, especially if there is a serviceable alternative.
So how good can Johnny Football be? As we wrote after the only full game he played in 2014, there isn’t a lot to like about his skills at the NFL level. He has average arm strength and erratic accuracy. You can get away with an average arm if you can anticipate well. Manziel isn’t that type of quarterback though. He isn’t a progression reader either. He didn’t exhibit any of these traits in college or in the little playing time he saw in 2014, and players who have never had to use those types of skills throughout their lives don’t generally develop them once they get to the NFL. Just like a pocket passer who can’t move well doesn’t develop the ability to run a 4.5 forty-yard dash once he gets to the pros.
Manziel also isn’t that spectacular of a runner at the NFL level. He could scramble in college and make big plays with his legs. However, it became apparent as soon as he stepped on an NFL field that he wasn’t running away from too many defenders, whether they were starters or 2nd/3rd string players in the preseason. Manziel’s best play was a 10-yard touchdown run against the Bills in Week 13, but it’s hard to get too excited about this play when the Bills had several of their starters off the field, and the ones on the field had their backs turned to Manziel for the majority of the play. This wasn’t exactly a scramble that Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, or Derek Carr are incapable of making.
On the field, Manziel is ultimately an imprecise player with below-average passing skills. He hasn’t shown any of the NFL quarterbacking traits that can help make up for those skills, and his running ability is nothing special at the NFL level. Notice how we haven’t even mentioned his off-the-field issues up to this point? That’s because before you even consider those, you have to look at what type of player he is on the field. And on the field, he just doesn’t have the attributes. The off-the-field drama only adds to why the Browns should make alternative plans at the quarterback position and view Manziel as just another player competing for a roster spot.