I know him. You know him. It’s likely your friends have heard of him. All the school kids talk about him, and now he’s been projected number one overall to the Houston Texans by Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN’s “draft expert”. The question on everyone’s mind, however, is just what will Johnny Manziel do in the National Football League?
I’ve been a critic of Manziel’s for the past two years, based primarily around a few reasons. He has only played two seasons of college ball, and is not typical quarterback size or nature. Also, Johnny has shown multiple flashes of immaturity throughout his time at A&M. At times Manziel even put his collegiate career in jeopardy after showing such tremendous potential and ability. Yes, he did play in the premier college football conference in the South Eastern Conference (SEC).And Texas A&M transitioned smoothly under head coach Kevin Sumlin’s guide and Johnny’s electric play. Personally, though, I’m not entirely sold on the elitism of the SEC and that is where will start.
In college, many of these kids are phenomenal players and go on to be NFL draft selections and have professional careers, but many of these players have been defensive players, running backs, and offensive line players, not quarterbacks. Out of the three hundred and forty active SEC players on a roster right now, only fourteen of them are quarterbacks. A few successful names appear such as Matt Stafford,as well as Peyton Manning and Eli Manning who stand on their own pedestals. Still a few diamonds in the rough such as Ryan Mallet and Ryan Tannehill coming along. Then there are the busts and benchwarmers, and journeyman alike with Rex Grossman, Jason Campbell, Matt Flynn, Blaine Gabbert, and many more.
Out of the fourteen active SEC quarterbacks on rosters, only three have ever made it to the Super Bowl and only two of those quarterbacks winning a combined 3 Super Bowls, all of which from the Manning brothers – who really are above and beyond all the other quarterbacks.
Now, those numbers don’t shine too brightly for Johnny, but he is different. He has the potential and capabilities to be everything a franchise like Houston needs to take them to the top. He can make just about any throw on the football field with relative ease and does a great job of sensing pressure.
While Manziel is undersized, he makes up for it with incredible athleticism and a solid quick release. His footwork is decent, but he often scats out the pocket where he still makes solid throws on the run. In the NFL that will not translate as successfully as it did for him in college. The read option has seemingly died after one season. The wildcat was more successful due to running backs. NFL defensive coordinators are not bums, they will break down any offensive wrinkles and snuff them out anyway possible. Mobile quarterbacks also seemingly get hurt more often. Their track records simply do not translate well.
Manziel has shown great poise, leadership abilities, and the moxie it takes to play in big time football games and lead a team to rally back. You look at his freshman year in the Alabama game, the one that really cemented his Heisman candidacy with his ability to take down the almighty tide. Then you look at this years bowl game vs. Duke. Johnny’s ability to drag his team out of a deep deficit where most of the country had already counted them out. Manziel stood strong, poised and delivered the play-making ability of a franchise quarterback to finish off his final game as an Aggie. He nearly conquered the SEC in two seasons and has led himself to the top of the draft boards after astronomical numbers against the top competition.
He oozes franchise quarterback potential and could develop himself into the ultimate hybrid quarterback. The question is, will he tap into that potential? If and only if Johnny truly dedicates himself to his team and to the preparation of the game do I see him succeeding the way he is projected to. I don’t like that he is slotted to go so high in the draft, as I feel it puts too much pressure on him to win right away. In the end, i truly believe it all depends on if he goes to the proper team and the proper staff but I simply do not see him being the all mighty savior of a franchise the way many others do.
After improving his game every time he stepped on the field in 2013 and capturing the Heisman Trophy in the process, Manziel got himself all caught up in bad media attention. The autograph scandal, constant club and party shots while he was underage, and he immediately got a knock for not making good decisions. He put his football career in danger for a well known issue in the sport. These are the things teams are looking to avoid after too many off the field incidents in the last few seasons that have led to blown assets for a number of teams.
So, when Johnny finally quiets down and begins his preparation for the 2014 season, he then openly bad mouths his school on Twitter after some frustration, which was another poor decision. In his first game back this past season after scoring his first touchdown, he flashed the money symbol, truly showing his immaturity and the fact that he had seemingly learned nothing from his choices.
Why would you be so arrogant, so foolish, it was all so puzzling for a player with such a bright future ahead of him?
This is where I worry about the potential success of Johnny Manziel, A.K.A. Johnny Football. Is his ego too large? Can he focus all on the game? Or will his off the field legacy always be just as important to him as well as a distraction? Can he tap into the ways of elites such as Drew Brees and Russel Wilson, and learn to selflessly go about the game with maturity?
The best quarterbacks in the game are the guys who make the best decisions and the guys who prepare day in and day out for football. It is their livelihood. Is a guy with this much potential risk worth a number one overall selection in an era where draft picks are considered gold?
If Johnny Manziel can wise up and start treating this career opportunity of lifetime as just that, some team could be very lucky come draft time this May. However, if Johnny Football takes over, a team could see its first round investment swirl down the drain in the blink of an eye.
Only time will tell which side of the curious Mr. Manziel that we will see.
Statistics of active South Eastern Conference players and names all taken from: