According to Peter King of theMMQB.com, Ray Farmer, the Assisant General Manager and a well-respected scout of talent, attended the Alabama-Texas A&M game this weekend. This was tabbed as “The Game of the Century” which makes for about the 7th or 8th this century which is only 13 years old. So of course, Farmer must be there to watch Johnny Manziel, the red shirt sophomore quarterback and former Heisman winner. Not the unbelievable amount of talent on both sides of the ball in general as well as just wanting to take in a great game; just Manziel. To King’s credit, he just said that Farmer was there along with scouts from 7 other NFL teams. Others took it from there and jumped to the Manziel conclusion. With the utter disaster that is Brandon Weeden, the Browns are going to be selecting a quarterback next May in the NFL Draft, so focusing on which college quarterback they will take is a step in the right direction, but to suggest Manziel is the only reason Farmer or anyone else connected with the Browns would go to Alabama against Texas A&M is disingenuous and taking what King said out of context.
To say there were some other players competing in that game that might interest the Browns would be an incredible understatement. Purely for the Browns, there were a couple of players in the game that could start for the team right now; safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley from Alabama and Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. Alabama guard Anthony Steen might be in that conversation as well.
Did Farmer look at Manziel while he was there? Sure. He also saw Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron but that is not as tantalizing of a headline. Only one of the two is guaranteed to be in the NFL Draft next year and that is McCarron. While everyone assumes that it is a given that Manziel will declare and he certainly could, he has potentially two more years left in college if he wants them. With the microscope on him and everything going on around him in College Station, he might not be able to wait and declare, but if he can, he should stay for at least one more season.
For all the success Manziel has had for the Aggies, the list of redshirt sophomore quarterbacks that have been drafted and succeeded in the NFL is a short one. Michael Vick. That is it. And there is certainly a conversation about the degree of success, how far short of expectations he ultimately fell and then his stint in jail. There have been a good number of sophomores drafted into the NFL and they do not just flop, they turn out to be disasters; think Tommy Maddox with the Denver Broncos. It took him into his thirties to be able to come back and put together some semblance of a career in a short stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It is not a matter of talent necessarily. Playing quarterback is the most difficult position in sports. Experience matters a ton as does age and maturity. Look at quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III; they all started at least 40 games in college and Kaepernick played 50 while at Nevada.
And there is the maturity issue. Manziel is some combination of Brett Favre and Kenny Stabler. Both of those quarterbacks would party, go out until all hours of the night, show up the next day, go out and play. As fun as that sounds, this past offseason with Manziel was a nightmare for Texas A&M with everything that was happening. His own parents suggested he turns to alcohol as a coping mechanism and might be dealing with substance abuse issues.
The other issue that is going to be discussed with Manziel is his height. He is listed at 6’1” but most think he is closer to 5’11”. While there will be people who immediately point to Russell Wilson, Wilson went in the third round because of his height. If he was a few inches taller, he was a first round pick. And the success of Wilson, like with Drew Brees is about 1 in 1,000. Their success does not immediately make height a nonissue for quarterbacks any more than Zach Thomas and Sam Mills did for linebackers or Wes Welker for wide receivers. It still matters and will be evaluated in the process. They will look at how well he can see the field and his throwing platform among other issues. Right now, Manziel looks more like Troy Smith than he does Russell Wilson. Smith had an army of passionate defenders when he came out of Ohio State and he was a terrific college quarterback and a Heisman trophy winner as well. Smith was a sixth round pick.
The Browns are going to look at a ton of quarterbacks, because they need one. If and when he declares, they are going to look at Johnny Manziel. Every other team in the league will also look at Manziel and there were 7 other teams at the game represented along with the Browns. And some teams buy tickets to avoid having anyone know they are there, so it could have been more. Much like Tim Tebow, anything Manziel gets looks and clicks, but while he might be the center of the football universe for college football, the NFL is not nearly as enamored as people would like to believe; at least not yet.