May 9, 2014; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns first round draft pick Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) speaks during a press conference at the Cleveland Browns Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Browns: Josh Gordon suspension may be blessing in disguise

After the Cleveland Browns made the moves necessary to get Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick of the NFL Draft, the excitement amongst fans was off the charts.  2,300 season tickets were sold overnight and fans were not just talking about Manziel perhaps saving the franchise, but there were people using the ‘P’ word.  Playoffs.  The news of another potential suspension for Josh Gordon came out and sucked some of the energy out of the fan base; even having people call into radio stations demanding a refund for the season tickets.  Unfortunate on its face, whether it is half a season or the entire season, Gordon’s suspension may be a blessing in disguise for Manziel and his path to success in the NFL and being what he and every fan hope he can be for the team.

Josh Gordon was so talented, so overwhelming that even with awful quarterback play and missing two games, Gordon was able to accomplish things that had never been done before.  With Gordon playing a full 16, fans and media would talk themselves into the idea that Manziel could step in and play immediately and be great right from the start, which is incredibly unrealistic.

The word playoffs comes with the idea that Manziel is not only going to start as a rookie, but he is going to be good enough immediately to where he can lead a team and be successful enough to climb the difficult ranks of the AFC North. This kind of unbridled enthusiasm has not been seen since the Browns won the Hall of Fame game in 1999 against the Dallas Cowboys and suddenly, people thought 7-9 or 8-8 was reasonable with a shot of the playoffs if everything goes well.  They lost the opening game of the year 41-0 to the Pittsburgh Steelers and went on to a 2-14 record.

The pending suspension of Gordon may prove to be the dose of reality fans need.  Even if fans believe Manziel is the franchise quarterback that the Browns are betting on, he is coming into the NFL as a red shirt sophomore and just 21 years old.  Manziel seems incredibly well equipped to handle the attention that comes with the pick, but there is still a substantial amount of adjustment that has to happen going from college to the NFL.  The fan base in Cleveland the NFL are going to watch every step this kid makes on a completely different level than anything he experienced in College Station and the Texas A&M campus.

Manziel is going to have to adjust to life in the NFL, earn the respect and try to become a leader of men in the Browns locker room.  There were definitely teammates, including Gordon, who seemed to be all in on the Manziel bandwagon.  In fact, Gordon was not afraid to go on multiple national media outlets and ask for Manziel by name.  Not everyone in that locker room may feel the same way.  There will be some that are perfectly entitled to feel like Manziel has to prove it.

All of that is going to come before Manziel has thrown a single pass.  At that point, he then has to work to be good enough to lead this team and beat out a teammate that has no interest in losing the job in Brian Hoyer.  Head Coach Mike Pettine has not only been clear that he is not handing any jobs to rookies, he has also made it clear that he would like to sit a rookie quarterback.  This is a smart play for any rookie quarterback, but especially with someone that only played 26 games in college.  Experience matters and Manziel passed up on a good amount of it by declaring this past year.  Pettine also appears to have the fortitude to disregard boos or any pressure from fans, the media or even the owner to put Manziel out there, which suggests he is the right man for the job.

While he may be a quarterback that needs to learn by playing, especially with his particular style of play, sitting has less to do with ability and more to do with comfort and confidence.  Manziel has never lacked for confidence, but comfort might be another story.  Adjusting to life in the NFL and being thrown into the fire as a rookie can be overwhelming for the most mature and experienced of rookies, let alone one in Manziel’s situation.  Manziel does have issues to work on and improve and having the time to get things right could pay off substantially in the long run.

With Gordon’s situation being what it is, it might be significantly easier to sit Manziel and let Hoyer get his chance.  Manziel is the future, but it is probably in everyone’s best interest if he is not the immediate present.  That will be extremely disappointing for fans as well as media that is frothing at the mouth for every bit of Manziel they can get, but the job of Pettine and Ray Farmer is to do right by the team.

In 1999, the Browns intended to sit Tim Couch for his entire rookie year.  That lasted two games before Ty Detmer’s ineffective play and a rabid fan base got what they wanted, having the rookie thrust into the fire.  Couch had the best season of his career as a rookie and was really impressive considering the supporting cast he had.  It also proved to be the beginning of the end for Couch.  Terrible blocking and big time hit after big time hit took their toll.  The rest of his career was largely a slow descent into Couch looking at the pressure and just trying to avoid getting hit again.

Obviously, the 2014 Browns will have significantly more talent and protection.  Nevertheless, Manziel’s career is what truly matters in this equation; not just the 2014 season.  Gordon likely missing a significant amount of time and significant questions at wide receiver make it far more palatable to sit Manziel.  There are people already trying to make the argument that Manziel will raise the level of the players around him and hopefully he will, but he cannot perform alchemy and make medicore players into good ones.

Jordan Cameron is coming off of a Pro Bowl year in what is hopefully the first of many, but Nate Burleson is an average player at this point and while Andrew Hawkins is exciting, he has not proven much to this point.  All of a sudden, Greg Little may have found himself with an opportunity at redemption.

The Browns should have far better protection as well as putting significant emphasis on being able to run the ball.  They should also have a really outstanding defense.  The key words in both of those sentences is ‘should’.  Pettine’s track record is a top 10 defense every year and the investments made on that side of the ball should yield yet another one.  Nevertheless, it may be the smarter play to let Hoyer have his audition this year as much as he can and plan for Manziel in 2015.  If Hoyer proves to be great, the Browns can keep him if they choose or he can go be the starting quarterback for another team and the Browns can get compensation.  If not, the Browns can keep him as a backup for Manziel.

The Browns need to do the best thing they can do for Manziel if he is going to be the franchise quarterback everyone wants.  While it might be great for business to rush him out there, perhaps before he is ready, it is likely going to be bad for the long term.  Sitting Manziel and letting him develop into the quarterback they want, earn the respect of teammates and become the leader everyone wants is the best play.  Manziel redshirted in college.  He should redshirt in the NFL.  And while the Browns as a franchise can never count on Gordon in any real capacity, he may be able to play next year and be a bonus with a then ready to play Johnny Manziel.

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Tags: Cleveland Browns Johnny Manziel Josh Gordon

  • Ken Hoag

    Giving us way too much credit! Dawg Pound and “alchemy” – huh?

  • Letterman007

    Gordon is in much the same predicament as Ricky Williams was!! He will have to petition the league to regain his status and be able to play! Which is no means saying he will definitely be back directly after the suspension!! He will have to prove he is off any drugs and has been through the period and may even have mandatory program he must attend!! That is why it was a mistake to not draft Watkins or Evans at #4 !!

    • Pete Smith

      No it wasn’t. You think Watkins or Evans was worth 2 1sts and a 4th round pick? The Browns traded nothing and got a significant something for it. Watkins was never a good play, even if Josh Gordon was gone.

      • Letterman007

        In your opinion, which you are entitled to! Try reading some others that said Watkins was the best receiver in the draft since Megatron!! Your opinion isn’t the only one and you should realize that the opinion of your corner Gilbert, is he has a large tendency to get burnt and shys away from making tackles!! Do I think Watkins was worth two firsts and a fourth, evidently Buffalo did and they will have all their receivers on the field at mini camp! Was Weeden worth a first rounder? Was T Rich worth a first rounder, you don’t know until they play!! Would having two of the top five receivers on your team next year be worth two firsts and a fourth, YOU BET !!!

        • Pete Smith

          It wasn’t withheld from them. It’s against league rules for the Browns to say anything.

          I look forward to getting a couple very high picks from the Buffalo Bills.

          • Letterman007

            I’d look forward to winning some games his year if they had taken Watkins or Evans. Either of which are vastly better than any FAs they could find!! There comes a point, after this team has done all the loosing, that you scrap a plan and go with plan B. Everyone, along the way, has plans go wrong, and we adjust. They refused to adjust and we’ll see what happens? What it costs, the team and the front office. I just have a hard time believing Mr. Haslam edict of win now, now that they have done this! I have a problem believing him at all!!

          • Pete Smith

            Who are the rookie receivers that come in immediately and dominate the way you think Evans and Watkins would have done? It’s rare. Last year, the best of the bunch was a 3rd round pick in my top receiver, Keenan Allen.
            If they got receivers, they wouldn’t have gotten a talented offensive lineman in Bitonio or the front seven would be incomplete without Kirksey, which was a HUGE need. Craig Robertson was awful. Terrance West boosts the running game.
            This isn’t Madden where a receiver is automatically great. Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson and Deandre Hopkins were not great players last year as rookies.
            And on top of that, Manziel SHOULD NOT start this year.

          • Letterman007

            They would have gotten the same players they have now except for Gilbert! The rest of the board would have played out basically the same! If Robertson was so bad, how come they resigned him?? You want to know the receivers , what did Megatron do? What did AJ green do. These two are capable of that. That is what the experts are saying and said!! I know, for some unknown reason, you don’t! But people with more knowledge than you or I say so, and I’m not just talking McShay or Kiper or Bleacher Report, or Peter King, do I really need to go on!? It’s not my job on the line, it’s theirs. I have learned in coaching and life that you better be able to adjust or there are problems that get worse! We’ ll se what happens and if it goes South this year feel for the Diehard fans of this team who want to win and beat Pittspuke and the Stealheads and the Bungals!!

          • Pete Smith

            First, Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins aren’t in the same category as Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, or Andre Johnson. I don’t care who tells you otherwise, they aren’t.

            Secondly, even if they were, it’s a bad investment. You don’t win championships investing in receivers that high. The teams that win Super Bowls have been far less invested at receiver. Seattle had a bunch of no names, save Percy Harvin and he barely played. Baltimore did it with a second round pick at receiver and an Anquan Boldin trade.

            Calvin Johnson’s rookie year? 48 catches, 756 yards, 4 TDs.
            Andre Johnson’s rookie year? 66 catches, 976 yards, 4 TDs
            A.J. Green’s rookie year? 65 catches, 1,057 yards, 7 TDs

            Keenan Allen’s rookie year? 71 catches, 1,046 yards, 7 TDs.

            Fourth, I will take a 1st and 4th round pick in 2015 all day. Saying no to that would have been criminally stupid.

            Lastly, Craig Robertson was signed at I believe right around $1 million. He can be depth, but he cannot start. And thanks to the pick of Chris Kirksey, he won’t.

          • Letterman007

            We will continue to disagree. Think the team would take production any of the people you mentioned this year from someone, but will they find someone that can produce like them from UFA’s?? Doubt it! I believe Boldin was a first rounder coming in from Arizona? At least a high pick! We shall see how this draft works out in the next two or three years and see who is most correct, but have doubts one will admit defeat?

          • Pete Smith

            Boldin was a 2nd round pick.

          • Letterman007

            The point is they were drafted! Even the receivers on the Sea Hawks receivers were drafted!! By them or someone else!

          • Scifibookguy

            And now the Browns have Miles Austin and Earl Bennett (veterans), along with Andrew Hawkins (veteran), Charles Johnson (2nd year), and UDFAs Chandler Jones and Willie Snead. I think they’ll be fine at the WR position :) I’m glad the Browns stuck with their draft board and didn’t panic on a WR.

        • Gary

          I agree. Even if Manziel isn’t the savior some think he is, it all is moot with nobody to throw to. I don’t see Manziel beating out Hoyer this season. Manziel only played 26 games in college. He has a lot to learn. You don’t just toss him in and there and assume he will flourish. The Browns needed to address their WR situation, but chose not to. The big question is why? There isn’t anyone on this team who can play like Gordon. But, there were several WR available in the draft that the Browns let pass on by. It’s going to hurt them when the season starts. Unless thye find some FA WR’s still available.

          • Letterman007

            You can find ones that weren’t picked, but are they half as good as Watkins or Evans would have been? There was a reason no one took them in the draft! But I do appreciate what your saying. Plus the fact that Manziel had a familiarity with Evans which could have helped them and the team!!?

          • Gary

            I agree. Either or would have been sufficient. Both, even better.
            This team won’t be that much improved just because they got a decent running back. You still need blockers and you still need some kind of passing game or other teams will smother our running game.

          • jwm

            The Browns had a good draft, and I’ll have to side with Pete on this discussion. The most glaring need, even more so than QB was at CB. Surely we remember what happens when Haden is out… disaster. So drafting Gilbert and obtaining 2 first round picks (one next year and a fourth next year) was brilliant. I’m not a Manziel guy, but let’s hope it works out. Taking the OL was another need pick, as our OL couldn’t produce a consistent run game (which most likely would have helped us win a few more games last year by being able to close out games running the clock down). We also needed to solidify the line for whomever is suiting up at QB this year (a guy with a bum knee, or a rookie). Again I agree with the LB pick as well, Robertson was horrible in coverage, the new guy should be able to assist us in getting off the field on third down, cuz he is a LB who had coverage skills (read a review on him). He not only covered TE’s in college but also covered some slot receivers. The RB West, i like as this guy was rated by many as the second or third best back in the draft and has experience running in the zone blocking scheme. The corner Desir once up to speed could be used as a replacement for an injury or could earn his way onto the field… which would be awesome. Look were in a pass happy division, we need corners who can play. As far as Gilbert not tackling, we’ll see…did he take some chances, sure but he’ll be coached up. In the right scheme he should be a stud (I mean did Haden come right in and not give up a big play… Didn’t think so), Gilbert will be fine. Besides I don’t recall Deion making many tackles… meaning you don’t have to be a great tackler to be a great corner. In summary, your not going to be able to draft, sign for every need, or maybe better said your not going to be SUCESSFUL trying to fill all needs in one off season & draft. But Farmer did a good job filling the most pressing needs. Like he stated, there will be WR’s to be had, (Pete’s right, WR’s don’t normally come in as rookies and tear it up) but if you can’t run the ball and you can’t protect the QB who cares who’s out wide. Just my $.02.

          • Letterman007

            The truth is we really won’t know what to make of this draft for at least two or three years! On the surface they made some good value picks and filled some needs we hope? I hate to give a whole year away, but let’s see what they do to fill Gordon’s spot and how long he’ll be suspended!

          • jwm

            I totally agree we won’t know for three years if these guys work out, unless they play like Owen Mercic… then will know year one that there not players, nice waste of a pick. You gotta think running the ball will increase and possible incorporating Cameron more into the play calling will happen. Probably more throws out of the backfield as well. Yeah, I know I’m shaking my head as I write this, no top end outside…that is going to hurt us offensively. But let’s hope for some creativity better than what Shurmur ran, please.

          • Letterman007

            Also unmentioned by many is a guy named Charles Johnson they got off the cab squad of Dallas, I think. He was hurt in practice and never saw the field last year. Whoever they took him from was really mad they took him! He is somewhat Gordon like in size and shape. Maybe they have him in mind!

        • Chris

          You really need to stop using so many ‘!’ In your posts.

          • Letterman007

            Since these are mostly about opinions, the ” I ” will appear a lot more often than it would otherwise. It is used to designate the difference between people as you or they! But ” I ” will try and watch it,

      • Gary

        It would have cost the Browns one pick to get Watkins and Manziel would still have been available. Same goes with Evans. And even in the second and third rounds there was a number of viable WR’s still available. But, Farmer chose to sit on his hands.

        • Pete Smith

          So, getting Manziel more protection as well as helping the running game, which will help the quarterback, is a bad thing?
          There are receivers I would have liked, but I am a huge fan of Bitonio, Kirksey and West. The goal for Farmer is to maximize those resources. If they are good players, they all fit needs the Browns had, the fact they aren’t receivers is unimportant.
          Certainly wide receiver is a position that needs to be addressed. Now, the Browns have 10 picks including two first round picks to give Manziel weapons next year.

          • Gary

            It’s always “next year”. I guarantee you that most Browns fans are tired of waiting till “next year”. We have been told that for the last 10 years. My biggest complaint is that it wouldn’t have cost the Browns anything to draft a good WR or two. That would have improved the team even more. I don’t care how good pass protection will be this season. Without dependable receivers to throw the ball to, it’s all moot.
            It’s time to see touchdowns instead of field goals.

          • Pete Smith

            So because you’re tired of waiting, the Browns should force a 21 year old rookie QB with just 26 games of experience into the starting lineup, potentially ruining him and forcing you to get another one? Sounds good. Where do I sign up?

            Josh Gordon is a huge setback. There’s no way of getting around it, but the Browns attacked needs and got value out of every pick. They will need to get receivers, but they opted to put perhaps the finishing touches on the defense and improve the running game significantly. I fail to see the problem.

          • Gary

            Who said anything about starting Manziel?
            Read what people post before commenting. I am still not convinced he was the best qb the Browns could have drafted. Only time will tell.
            I was talking about WR’s. Not Manziel. Hoyer is my choice to start. He earned it.

  • Josh Hart

    Excellent article. Manziel is nowhere near ready to start and lead this team anywhere. 2015 should be when he gets his shot unless Hoyer is just playing lights out.

  • cougar8179

    The trade down was a great move! Anyone that thinks otherwise is simply wrong. No way anyone knows that Watkins is better then Gilbert. Yet alone another 1st rounder and a 4th rounder. Gordon likely will not be suspended all year. The violation is already being reduced so he will have a good argument for appeal, if he gets suspended. They are building their team to the Seattle model. Hope they find the same resolves!