Lowering Johnny Manziel Expectations


Johnny Manziel – mania has taken Cleveland, the NFL and the sports world by storm. The Cleveland Browns new starting quarterback has expectations out of this world. Manziel is expected to come in and be the difference between a team that has been losing over the last few weeks, to a team that wins and makes a playoff run.

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  • That is possible but is less likely than many would like to admit. The Browns have three games left and all three are against teams that are still fighting for the playoffs, how the Carolina Panthers are still in it is another discussion. So the Browns were going to have a tough time over the last 3 weeks no matter who was at quarterback.

    So, while we are as excited as everyone else for Johnny Manziel to “Wreck this League” or as the Plain Dealer put it in their awesome Manziel cartoon “Rock this League,” lowering expectations are in order.

    Let’s first start with how many chances Manziel is going to get to have a huge impact on today’s game. The Cleveland Browns are a running team, that is the basis for their offense. Everything else is off of that. While Manziel may have a better arm than Brian Hoyer, his experience and understanding of defenses is behind. Because of those things, head coach Mike Pettine is hoping to limit Manziel’s pass attempts:

    Not exactly what many Browns fans want to hear but clearly that is the plan.

    That falls in line with what has seemed to be a limited belief in Johnny Manziel from this coaching staff. Pettine made it clear that he expected Hoyer to start shortly after Manziel was drafted in the first round. The entire quarterback competition was biased toward Hoyer, as Pettine believed the veteran gave the Browns the best chance to win. Even as Hoyer faltered over the past few weeks, Pettine and OC Kyle Shanahan stuck with him instead of going to the exciting rookie as the starter.

    Whether the coaching staff hasn’t seen enough in practice or feel like he has to continue to retrain himself to play in the NFL, their lack of confidence in him is concerning. It certainly lowers the chance that they put the ball in his hands a lot or give him a chance to make risky plays.

    Instead they will likely manage the game with Manziel at the helm. A win would be a huge step in the right direction for the Browns and the staff is likely to put that on the backs of their amazing defense. After confusing, hitting and turning over Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton seems like an easy target. The Browns aren’t likely to risk letting the game get away because of turnovers.

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  • Expectations for Manziel also have to be lowered based on his performance in the Buffalo game. He had some great plays, a laser throw to Jim Dray over the middle and his scramble touchdown, followed by a problem, where he ended up flat on his back in the endzone. He has the skills to make a big impact in the NFL but also lacks consistency to do so all game long.

    The Bengals also present a unique challenge for the Browns. Marvin Lewis and the defensive staff have watched tape, both Manziel’s NFL and college tapes as well as likely of Robert Griffin III under Shanahan. They have some idea of what might work against Manziel, and both the coaching and player talent to make it work.

    Expect the Bengals to “mush” rush Manziel. Instead of trying to get to the QB with their front 4 they will use them to set the stage for Manziel. With the defensive tackles taking up the space in the middle, in front of Manziel, and the defensive ends taking the outside away, Manziel will be a bit limited. He will either have to beat the Bengals from the pocket, more difficult for shorter QBs like Manziel, or have very specific lanes to escape out of the pocket, making the linebackers job much easier.

    Finally there are reasons that Manziel is the last of the big name QBs to start a game. Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater and Zach Mettenberger have all started before Johnny Manziel. Much of that is due to the Browns win/loss record, only winning team of those starting rookie QBs, and some has to do with good early play of Hoyer. But Manziel had the most adjustment to make of any of the rookie QBs that has started. While he might be as talented, or more, he also came from a far less complex system where playing backyard style football worked.

    His size, style and off the field issues are some of the reasons he dropped in the draft, still a first rounder. Some analysts think he was nothing more than a 3rd round pick as a quarterback. They note his strong arm, ability with his legs and moxy but don’t believe he has the in pocket, NFL ready skills to play anytime soon.

    We are all excited for today. From what we have seen from Johnny Manziel, both in college and so far in the NFL, he could really “Wreck this League” with his arm, feet and creativity. Certainly that would come as no surprise and would set the course for the Browns for at least the next few season. It would set the Browns up to compete for the AFC North in the last two weeks of the year, been a long time since that was true.

    But remember this is the same Bengals team that made Deion Sanders say that Brian Hoyer was the $100 million dollar man. We hope that today they make Manziel look like the Billion Dollar Man, thus making the Money Sign appropriate.

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    Yet we feel it is our responsibility to also give you the reasons you might want to lower your expectations just a bit. Manziel is not likely to get the chances to, nor be fully prepared to, dominate this game. Browns fans want a victory, everything else is secondary. If Manziel manages the game, gets the offense moving just a bit (anything is more than Hoyer has done), minimizes turnovers and leads the Browns to victory that is all we can expect.

    Anything more would be icing on a delicious cake.

    Today is all about Johnny Manziel but expect the Browns defense, running game and special teams to do all of the heavy lifting to take care of their new starting quarterback.

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    How high are your expectations of Johnny Manziel today?