Will Johnny Manziel Become Cleveland’s PAT Hero After Rule Change?


Johnny Manziel. Former college star, disappointment of the 2014 season, biggest question mark before the 2015 season – and future extra-point hero of the Cleveland Browns?

But let’s start at the beginning. The point after touchdown, or PAT for short, used to have a significance that most of us couldn’t even imagine today. Well, we weren’t alive back in the day. In football’s earliest days, a touchdown was not the primary goal, but merely what it took to get to the actual goal – the point after touchdown.

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Back then, a team would actually be awarded more points for kicking the football through the goal posts than for advancing the ball into the end zone. By the beginning of the 20th century, however, a rule change occurred and changed the sport forever. The roles of touchdown and kick were reversed; thus more points were awarded for touchdowns and less for the kick after.

We all know how the rules were until just last week, so let’s jump right to last Tuesday’s change that was approved by NFL owners by a vote of 30-2. Starting this season, PAT kicks will be moved back 13 yards and therefore be taken from the 15-yard line. However, two-point conversions will still snap from the two-yard line.

There are two goals to the rule change. One is to make the kick harder, as it had a success rate higher than 99 percent since the 2002 season.  The other is to encourage two-point tries, as only 59 such attempts were made during the 2014 season.

Oct 5, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Cleveland Browns kicker Billy Cundiff (8) kicks the extra point to take the lead against the Tennessee Titans late during the second half at LP Field. Cleveland won 29-28. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Dawg Pound Daily editor Thomas Moore and staff writer Roger Cohen have already analyzed how the rule change could impact the Browns, though both came to very different conclusions. But there is still a possibility that is different from the other two analyses. What if Johnny Manziel, whether he turns out to be the starter or backup at quarterback, emerges as – how do I put it humbly – well, Cleveland’s “PAT-monster”?

The Browns have one big problem when it comes to making extra-point kicks harder. The fact is, neither one of the Browns’ current kickers, Carey Spear and Travis Coons, has ever kicked a ball in an NFL game. Manziel, however, is mainly famous for knowing how to run options – which is one of the best ways to achieve a two-point conversion.

“Kicking a 33-yarder sometimes in the Dawg Pound is different than kicking a 33-yarder in a domed stadium or maybe down in Tampa.” – Chris Tabor, special teams coordinator

Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak told USA Today that “there (are) going to be two-point specialists from the standpoint of how you go about doing it. Coaching, those are things that you work on.” One of those specialists could be our very own “Johnny Football.”

Manziel’s offense at Texas A&M, like many college programs, was built primarily on read-option plays. If Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor can come up with some fancy plays, Manziel may finally be able to translate a part of his college game into NFL football – at least in one certain game situation.

At least in domed stadiums, the rule change may not make a big difference. However, the stadium which the Cleveland Browns call home, whether you call it the Dawg Pound, Factory of Sadness or officially FirstEnergy Stadium, is wide open, a fact that when the weather turns bad has Tabor a bit concerned.

“Kicking a 33-yarder sometimes in the Dawg Pound is different than kicking a 33-yarder in a domed stadium or maybe down in Tampa,” Tabor recently told The Plain Dealer.

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The reason for that is clear. A snowy night in Indianapolis? Oh well. A stormy night in New Orleans? Oh well. But if you have a stormy night in Cleveland, in New England or Seattle, it may make a huge difference how far you have to kick the ball.

Tabor continued, stating that “you have to say you know when kickers come to our place we’re used to it (while other teams aren’t).” But getting the two-point conversion could turn out to be the even safer bet under bad weather conditions. At least when you have a guy like Manziel.

The rules have changed in an attempt to give more significance to the extra-point try for the first time since the 19th century. For the Browns, the new rule may turn out to be the best thing to have happened since humans discovered that food can be baked with cheese – at least if Manziel finds a way to deliver.

And if Manziel also finds a way to bake his endless amount of points after touchdowns with cheese, we can all consider ourselves lucky sports fans.

Do you think the Browns should create a “Johnny Package” for two-point conversions?

Next: Browns open OTAs on Tuesday