So Long Johnny Football

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The party is over for Johnny Manziel as the Cleveland Browns officially waived the struggling quarterback today. This move was a long time coming as it was reported that the Browns would wait to cut Manziel until the new league year opened this week to save salary cap space. New Browns coach, Hue Jackson, stated from the beginning that Manziel’s kind of behavior would not be tolerated and he has stuck to his word. Cleveland took a gamble in the 2014 NFL draft by selecting the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner with the 22nd overall pick. It appeared that the Browns finally had their man at QB, but a career that had such promise was quickly filled with turmoil.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel speaks with media members following the team's 30-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks n an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Seattle. Credit: AP Photo/Scott Eklund

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel speaks with media members following the team’s 30-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks n an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Seattle. Credit: AP Photo/Scott Eklund

During the 2014 draft, Manziel texted Browns officials to draft him so they could “wreck this league together.” Browns fans felt like they finally had a quarterback that was ready to buy in to what the team was doing. Manziel may have said that he was ready to make an impact in Cleveland, but his focus was clearly elsewhere during the summer before his rookie season. In the months following the draft, he partied the summer away in Las Vegas and Texas. The troubles continued for Manziel at training camp when he showed up late for a meeting because he “misread the schedule.” Johnny finally had the chance to prove himself on the field on December 1, 2014 against the Buffalo Bills. Manziel replaced Brian Hoyer and ran for a touchdown on his first drive. He would start his first game two weeks later, but it was hardly memorable. Johnny threw for 80 yards in a 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel scrambles against the Washington Redskins on August 13, 2015.

Former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel scrambles against the Washington Redskins on August 13, 2015.

After a tough rookie season, it seemed like Manziel was finally on the right path when he entered a rehab facility on January 28, 2015. It was a decision that showed a lot of maturity from the former Heisman winner in the hope that it would carry over to a successful second season. Josh McCown won the starting role, but Johnny wouldn’t have to wait long for his chance to take the field. Manziel replaced McCown in the 2015 season opener against the New York Jets, throwing a long touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin. He would get another crack at starting in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans. Johnny had a strong showing throwing two deep strikes to Benjamin in his first win as a starter. McCown returned to the lineup the following week, just as Johnny was starting to show some promise. Head coach, Mike Pettine named Manziel the starter for the remainder of the season on November 17. The following week, a video appeared online of Johnny dancing in a Texas club while holding a bottle of champagne. The video was filmed during the Browns bye week and it was revealed that Johnny lied to Pettine about when the video was taken. Two weeks later McCown suffered another injury and Johnny started the next three games. On December 31, the Browns ruled out Manziel for the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to a concussion. He then failed to show up to the Browns practice facility in Berea on game day to undergo concussion protocol. This is where the Johnny Manziel saga reaches it’s most bizarre point. Manziel missed the season finale because he spent the weekend in Las Vegas in disguise as a man named “Billy” with a blonde wig and mustache. To leave your team during a game week to party in Las Vegas is not only unprofessional, but it is unacceptable.

Johnny Manziel’s time in Cleveland has come to an end. The Browns gave the young quarterback countless opportunities to fix his off the field issues and to focus on football. Instead, Manziel’s problems were more serious then they seemed and when it came down to it he had no interest in continuing his career in Cleveland. Johnny’s story took a dark turn last month when he was investigated by Dallas police for a domestic violence incident involving his ex-girlfriend Colleen Crowley. Manziel reportedly threatened to kill both himself and Crowley. On February 28, Dallas police referred the case to a grand jury. He could face up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

So the question arises..what is next for Johnny Manziel? Manziel’s NFL future is now more unclear than ever with his ongoing investigation. If he ends up in jail for a year, I think it will be very difficult for him to get another chance in the NFL. However, if Johnny does not go to jail two teams come to mind that could make a move to sign him. The first is the Los Angeles Rams who already have a quarterback question with Nick Foles and Case Keenum. I think the idea of Manziel playing in the City of Angels could be a recipe for disaster with many temptations for his off the field lifestyle. The team that makes the most sense to me is the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas is an obvious choice not only because it is close to Manziel’s home, but Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones may be the man that can help Johnny. Jones has had success with giving second chances to troubled played such as Dez Bryant and Greg Hardy. Jones coveted Manziel in the 2014 draft and he has the resources to help him.  It is not too late for Johnny to get help and one can only hope that he takes the necessary steps to get his life back on track.

 

Browns Season Preview 2015

After a solid 7-9 season in 2014 under first year head coach, Mike Pettine, the Browns will look to build off that success when they open up the 2015 season in the Meadowlands against the New York Jets on Sunday. Cleveland had a mediocre free agency period that included the signing of veteran quarterback, Josh McCown, and the departure of Pro Bowl tight end, Jordan Cameron. The Browns made up for this with an impressive draft that saw two first round picks in the form of defensive tackle, Danny Shelton, and guard, Cameron Erving.

Browns quarterback, Josh McCown. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

The Browns offense will be a huge question mark this season. For me the main problem is at quarterback. Josh McCown had a decent preseason campaign, but his two best performances came against the struggling Redskins and the lowly Buccaneers. He had a rough outing in week 2 of the preseason against a strong Bills defense that saw him throw for 57 yards and 2 interceptions. Johnny Manziel showed some bright spots in the first two preseason games, but an elbow injury has raised some concern. McCown will have the reigns to open the season, but do not be surprised if Manziel takes over the starting job halfway through the year. Cleveland’s offensive line is one of the best in the league led by eight time Pro Bowler, Joe Thomas. Two time Pro Bowl center, Alex Mack returns after missing the majority of last season with a broken leg. Second year guard, Joel Bitonio has showed a lot of promise and is projected by many NFL experts to be a Pro Bowler this season. First round pick, Cameron Erving should see some playing time this year as he is currently backing up guard, John Greco. Erving will give the Browns options as he can play any position on the offensive line.

Browns running back, Isaiah Crowell. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

The Browns also have some questions at the running back position and at wide receiver. Cleveland took a step in the right direction last week by trading second year running back, Terrance West to the Tennessee Titans. West has a great deal of talent, but was inconsistent and had a horrible attitude that caused problems during his time here. For now the Browns will depend on second year back, Isaiah Crowell, and rookie, Duke Johnson. Crowell showed last season that he can be a productive back by rushing for 607 yards. Johnson is a speedy and shifty runner that will create headaches for opposing defenses, but he has already had some injury issues during training camp. Over the last month, rumors swirled about the Browns adding a veteran running back to step in for the young backs. Cleveland finally added a veteran back this week when they claimed Robert Turbin off of waivers from the Seahawks. It was a head scratching move for me because the Browns cut Terrelle Pryor to add a running back that won’t be ready for 2-4 weeks with an ankle injury, but we will get into that more later.

Browns wide receiver, Brian Hartline. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

For the second year in a row, Cleveland will start their season without top receiver, Josh Gordon. Unlike last season, Gordon is suspended for the entire year after a second substance abuse violation. His absence forced the Browns to add a pair of veteran receivers this offseason in Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe. Hartline had a good preseason and has built some chemistry with McCown. Bowe missed the first three preseason games with a hamstring injury and played in the finale at Chicago registering one catch for 8 yards. Bowe’s best may be behind him which means that younger players will have to step up. Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, and Travis Benjamin will all get reps in week one. The Browns shocked many earlier this week by waiving Terrelle Pryor. Pryor made the transition from quarterback to receiver this summer with the hopes of keeping his NFL career alive. Like Bowe, Pryor missed the first three preseason games with a injury. Pryor had no receptions against Chicago, but he ran the wildcat offense twice where he kept the ball for a total of nine yards. Despite playing only one preseason game, he made the 53 man roster only to be waived just days later. With time, I saw Pryor growing into a dangerous offensive weapon. He is very fast, can catch the ball, and can throw. With Pryor gone and Gordon suspended, Cleveland will have to rely on a core of receivers that will face adversity this season.

Two-time Pro Bowl Cornerback, Joe Haden.

The Browns defense will be the strength of the team this season. Cleveland’s secondary is lead by a core group of veteran players that have each made the Pro Bowl. The two corner backs are longtime Brown, Joe Haden and newcomer, Tramon Williams. The starting safeties are Cleveland native, Donte Whitner, and Tashaun Gipson. The Browns entered the offseason with high hopes for the eighth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Justin Gilbert, but his troubles have only continued after a disappointing rookie campaign. Gilbert is currently listed as the backup to Joe Haden and after his recent road rage incident his days in Cleveland may be numbered.

Cleveland will have a strong rotation of linebackers this season. The starters include veterans Paul Kruger and Karlos Dansby, as well as Chris Kirksey and newcomer, Scott Solomon. Barkevious Mingo and rookie Nate Orchard should see time in the rotation this season. Mingo has struggled with injuries in his young career, but when healthy he has been the best coverage linebacker on the team. Orchard had an impressive training camp and is an excellent pass rusher. He recorded 18.5 sacks last season as a senior at Utah. Orchard will be a great piece in the Browns defense for years to come.

Browns defensive tackle, Danny Shelton. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

Cleveland’s defensive line was beefed up this offseason and is returning only one starter in Desmond Bryant. Defensive tackle, Ahytba Rubin signed with the Seahawks in free agency and tackle, Phil Taylor, was released in the first wave of this year’s preseason cuts. The Browns also traded 4th year defensive end Billy Winn to the Colts this week. With the departure of three tackles comes the arrival of a defensive monster in the form of Danny Shelton. At 339 pounds, Shelton is excellent at stopping the run and is a space-eater that swallows up blocks. Cleveland native, Jamie Meder, will see time at the other defensive tackle slot. Desmond Bryant will start at left end and newcomer Randy Starks will play at right end. Bryant and Starks should complement each nicely as they are both sack masters.

This season will be a make or break year for Coach Pettine and the Browns front office. After a rocky offseason that included textgate, Johnny Manziel’s rehab stint, Justin Gilbert’s attitude issues, and a recent scandal involving an offensive line coach, the Browns must make some improvements on the field. The first half of the Browns schedule is not too bad as it includes games against the Titans and the Rams. The second half of the season will be a challenge for Cleveland as they will face the Broncos and the Seahawks. My bold prediction is that the Browns will go 8-8, missing the postseason for the 13th straight year.