I wrote a Johnny Manziel column that isn’t for for clicks, so don’t read it…

Johnny Manziel

I see you there, dear reader, drowning in an ocean of Johnny Manziel coverage and over-coverage; analysis, sub-analysis and punditry. I see you treading water. I see you struggling to keep your head above water.  Let me throw you a life preserver…made of lead.

Johnny Manziel is a 21 year-old kid with maturity issues. He loves the spotlight, and revels in your attention.  He is not ready to be an NFL quarterback, but that has nothing to do with his Joe Namath-meets-Jim McMahon personality.

Watching Manziel struggle in the NFL, it’s clear to see what I said about Manziel all along looks correct. He’s a one-read quarterback, who then seeks to create with his feet AND arm if the first read isn’t there.  He is not a read-option quarterback, and aside from this preseason I don’t think I can remember seeing him lined up in the “Pistol formation.”

That isn’t to say Manziel cannot or will not get it, simply that he hasn’t yet and he isn’t close.

Johnny ManzielTraditionally the NFL has been the slowest level of football to innovate or adapt.  Innovation typically comes from the high school levels, and is carried to the collegiate level. It then slowly trickles up to the NFL.  The “wildcat” craze, hurry-up no huddle, and even the spread offense all originated at the high school level, the NFL is the late adopter.

Johnny Manziel is not a traditional NFL quarterback.  He isn’t a drop back passer, he isn’t the guy you put under center and run out of the I formation.  He isn’t Russell Wilson.  Can’t tell you how many times I cringe when people make that silly comparison. Johnny Manziel is not Russell Wilson, and there’s nothing similar about their games but height.

So why are the Cleveland Browns pigeon-holing him?  I’ll give partial credit to Kyle Shanahan for trying, but Manziel isn’t a Pistol read-option guy either.  His success came from his ability to create after read one isn’t there. He’s a kid who needs the field spread horizontally, so receivers can take advantage of coverage.  He needs a shotgun look, so he can survey the field from a vantage point he’s comfortable with.

He needs an offensive coordinator that understands that.

The greatest coaches in NFL history are the ones who adjusted their philosophies to maximize the talents of the players, and minimize situations where their weakness were exposed.  Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick are prime examples of this.

It bothers me when I see a quarterback who was quite obviously drafted without a plan on how to use him.  This seems to be the case with Manziel. In some ways it seems the Browns were almost reluctant to draft him, eschewing selecting him with their first pick to address their secondary and then only making a move to get him once he (or a homeless prophet if you believe that story) called and badgered them into it.

Once they selected him, they seemed to have little idea of what they wanted to do with him.

Having a stop-gap like Brian Hoyer in place gives you some flexibility, and/or buys you some time, but eventually you’re going to have to have a plan.

The Browns plan seems to be “try something sort of college-y” with the Pistol looks and read-option calls, but those aren’t things Manziel has ever done, and they aren’t things offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has done with any sustained success.

I hear two diametric arguments on what to do now with Manziel. On the one hand you have the “play him now crowd” and while I get their contention that the reps are invaluable and chemistry is developed that way, I tend to side with the sit him for the year crowd.

Manziel is clearly not ready at this point, and tossing him out there right now isn’t going to help. Develop a plan and develop the man. What good are reps, if muscle memory still has Manziel doing the wrong things? What good is chemistry if he is unable to execute the gameplan?

Sit Manziel for the season. Develop a plan to utilize him effectively for next season.  Talk to the coaches at Texas A&M, ask Kevin Sumlin where he wins, and adapt those concepts for the NFL. Get Manziel into good habits. Keeping him on the bench will help stall out all of the ridiculous off-field coverage.  Sure there will be clamor to start him after each loss, but a simple “we don’t answer to ESPN, we have a plan for Manziel” will keep even the most instigatory of buffoons like Skip Bayless at bay after awhile.

The philosopher had it wrong…the  journey of 1,000 miles starts with a map, not a step.


Benjamin Allbright is a published author and sports radio talk show host for 94.1 fm in Denver, Colorado. He has been featured on ESPN, Yahoo!, and Fox Sports.


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