Johnny Manziel spent yet another one of his weekends as the unapologetic center of attention. Fortunately for the Cleveland Browns, this time the hotshot quarterback did so within the confines of what they hope actually will prove to be his element.
During an intrasquad scrimmage where he took snaps with the second team, Johnny Football led the Browns to a pair of “almost” touchdowns that highlighted the day. Yeah, yeah, I know almost doesn’t count in football, but when you consider projected starter Brian Hoyer never came even remotely close pulling off any such feats even as he had more opportunities and more throws with other team starters, you get the idea why some are predicting it’s just a matter of time before the former Heisman Trophy winner will emerge to be calling all the shots for the Browns.
It’s worth noting that most of Manziel’s best plays came with him scrambling and creating outside the pocket, perhaps suggesting the Browns may well be open to letting Manziel be himself as he continues to gain his NFL bearings.
According to ESPN, afterwards, Coach Mike Pettine wasn’t quite willing to tip his hand as to which QB he might he leaning to, but it was clear Manziel had captured the his eye.
“You can see that’s going to be a strength of his,” he said of Manziel’s’ mobility. “Some of the completions he made on the run, that’s playing to his skill set.”
As you might expect, Johnny Football took it all as only Johnny Football can.
“For me, it gets better every day,” said the man dogged by off-field transgressions ranging from frequently partying at strip clubs to holding a “money phone” in public and posing for photos with more scantily clad women than the Browns’ playbook has plays.
“That’s really the story of my life right now,” Manziel added. “Learn the stuff, continue to get more and more familiar with every single play in our offense…There’s no gap that I’m looking at right now. It’s know the playbook, know everything. There’s still so many little things. Now I’m seeing it, adjusting, learning. That’s what I’m doing, is learning.”
Manziel’s grandest highlights came in the form of a goal line pass for a sure-fired score to Charles Johnson that was dropped, a fourth-and-five to Willie Snead for 14 yards and a “nearly perfect” pass to Gary Barnidge in the back corner of the end zone that was ruled out of bounds.
With Manziel being the lightening-rod he is, many are now of the conclusion that what makes him who he is are also the characteristic that could rob him of who he can become.
Even as Manziel staged his best showing since the Browns tabbed him with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan openly wondered if all Manziel’s improvisation might expose him to the kind of hits and injuries no team can afford their quarterback absorbing.
In time, Manziel will almost certainly get his chance to call the shots with the team’s first-unit. But Johnny Manziel being Johnny Football, one way or the other it may all be a moot issue by then.