The NFL draft is less than a month away. I figured it was finally time to start talking football. When it comes to football, at least for me, and the majority of Northeast Ohio, it starts and ends with the Cleveland Browns. Otherwise known as the Cleveland Clowns, as the rest of America likes to remind us. Despite the nickname, they will always be my hometown team. The team I root and cry for/about every Sunday. Let’s face it, they never put us on Primetime, which I can’t really argue against.
In the 4 most dominant American sports, fans can’t wait to cheer their teams on for the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and NBA Finals. In Cleveland though, as Lee Corso so eloquently states, “not so fast my friends.” We don’t need those epic events because every year we are always in the hunt for something else… the #1 pick in the draft! When people are popping bottles and turning over cars after winning the big one, we are biting our nails waiting in anticipation to find the next savior, or most of the time, the next scapegoat. This, unfortunately, is the reality of Cleveland sports for the better half of the last century. Sure, we’ve had some pretty great players come through and almost get us that first title since 1964, but not even Lebron James got us to the promise land.
This brings me to Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football. With so much hype and attention surrounding him, it got me, and all of Ohio thinking. Could Johnny Football be the next savior for Cleveland sports, or the next scapegoat on the long list of wanna-be’s?
First, lets talk about Manziel, the football player. The former Heisman trophy winner (as a freshman mind you) is an undeniable talent. The kid is a flat out stud when he’s on the field. Love him or hate him, on the football field he was a man among boys. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in athletic ability. Manziel dominated in the SEC, the toughest conference in college football. He did this with an atrocious defense that probably cost his team a shot at the national title. He put up gaudy stats with even more highlight reel plays. If you haven’t see him play nor have heard his name on a weekly basis, you most likely have been living under a rock for the past two years. He is a college football legend and he only played for two seasons.
Now that we’ve touched a little bit on the football aspect of Manziel, lets take a look at the personality side that is “Johnny Football”. There’s no other way to say it, you’re either a fan or you’re not when it comes to Manziel. The saying, “you can’t have the sweet without the sour,” is a perfect analogy for Manziel’s career at Texas A&M. His celebrity status, his signature money hand signal, the partying, the taunting, the autographs, the list goes on and on. Are these just the normal ups and downs of a 19/20 year old kid trying to handle all this pressure and fame? Is there something more to it? That’s the question NFL scouts and executives are trying to figure out. Since Manziel announced his decision to forgo his eligibility and enter the draft, he has said and done all the right things. The jury is still out.
The Cleveland Browns have the #4 and #26 picks in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. We say this every year, but this draft is monumental to the future of the franchise. With a new GM (Ray Farmer) and head coach (Mike Pettine) once again, they have to get it right. The Browns haven’t had the greatest off-season to say the least, not to mention the ongoing investigation of its owner (Jimmy Haslam) for fraud. So basically, this draft needs to be a homerun. Better yet, a grand slam.
With all eyes pointing at the most glaring spot on the Browns roster, the quarterback position, it is once again under scrutiny. Everyone and anyone, knows to win in the NFL you either have to have a championship defense or a franchise QB. Neither is very easy to create or draft. We have been searching for both since the return to the league in 1999. Many have come and have gone. We’ve all seen the jersey with the 20 or so QB names on the back starting with Couch and ending with Campbell. Could this be the year that we finally stop at #21? Enter Johnny Football.
Many mock drafts have the Browns taking Manziel with the fourth overall pick. Others range from Sammy Watkins of Clemson to Khalid Mack of Buffalo. One thing is for sure, everyone expects the Browns to take a quarterback in this draft. The only question is, are any of these quarterbacks “Franchise” changing guys? Here’s a quick look at some of the best QB’s available. First, there’s the most ready prospect in Teddy Bridgewater, who to some is sliding down the draft boards. Next, we have Blake Bortles, who some think has the most upside. Then there is Derek Carr, AJ McCarron, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the fast riser Tom Savage. However, none of them carry the same bang or bust rating as Manziel. That is why there is so much intrigue surrounding his eventual pick in the draft.
Let’s look at some of the comparisons that usually come up when talking about Manziel. He is compared to QB’s as great as Steve Young and as bad as Tim Tebow. Others think he can have a career that mirrors Russell Wilson if put into the right system but more like Doug Flutie’s if not. The opinions are all over the place, but one thing always remains the same, he’s a gamer. With Manziel, you’re not only getting a guy who can ball, but you’re also getting a guy who can sell tickets. This is where the Cleveland Browns may enter.
I was listening to a sports talk radio show the other day in Cleveland. They posed a question to the audience concerning Manziel; basically asking people is it better to be relevant or to win games? To me it’s a no brainer, but you’d be surprised with what people had to say. To my dismay, many claimed they just wanted to have a team that was relevant. I get it, I do. I mean, we have had two winning seasons since 1999. The majority of the news you hear about Cleveland is usually about whom we fired or some other ridiculous decision we’ve made. To say we aren’t Sportscenter’s team of interest would be an understatement. But seriously, does that really matter? Don’t we play sports to win? Don’t we invest our time and money to see victories? I don’t remember ever rooting for a team because I liked their colors or because it was cool, (only when playing video games). I cheered for them because I wished I was out there with them battling to get the W. I hated losing growing up, lets restate that, I still hate losing at anything I play, and that includes family games. Last time I checked, just being relevant doesn’t win you a championship; just ask the Chicago Cubs, or the Dallas Cowboys. I’d rather be the San Antonio Spurs, sure they might be boring, but all they do is win.
The only people in sports that care about being relevant are the people making money off of it. I don’t remember ever getting paid anytime one of my teams have won. With winning comes relevancy. Don’t try to pull the shades over your fans eyes with all the glitz and the glare, because it eventually fades, all you’ll have left to show is your record.
So to the Browns organization, I ask you this, is drafting Johnny Manziel a business decision or a football decision? If it is a football decision, and you are 110% positive this is the guy that is going to be our savior, then sign me up. But if this is to sell jerseys and put people in the stands like previous teams did with the likes of Tebow, then I think you are setting up Johnny Football to be the next scapegoat. “With the 4th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select…”
Post By Kevin G. – firstname.lastname@example.org