Insiders

NFL AM: Is Release By Browns The End of Johnny Manziel’s NFL Career

on

The Cleveland Browns made the obvious official on Friday when they waived Johnny Manziel less than three years after spending a first round pick on the former college star.

It was the right move, the only move for a franchise that had dealt with far more than their fair share of headaches thanks to Manziel. But what happens next for both parties following the divorce will be just as important as the end of the marriage itself.

We know what happens next for the Browns. They go into the market for another quarterback, be that Colin Kaepernick, a draft pick, or both, and probably repeat this process all over again in 2-4 years. At this point it seems they’re destined to repeat this process forever.

But what becomes of Manziel, once believed to be the harbinger of a new kind of quarterback? Could this possibly be the end of his NFL career, at just 23 years old?

Looking at Manziel strictly as a football player, it’s hard to gauge what he is right now and more importantly what he can be if he gets his act together. He played in 15 games over two seasons, including eight starts, but that still feels like a sample size much too small. He showed flashes of his talent while also showcasing on-field flaws that might keep him from reaching his ceiling.

A lot of people are going to compare Manziel to Tim Tebow because of their college pedigrees and similar draft statuses, but that’s really not fair to either guy. As a quarterback, Manziel has way more talent than Tebow ever did. He has a better arm, throws the ball better and makes better reads. On the flip side, in terms of work ethic and commitment, Tebow outclasses Manziel 100 times over. If you’d put together a player with Manziel’s ability and Tebow’s drive, you might end up with something really special. But each had their flaws that kept them from being great.

Not only did Manziel never made progress like a young quarterback should, he never really made an effort to do so. He missed practices and meetings to party, and never seemed to take the job seriously enough to take the necessary steps to be successful. It got so bad that the Browns had to fake an injury for him because they were so embarrassed by how little he cared about doing his job. That just speaks to his commitment to the game versus his desire to be a celebrity, and that’s enough to keep any team away, nevermind what he did in that celebrity time, between the alcohol and drugs, that got him into trouble. That’s a whole other matter.

For now, Manziel’s career is in a long-term holding pattern. Manziel has more baggage than any NFL team is willing to take on at any position, no less the most important position on the field. It would be one thing if his history of partying, and abuse of alcohol and drugs were the only things on the radar. There would be at least one team (Dallas?) that thought that fixable and believed in the talent enough to take a chance on him. But when Manziel got himself involved in two incidents of possible domestic violence with his ex-girlfriend in the span of a couple months, he took the questions about his character to a whole other level.

Serious questions remain about what happened between Manziel and his ex-girlfriend Colleen Crowley on the night of Jan. 29 and early morning hours of Jan. 30 in Dallas. The Dallas Police Department conducted a full investigation into the incident and referred the case to a grand jury. All parties are awaiting results from the grand jury findings before proceeding, there is also reportedly video of the incident, which could be damning to Manziel in the same way it was to Ray Rice. It’s not likely any team will go anywhere near Manziel until that issue is resolved.

Regardless of how that situation plays out, some more significant damage has already been done to Manziel’s character. The recent past has shown us that it’s rare for an athlete to be accused of domestic violence and later shake that reputation. What comes out of it in court will only make the situation worse, not better. These cases aren’t fabricated. These investigations don’t happen for no reason. Manziel did something wrong that night, perhaps horribly wrong, and that will stick with him. It will make it difficult for fans to cheer for him. It will make it even harder for an NFL organization to trust him. Combine that with all the other things he’s done in the past two years and it’s near impossible to put any faith in the kid.

The being the case, we may well have seen the last of Johnny Manziel in the NFL. His tale is a cautionary one, that’s not likely to have a happy ending.

BRONCOS ACQUIRE MARK SANCHEZ

The Denver Broncos were still reportedly engaged with discussions with the San Francisco 49ers on Friday to acquire quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but in the meantime they made another move to sure-up their quarterback depth chart.

Denver acquired veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a conditional seventh round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. According to a tweet from Broncos General Manager John Elway, Sanchez is expected to get an opportunity to compete for the starting job vacated by the retirement of Peyton Manning and the signing of Brock Osweiler with the Houston Texans.

Adding Sanchez is a low-risk move for Denver, and up until making it the Broncos had just one quarterback on their roster, 2015 seventh round pick Trevor Siemian. A seven-year veteran, Sanchez has the experience necessary to compete for the starting job but probably not the skillset Denver wants leading their team in 2016. In a perfect world, he’d be an adequate backup to a much better starter.
The former USC quarterback does have postseason experience from his five seasons with the Jets. After being selected No. 5 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft by New York, Sanchez guided the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons, ultimately falling short each time. From there, he regressed and became more famous for his mistakes, like the butt fumble, than his successes and after five seasons New York had seen enough.

Sanchez then caught on with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he spent the last two seasons as the backup to varying degrees of success. Despite being second on the depth chart entering both seasons, he made 10 starts for the Eagles: eight in 2014 filling in for an injured Nick Foles and two last year for Sam Bradford. Philadelphia went 4-6 in those games and Sanchez was a primary factor in the team’s lack of success in December of 2014, when they blew the NFC East lead to Dallas and wound up missing the playoffs. Philly was 0-2 in his starts last season during another disappointing season and Sanchez became expendable when they re-signed Bradford and signed Chase Daniel away from the Kansas City Chiefs.

Sanchez can be an adequate placeholder at the quarterback position. He can get the ball to his targets accurately — he completed 64 percent of his passes over two seasons with the Eagles — and has become a decent game manager, though he remains slightly turnover prone. He won’t be the worst quarterback in the league, but he won’t be near the best either. He actually could put up similar numbers to those that Peyton Manning did last season, and Manning won a Super Bowl, so you never know.

But the Broncos have been the biggest losers of this offseason so far and bringing in Sanchez doesn’t change that. If he’s going to be the backup, Denver would be hard-pressed to find one better at this point. However, if he ends up the starter, it’s going to be a long season in the Mile-High city.

JETS ENTERTAINING ROBERT GRIFFIN III

As the New York Jets play a high stakes game of chicken with last year’s starter at quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, they’re entertaining the idea of bringing in another QB with a much higher ceiling.

The Jets are having quarterback Robert Griffin III in for a visit over the weekend, the first such visit for RGIII since he was released by the Washington Redskins this week. It seems doubtful Griffin signs without exploring some other options, he should be in no hurry, but it’s an interesting fit for both parties should they come to terms.

For the Jets, Griffin represents promise and potential, a chance to find the franchise quarterback they’ve long sought at low-risk. Reportedly they’re not looking at Griffin as a replacement for Fitzpatrick, but as a potential backup to whoever their starter is and a developmental player who could take the reins down the road.

That’s exactly what Griffin should be at this point. He’s long removed from his breakout rookie season and he’s also not the same player he was in that season. Injuries have sapped him of some of the athletic ability that made him so dynamic that season and the chances of his being able to recreate it, even with a year spent healing and learning last season, are slim. He needs to develop into more of a pocket passer who can use his legs as a complementary element. If he can do that, he can still be a successful starter in the league.

But it’s fair to wonder if New York is the right place for him to learn that. First, the Jets don’t have a starter in place for him to learn from like some of his other potential suitors. They don’t have a starting quarterback at all right now and even if they do ultimately retain Fitzpatrick, the calls for Griffin to start the moment Fitzpatrick stumbles, and he will, will be deafening. That’s the other part of the equation that doesn’t really fit as it relates to Griffin. The spotlight in New York is intense and scrutiny will be at a fever pitch. Even if he’s trying to become a different player than he was as a rookie, it’s difficult to put that genie back in the bottle. New York fans saw Griffin be a dynamic playmaker in 2012, that will be their expectation of him from the jump.

So while the promise of Griffin is enticing to the Jets, and the potential of New York is enticing for Griffin and his agents, a potential marriage between the two might be doomed from the outset and it’s probably a bad idea for both parties.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys