Before I begin this column, let me preface this blog with a disclaimer in stating that this was just in a pre-season scrimmage with a bunch of second and third-stringers.
That being said, despite putting on an impressive display of arm strength, accuracy and pocket awareness, it seems that the once-troubled and often maligned former Heisman Trophy winner in Johnny Manziel finally seems to get it.
What I mean by “get it” is being a professional NFL quarterback.
Like my fellow peers in the Cleveland media, this writer will not go proverbially overboard in proclaiming Manziel the elusive savior or franchise quarterback that the Browns have searched over a decade and a half for since coming back to the NFL in 1999. But, I will say with cautious optimism that after watching Johnny Football put on a mini-air show down in Columbus, that Manziel is turning the corner, as he stated to The Plain Dealer, “(I) wouldn’t make a huge deal about it, but it’s progress”
Yes, he went 9-of-11 for 93 yards, two touchdowns and a sack in the Orange and Brown Scrimmage to a bunch of players who may either be on the street or the practice squad, but what I did see, was a completely different—and much improved—player.
Gone was the “happy feet”, run-first scrambler who had problems identifying defensive sub-packages and pre-snap formations who struggled in reading his progressions, and in his place on the storied field of the eight-time defending national champion Buckeyes was a QB who looked more confident throwing downfield, made better decisions in the passing game and a firmer grasp on the offense.
Gone are the likes of the self-serving and sabotaging Kyle Shannahan and the equally self-absorbed and choke-prone, rabbit-eared Brian Hoyer and in their place are a much friendlier offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo and savvy journeyman vet in Josh McCown.
Whatever issues that led to Manziel’s self-implosion on the field in the form of head-scratching QB-run plays and equally head-scratching pass plays from Shanahan seem to have been worked out, as witnessed by a visally more free-flowing and more confident Manziel.
As Manziel stated the day before the team’s inter-squad scrimmage, he no longer has to worry about the kind of shoes he wears being publicized, his ten-week offseason stint in rehab, being the subject of late-night partying downtown and images of his personal life becoming fodder for bitter fan boys and armchair analysts still griping over Hoyer being in Houston, as opposed to Manziel still being on the roster.
That being said, while it is a stretch to say that Manziel is on his way, I will burrow from the former NBA great Allen Iverson in stating that was not a live game, but practice.
But for once, Manziel is in the headlines for the right reasons, and not the wrong ones.