According to a report on CBSSports.com this morning, Hue Jackson – the new coach of the Browns – says that the team needs a QB and will consider drafting the right one if he is available. Since the Browns draft at #2 this year, the odds are that a QB will be available to them in the draft so the question is whether or not they think he is “the right one”. Also, that report says that Jackson took the job in Cleveland with the understanding that he would make the decision as to whether or not Johnny Manziel remains on the Browns’ roster. And with that as preamble, let me opine here on the possible futures of two QBs who are likely to be free agents very soon. I speak of Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III.
There has been plenty of speculation that Cowboys’ owner and GM and master-of-all-things-Cowboys, Jerry Jones, would bring Manziel to Dallas to be Tony Romo’s understudy. Recall that there were myriad stories about how Jones wanted to draft Manziel a couple of years ago but was talked out of that in order to take offensive guard, Zack Martin.
Jones also told NJ.com in an interview that he feels as if he is lying on his back and looking up and all he sees is ass. He wants to change his viewscape; he wants a completely new look in all his interactions with everyone associated with the team. He said that the Cowboys got “less than they paid for” in 2015 and it cannot be a surprise that he would prefer that not happen again in 2016. Here is a link…
I am going to do a bit of mind-reading here even though I know that is impossible. I suspect that Hue Jackson knows more than a bit about dysfunctionality when it comes to NFL teams. He was the coach of the Raiders in 2011 – the year that Al Davis died. For all the great things Davis did over the course of his career, his final years were enveloped in reclusion, confusion and delusion. Jackson happened to be at the center of that maelstrom.
Then he hooked on with the Bengals as the offensive coordinator and the cost of a “lack of discipline” has to be fresh in his mind after the great “Vontaze Burfict/Adam Jones Fiasco” about 10 days ago. Since I assume that Hue Jackson is smarter than a day-old donut, I think he will try to build a team that shows discipline as one of its characteristics. And that brings us to Johnny Manziel who may or may not have slipped off to Las Vegas to carouse when he was supposed to stay in Cleveland to be part of the NFL’s concussion protocol. That is only the latest alleged incident that might lead some to think that Manziel is not the most trustworthy person on the planet.
If the Browns were to release Manziel tomorrow – they should not! – my guess is that Jerry Jones would have Manziel in for an interview posthaste and assuming that Manziel Is smart enough to show up on time, here is what I think will transpire:
Manziel will say that he has “seen the light” and that “being cut from a team for the first time ever” was a life-changing event for him. That event put all the things he heard in his “rehab days” into a form of reality that he had not recognized before.
Since that is precisely what Jones wants to hear – because it will allow him to sign Manziel and then crow that he got both the guy he originally wanted PLUS Zack Martin who has already been to a Pro Bowl in his first two years -, the Cowboys will sign Manziel. Jones will say that the team will provide him with ”support” and that all the young QB needs to do now is to work to learn the Cowboys’ offense.
Everyone will leave the press conference with huge smiles and optimism will rain from the skies. I would set the OVER/UNDER on how long it takes for Manziel to be in the headlines again for something other than an on-field football happening at June 1st.
Because Jerry Jones will jump at a chance to sign Manziel, that is exactly why the Browns should not release him until Jones is at the point where he needs to address the backup QB situation in Dallas. Last year should have taught him that backup QB is an important position if you harbor playoff thoughts. When it comes time for Jones to make whatever move(s) he thinks make sense, that is when the Browns can dangle Manziel and at least get a conditional 5th or 6th round pick for him. That may not sound like much, but:
It is better than nothing and the Browns need all the draft picks they can amass.
It is a good return for a player who seems to be more dedicated to the proposition that “it’s five o’clock somewhere” than he is to playbook study.
And that brings me to RG3 who appears to be in a similar situation in Washington. Owner, Danny Boy Snyder apparently loved him some RG3 to the point where their bromance created some locker-room tension. As the 2015 season ended, it had to be clear to anyone who paid any attention at all that Coach Jay Gruden wants no part of RG3 next year. When the Skins picked up the option on Griffin’s contract, it guaranteed his salary at something north of $16M for next year if either of these conditions obtained:
RG3 is on the team roster on the first day of the new “football year”. That day is in mid-March 2016; releasing a player takes about 15 minutes; I suspect the Skins can find the time to fill out the proper forms and fax them to the league and the union to make that happen to avoid $16M showing up on their salary cap for the 2016 season.
RG3 ended the 2015 season with an injury.
To avoid that second possibility, Griffin only dressed for 1 game this year and he never came close to seeing the field in that one. The reason he was dressed that week was that the team did not have enough players designated as “healthy” to put in a uniform to stand on the sideline during the game. Essentially, RG3’s final game as an “active player” in Washington was in the role of an “animated suit dummy” – the description I often used to describe the late Dr. Myles Brand.
RG3 and Johnny “Football” have a lot in common. Both were high school football stars in Texas; both were Heisman Trophy winners playing for colleges in Texas; both play a style of game that is “unconventional” and therefore “exciting” in terms of NFL quarterbacking. So, why should Jerry Jones focus only on Johnny “Football” as he searches for a splashy signing as his backup QB? Frankly, I do not think he will and in the case of RG3 he will not need to be part of a negotiation over a conditional draft pick because the Skins are going to release Griffin for sure. [Aside: If I understand the current CBA correctly, the Cowboys would owe Griffin the $16M guaranteed salary for 2016 if they were to trade for him. Under that circumstance, Jerry Jones would have to be dumber than a dugong even to discuss such a transaction.]
However, hidden in the weeds here is another potential actor. The Houston Texans need to upgrade themselves at the QB position. They have a very good defense but they got inconsistent play at QB for all of 2015; they won the AFC South but the Colts will get Andrew Luck back in good health for 2016; the Texans really need to do something and they do not draft until #22 in this year’s draft – hardly a position where one thinks a franchise QB will fall in one’s lap. The Texans may also be intrigued by the Texas roots and Texas notoriety of either of these QBs. I doubt there will be a bidding war for either one, but there might be a race to see which team gets to interview either player as soon as he is a free agent.
I think both RG3 and Johnny Manziel will get another opportunity in the NFL. Both will have to show a fast learning curve to their new teams/coaches because both suffer from a similar “problem”. Both of them arrived in the NFL succeeding at QB because they were significantly more athletic than just about every opponent they faced in high school and in college. Without putting a pejorative label on it, that superiority did not instill in either one a dedication to learning the subtleties of playing the QB position. In the NFL, they learned that they were not athletically superior to every opponent every time they stepped onto the field. Oops… Now that lack of study/attention/dedication made them susceptible to big mistakes and to frustration on the part of their coaches. [Aside: To be sure, Manziel’s off-field escapades provide his case with an entirely different dimension as compared to Griffin.]
Talent wins out in the NFL and both of these young QBs have raw talent. There will be coaches who are certain that they are uniquely capable of harnessing that talent and developing it to the point where it is manifest in all of its glory for all to see. Who knows? Maybe those future coaches are actually right…
Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that seems appropriate in light of what is above:
“At SportsPickle.com: ‘Johnny Manziel facing questions about his judgment after being spotted in Cleveland.’ ”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………