The Sunday Drive trying to figure out what to do with Johnny Manziel

Could Kaepernick be the next Browns quarterback?

Could Kaepernick be the next Browns quarterback?

I really don’t want to spend any time talking about the Cleveland Browns.

I’m more or less over it.

Should we talk about tanking so the Browns can get a better first round draft pick? You know, they do so well with those.

Should we talk about the Browns not quitting, which they clearly did last week? You know, so they can get to .500 and help salvage Mike Pettine and his coaching staff’s persona after making some odd calls as the season has progressed.

You can talk about players quitting, or getting hurt, or underperforming if you want, but I’m just done with it.

It’s the Christmas season for crying out loud, and THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TIME OF HAPPINESS AND JOY. The last thing that I want to talk about are the Browns’ struggles this past month, or Brian Hoyer, or Johnny Manziel, or Josh Gordon‘s disappearance, or why Alex Mack had to get hurt, or why the staff at Everybody Hates Cleveland got a call last week to play on the defensive line because of injury…

…okay…that last one didn’t happen, but you get the point.

It’s just time for the Sunday Drive to start focusing its attention on the Cavaliers and the Indians, and just be done with the Browns.

The Browns are officially eliminated from the Playoffs, so it’s time to move on…right?

Of course not. This is the time in which our self-deprecation should reach its greatest levels.

Let’s get driving this Browns’ bus one more time, because we really do have to figure this quarterback thing out. It has been fifteen years for crying out loud.

The Johnny Manziel-experiment should go on as long as the talent-evaluators think that it should, not the fans, and certainly not Bernie Kosar. I’m not saying that Kosar is wrong, or Tim Couch for that matter, but Jimmy Haslam, Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine should’nt spend a second listening to either. I love Kosar, but if I’m running that team at this point, I either give him a job with the GM, or lock the front doors.

I have no clue what kind of offense Kyle Shanahan wants to run, to be honest, but I do know that the be a successful professional quarterback, you have to be able to do one thing pretty well: drop-back and pass.

That’s not rocket science, is it?

And, it certainly doesn’t take one long to figure out if a quarterback can do that. The problem with the college game is that there are often really talented quarterbacks who are rarely, if ever, asked to do that.

Enter Johnny Manziel.

Being a quarterback that can throw first, then run when there’s pressure is a really good thing. Aaron Rogers does this pretty well, and has done it with some really bad offensive lines. Ben Roethlisberger does this well in Pittsburgh, as does Russell Wilson in Seattle, who Johnny Manziel is often compared to.

I talked about Manziel’s intangibles last week. I do think that he has a lot of what a pro quarterback needs. Yes, he is absolutely mobile. Yes, he can be a clutch quarterback. Yes, he’s athletic. Yes, he can throw the football from weird angles and get the ball there (although EHC’s Steve Orbanek correctly noted that his arm strength looked to be an issue last week).

But can he drop back and make an accurate throw?

While I don’t want to scream about the talent of the top ten or twelve quarterbacks in the league, the one commonality that they all have is their ability to make the three-, five- and seven-step drops and hit the appropriate receiver. While I think we’ll see Manziel ultimately be able to show more arm strength than last week, I don’t know if we’ll ever see him become that type of drop-back passer.

That’s the concern.

This is the difference between Wilson and Manziel coming out of college. Wilson grades highly in the five- and seven- step drops, while I’m not sure that Manziel has ever had to do this, or even could, without his instincts taking over and moving him out of the pocket. Yes, you should incorporate roll-outs. Yes, you should allow Johnny-to-be-Johnny (sorry Manny), but in the end, if he can’t institute the type of throws that make an NFL quarterback successful, this offense will never click with him under center.

It really is that simple.

Could Kyle Shanahan run the pistol offense to accentuate Manziel’s strengths? You bet he could. It would likely work too, for a time. Ultimately, the problem with the pistol is that teams start to figure it out, by both game-planning and just plain speed and talent. If you have a quarterback that loses a step because of injury (RG3) or fear (Manziel), there are eleven guys opposite the ball that can either run a quarterback down, or make the right option read.

Is it time to give up on Manziel?

No, and it’s fortunately (or unfortunately) not even close, at least from our perch here as Monday Morning quarterbacks.

The Browns need to give Manziel and Shanahan time to develop an offensive scheme that works for his style of play. While we can mention guys like Aaron Rogers until we are blue in the face, he had three years to get ready for his starting shot behind Brett Favre. Tom Brady had a full year. While Russell Wilson was just throwing into the mix, he played in two pro-style offenses in college, at NC State, and then Wisconsin.

The skill was already there, and in Pete Carroll, he had a coach that had been through the ringer as both a pro and college coach. Carroll was the perfect coach for Wilson, with tons of experience as both a defensive coach, and a guy in front of an offensive juggernaut at USC.

Mike Pettine, who I think is going to be a really good head football coach, is not a guy I would classify as having all the answers for an offense, and as much as I love Shanahan, I do think he has a few years to go before you consider him any sort of genius at what he does. That’s even up for debate.

In the end, the Browns are in the middle of another odd quarterback time. They traded up to draft a guy that had a ton of hype, and interesting intangibles, and had won a Heisman Trophy. There’s nothing traditional about Johnny Football, and in the end, that’s what is going to make the next two weeks, and perhaps 2015 season, all the more painful.

Can the Browns afford to give a guy that doesn’t appear to have the prototypical skills to win long-term in the NFL the next 18 games to prove or disprove his ability to win, or should they only give him the next two weeks. Bernie Kosar and Tim Couch were right in the basics that the Browns front office HAS to give their talent time to settle into the position.

Here’s the thing: if the coaching staff and front office have already figured out that Manziel isn’t the answer, in the same manner that John Fox and John Elway did back in 2011, should they give him another year? Let me ask you, the reader, a question. If you drafted a quarterback with a whole bunch of off-the-field issues, and that quarterback was groomed during the season to take over “down-the-road,” and that quarterback wasn’t ready because he admitted that he didn’t practice hard enough and wasn’t prepared, would you want him as your starter?

I sure hope the answer to that is no.

Fortunately for Elway and Fox, Peyton Manning was available prior to the 2012 season, and Tebow’s time in Denver was quickly forgotten.

There are no such players available to the Browns, at least from the outside looking in. Perhaps the Browns turn to Michael Vick, or even a guy like Jake Locker, but neither are guarantees to be any good. Vick’s old and injury prone, and Locker is young, unproven and injury prone. Neither would make anyone forget about Manziel, likely on-and-off the field.

Could the Browns make a trade that would bring in a quarterback that could lead this team to the playoffs? There are certainly some interesting names out there that are both interesting, enticing, and…well…scary.

Perhaps the Browns could bring one of them in teach Manziel the ropes, or just flat out trade Manziel for the guy they bring in. I’m not sure he has any value, or will by the end of the year, but you never know. Perhaps you get an organization making tons of changes, or you get a coach that already likes Manziel. Either way, there will be some quarterbacks available.

In San Francisco, the light is dimming on a team that seems likely to get very bad, very quickly. Colin Kaepernick is the quarterback there, and it wasn’t all that long ago that his name was mentioned with Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. He’s only 27-years old, has a ton of upside, can make the throws that Shanahan wants. He has also looked really bad this year.

Still, Kaepernick has all of the intangibles that a quarterback needs, and under the right leadership, should be able to regain his confidence. In Cleveland, he certainly would be treated as royalty, and while eccentric, would seem tame to the already out-of-control, off-the-field antics of Johnny Manziel.

He’s also already played in a Super Bowl, and went 16-for-28 passing for 302 yards and a touchdown, and added 62 yards and another score on the ground against a fired-up Ravens defense.

In the right situation, Kaepernick is a star again. I just honestly don’t know, or even think the Browns are that team.

Nick Foles could be an interesting option as well. He’s struggled this year, both with injury and play, but has showcased some pretty sizable skill over the past couple of seasons. There are questions there, but you can’t question his arm strength and ability to make all the right throws behind a coach who could utilize him the right way. There are more questions here than with Kaepernick, but still would be a worthwhile look. I could also see a coach like Chip Kelly wanting Manziel. Remember, Manziel initially committed to Kelly and Oregon, and the Browns moved up to Philly’s spot to take Manziel, with Foles looking like a world beater. Kelly has stated numerous times that “he was tailor made for my system,” and is the type of coach that isn’t afraid to take a flier on a guy with Manziel’s talents.

Jay Cutler will be the most obvious choice out there, and he’s no doubt got the best skill set, even though there are moments in which you wonder what the hell he’s doing. He has a bloated contract, with six-years left on it, but I believe only two years are guaranteed, and then they could more or less go year-to-year with him after that. Here’s my question: do you want two years of Jay Cutler at $16 million a year?

Neither would I.

What about reuniting RG III with Kyle Shanahan? I just want to get this out there before I dive into the why’s of this: I don’t like Griffin as a quarterback. I will quickly follow that up with: I’m not really sure I like anyone in Washington, and think that it’s likely that the Redskins organization is the most toxic in all of football.

Seriously.

Who has anything good about their time playing for Dan Snyder, expect for perhaps Robert Griffin III, who may very well be Snyder’s adopted son. That said, you can’t argue with the results of the Griffin/Shanahan era. Unfortunately, that era ended with a Griffin injury that left him a step slower, and pretty less-than-ordinary. Perhaps he just needs to right system, but, it could be that the league has figured that system out, and his time is now over before it has begun.

Of course, what does that say about Manziel?

Should I mention Andy Dalton here?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

What about some guy names Brian Hoyer?

I would sign him, but never as a starter for this particular team.

John Elway was able to lure perhaps the best quarterback in the history of football to Denver, and in doing so, made his team an immediate Super Bowl threat. As I said before, a byproduct of that was wiping the Tebow-run off the map. If you remember, it was the talk of the town after they made their run to the playoffs.

Who talks about it now?

Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine will have no such luck in Cleveland. At best, they will be able to trade for either a quarterback that used to be good, or sign a quarterback out of free agency that may challenge for a back-up role.

There isn’t a “Best Ever,” or even a “Best Right Now” option out there.

It’s not a perfect scenario by any stretch.

The Browns could draft another quarterback in the first round with one of their first round picks. Hell, the Browns COULD likely trade both first round picks for a chance at one of the top two or three quarterbacks in the draft.

Would you be okay with the Browns going after Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston in the first round?

Is either one of them Andrew Luck?

I don’t think so.

I’m under the line of thinking that whenever you get a first round pick, you either take a guy that’s a freak-of-nature, has great make-up, and is as can’t miss as you can get, or you take an offensive lineman. I don’t have the percentages sitting in front of me, but I’d say the best bet for any team in the first round is to take the best available lineman. If you see a receiver that is 6’5″ and can run a 4.4 40 and has good hands, you take him. If you have a linebacker with 25 sacks, no health problems, and takes his mom flowers every day, you go there.

In other words, you don’t dance around players that have “might” around them unless the “might” is “might be a ten year success story because they work their ass off and have a boatload of talent.”

I know, it sounds easier than it really is.

Still, there are far more stories of quarterback busts (right here in Cleveland) than there are “Tony Mandarich-like” busts.

I suppose the long and the short of it are that the Browns have drafted Brady Quinn and Brandon Wheedon in a similar position to Johnny Manziel. If they ultimately give up on Manziel, that would be a trifecta I want no part of going forward. Sign or trade for a quarterback, then draft guy that you have rated highly on your board with talent, that has good make-up, and can be coached for multiple years before taking over.

If he doesn’t pan out, nobody questions taking a qb in the second or third a couple of times, and you can always sign another free agent when the time comes.

The Browns have that type of owner.

This isn’t to discredit the need for a special quarterback to win the Super Bowl. This is true. Here’s the thing: are we there yet with the Browns?

At this point, making the playoffs would be enough for me. It should be enough for anyone that follows this team. The Browns are now a franchise that’s pretty much a laughingstock at this point. They’ve had 20-plus quarterbacks start since 1999, have had more coaches than any other team during that stretch, and can barely keep an owner.

It’s time for this team to simply start winning, and whether that’s with Manziel or by some other means, either is okay with me. The Browns shouldn’t stick with a questionable starter just because they should give him some time earn the spot. The real question there is how they are evaluating talent. Hoyer is exactly what we think he is, and has always been that. The fact that the Browns have gone with him this year has more to do with a first-year coach and GM, combined with the development of a college quarterback named Manziel.

Now they’ve evaluated both. They shouldn’t be held accountable for this organizations’ past misdeeds in the same way that Jimmy Haslam wasn’t held accountable for canning his first coaching choice. Once he knew what he had, he knew he had to go in a different direction…and he did. Mike Pettine, while flawed, is the better head football coach.

Now let’s offer Farmer and Pettine the same chance. No, they aren’t Elway and Fox by any stretch, but that doesn’t mean they can’t evaluate their team.

They should bring in a guy that they feel can win football games. If that’s not Johnny Manziel, so be it. Who knows, perhaps they DO feel that Manziel is the guy, but needs more than a season of seasoning.

Fine.

Bring in a guy that can give him just that.

Yes, you should hold them accountable if Johnny Manziel is a bust, but you should also allow them an opportunity or two to improve this team without the baggage of the previous era of garbage, even if that era was less than twelve months ago.

I wish I knew the answer, but it should make for a pretty interesting six months, while the Browns evaluate their 2014 draft and season, as they head toward the 2015 season.

You know what they say…”fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…and you’re looking for a new job in the NFL.”

Unless, of course, you are Billy Cundiff, but that’s for another day.

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