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Column: Johnny Football will become Johnny Payback
Question of the Day
Now, it’s time for Johnny Football to become Johnny Payback.
In the end, though, the brash quarterback landed with the perfect team - the perfect city, really, a place that has been yearning for someone, anyone, to cheer since LeBron James bolted for South Beach.
That was apparent Friday, when the Cleveland Browns tried to keep up with the demand for tickets and welcomed Manziel to town with the adulation normally reserved for reality stars and cats playing the piano on YouTube.
While there’s a danger in all this - at some point, he has to turn off the rock-star persona and get to work - the guess here is that Manziel will be a big hit in his new home.
He’s simply too good to fail.
“I’m going to continue to get better as a football player,” Manziel vowed. “I didn’t go into this process saying I had it all figured out.”
There will be struggles, of course. All rookies go through an adjustment period when they get to the NFL - especially when you’re talking about a quarterback who is just 21 years old, who played just two years of college ball at Texas A&M.;
Manziel’s style will get plenty of scrutiny, too. He is surely not the prototype quarterback, being a shade under 6 feet, a guy who dazzles with his speed as well as his arm, who thrives more on improvisation than he does with set plays. The key for the Browns will be finding a way to hone those skills, to let Manziel be Manziel while gradually reining in the sort of anything-goes mindset that won’t fly in the NFL.
“Obviously,” he said, “I know there are times I need to play with more structure.”
To a large extent, this is Michael Vick all over again.
Manziel and the Browns would be well-served to study that blueprint, borrowing from all the good and the bad that defined Vick’s career after he was picked No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001.
As Vick showed, there’s a place in the league for someone who simply does things that no one else can do. In four full-time seasons as Atlanta’s quarterback, he led the downtrodden Falcons to a division title, two playoff appearances, and came up one win shy of the Super Bowl during the 2004 season.
The Browns - who have made one playoff appearance in the last 15 years, haven’t won a postseason game since 1994 - would take Vick’s early resume right now. Clearly, this thing can work as long as the team is willing to live with some of the inevitable mistakes, to accept the thrilling “Did you see what he just did!” moments right along with the occasional groans of “Did you see what he just did?”
As Vick also showed, there’s no place in the league for someone who doesn’t grow as a player and a person. He never did the behind-the-scenes work that was needed to gradually hone his style into more of a traditional passer, to reduce the pounding on his body so he was better served for the long haul.
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