Todd Rosenberg/SI/The MMQB
Todd Rosenberg/SI/The MMQB

Here’s (The Real) Johnny

He’s saying and doing all the right things, but can Johnny Manziel prove himself worthy of being the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft? Plus, the Niners-Browns mess, a way-too-early Top 10 mock draft and more from the combine in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS — The offseason. That’s a good one.

Browns chase Jim Harbaugh. Lose.

Michael Sam meets the press. Wins. Then he lifts weights. Loses.

Johnny Manziel undergoes radical image-ectomy. Early returns: good.

Ray Rice undergoes radical image destruction. Early returns: awful.

Players might get flagged in games for using the n-word. Tremendous.

The NFL scouting combine’s halfway over. Overrated (as always).

One point before we get to my Johnny Manziel Experience and everything else: Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Friday that the Browns “nearly pulled off a trade” for boffo 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. That put the combine on its ear, and set off a flurry of denials and non-denial denials. Cleveland officials wouldn’t deny the story, lending it added credence, and then, on Sunday, owner Jimmy Haslam told USA Today, “There was an opportunity there, and it didn’t materialize.” Harbaugh denied the story, and the Niners organization mostly kept quiet except for a tweet from CEO Jed York Friday night denying the story.

That was until Sunday night, when York told me he would not rehash the entire story but did say: “The Browns reached out to me, and we had no interest in pursuing it.”

That confirms this story was more than the Browns spitballing an impossible dream, as the Harbaugh quotes and early Niners denial would make it seem. But as I first heard Friday night, I don’t believe terms were discussed back and forth between the Browns and Niners. I believe that, as York said, the 49ers decided not to engage the Browns on any substantive negotiations for Harbaugh.

So many tentacles to this story, and we’ll pursue them later in this column. But first, my encounter at the combine with Jonathan Paul Manziel.

* * *

Manziel (Todd Rosenberg/SI/The MMQB)
Manziel has made a concerted effort to rehab his image as he prepares to enter the NFL. (Todd Rosenberg/SI/The MMQB)

Manziel, the polished version.

On Friday night at the combine, the Jacksonville Jaguars had a 15-minute session with Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback. Manziel hadn’t met anyone in the room. When he walked in, all the Jaguars coaches and officials stood.

Manziel went to owner Shahid Khan and shook his hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Khan. I’m Johnny Manziel.”

Then to his son Tony Khan, a team senior VP. “Hi Mr. Khan, Johnny Manziel.”

Then to coach Gus Bradley. “Hi Coach Bradley, pleasure to meet you. Johnny Manziel.”

Then to GM David Caldwell, and then to offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. All the same: handshake, look ’em in the eye, refer to them by name. He knew them all. Now, he didn’t know the scouts in the room, but he knew five men by sight that he’d never met. “That was impressive,” Caldwell said. “He did a really nice job in there. He was prepared for the interview, very prepared.”

That was the goal for Manziel in the six-and-a-half weeks he’s spent in Carlsbad, Calif., north of San Diego, working with quarterback coach George Whitfield, quarterback consultant Kevin O’Connell and a training staff. Get better at being a pocket quarterback and not just the human highlight tape he was at Texas A&M. Work in the classroom with former Patriots and Jets backup O’Connell, studying the offense of every team that might pick him. O’Connell and Manziel even studied Washington’s offense from last year, not because they think there’s any chance the team will draft him, but because Kyle Shanahan, last year’s Washington offensive coordinator, now works in Cleveland, and they wanted to get a feel of what he likes to call and how he likes to use protections. Hammer home schemes, specific plays and formations each team is partial to using.

Then, Manziel wanted to address all the Johnny Nightlife questions—the ejection from the Manning Passing Academy last summer for turning up late for his job as a camp quarterback counselor, the tweeted photos at all hours at all sorts of bars. Some teams won’t like that; Houston’s buttoned-up owner, Bob McNair, certainly will frown at the prospect of having a playboy quarterback, if that’s what the owners of the top pick judge Manziel to be. An executive of one team who met with Manziel over the weekend said, “Has there been one killer incident for him? If there is, we haven’t found it.” [Manziel and his agent, Erik Burkhardt, declined to discuss how many teams he met with this weekend or which they were, and the executive of the team I just referred to didn’t want to identify his team because it has an established quarterback and didn’t want to drum up controversy in that market. But it’s known from reports in various places that Manziel met with Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia coaches and team officials, and very likely Oakland, this weekend before flying back to Texas late Sunday afternoon.]

“We’ve found nothing that’s come across as a fatal flaw to us,” Caldwell said.

“One of our goals,” Whitfield said, “has been to show that a player who’s been driving an automatic can now drive a stick-shift.”

Finally, Manziel and Burkhardt wanted to limit his time being famous—he can go unnoticed in Southern California but is treated like a rock star throughout Texas after winning the 2012 Heisman as a college freshman—and maximize his time with the teams. So except for a dress rehearsal for his Pro Day and then the Pro Day workout March 27 in Texas, you’ll find Manziel mostly in two places—Carlsbad or on the road meeting with teams. “Our goal is to give every team that’s interested the maximum amount of time with Johnny they want,” Burkhardt said. “The more time, the merrier. Because when they spend time with him, they’ll get to know the real Johnny.”

It all seems like a smart approach. Manziel is a unique prospect who will require significant research. Even though the 5-10½ Russell Wilson just won the Super Bowl, below-average size at the position—Manziel  measured 5-11¾ at the combine—is a detriment to greatness in the NFL. Small quarterbacks often have to be out-of-the-pocket improvisers; last year Manziel had poor games in losses against LSU and Missouri when hemmed in the pocket, frustrated he couldn’t get out on the edge and make something happen. “One of our goals,” Whitfield said at the combine, “has been to show that a player who’s been driving an automatic can now drive a stick-shift, and he can make the kind of plays from the pocket you’re going to need to make in the NFL.”

But he’s also unique in this regard: How many prospects get less famous going from college to the NFL? Manziel might be the one. Johnny Manziel anywhere in the NFL will be nutty, but he’s already had the kind of training he’ll need to deal with being the billboard for a franchise.

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253 comments
Redfish
Redfish

At least the word Rape is not associated with any of his activities like another Heisman winner. Can't wait to see how that little character flaw will pop up when Winston goes in for his interviews when he goes pro.

Buck2185
Buck2185

Peter, you continue to show how little you actually know. Manziel will drink and carouse, gain 100 lbs, and change his name to Jamarcus. He will then take some Adderral, and shoot off his mouth, like a punk, in an interview with Erin Andrews.......

Rock305NY
Rock305NY

If you really want to clean things up, why stop at the N-word? How about f**k? mother**ker? A**hole? Sh*thead? etc. Plenty of people find these words offensive. How about banning the n-word plus the 7 words you can't say on TV? Then let's see the refs enforce it- while correctly identifying the offenders.  This sounds like an off the wall reaction to the Jonathan Martin situation. If such language it bothers the players so much, why aren't we seeing race-related brawls all the time? 

PaulPage
PaulPage

Under the 10 things, how are not #4 and #5 making diametrically opposed points?  Please don't tell me it's the difference between a first round and late round choice - that just doesn't apply.  The wording of his points is too similar.  Typical PK.

qwerty2002
qwerty2002

Not about the NFL, but I don't care. I thought so 20 years ago, and I was reminded Sunday Night -- Nancy Kerrigan was totally AWESOME! I cannot think of any other athlete who performed so incredibly well, and over two separate nights, and who was under such intense individual pressure. She was totally overwhelmed, and yet she skated her absolute best. And in ice skating, you are totally alone out on the ice, all attention the world over is focused on you, you get one and only one shot, and she knocked it out of the park. Came back two nights later and did it again. She deserved the gold, but she didn't get it, that's the way things go sometime. Really incredible.

salvaje50
salvaje50

Mike Brown is the cheapest SOB owner in the league.  Surprised he wasn't seen in Wal-mart buying bread, peanut butter and jelly that was on clearance. 

PaulCostello
PaulCostello

The first time a black player uses 'the n-word' and gets flagged on the field will be the last time the rule is enforced. What WHITE guy is using that language on the field, and NOT getting clobbered -- by the opposition OR his own teammates?? This is a solution in search of a problem. 

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

"The league’s Competition Committee meets in Florida beginning Friday, and one of the items on the agenda will be discussion on a rule to flag players for using the n-word on the field during games. I’m unequivocally in favor of it, and can see no reason why it wouldn’t be enacted …"

I wonder if the Competition Committee would be committed to penalizing black players for the use of cracker, honky, white bread, or any other racial slur they throw around at white players on the field, or if they will, like the rest of the politically correct moronic under-educated majority in this country, continue to allow the racist double-standard to continue.  I, a middle-aged middle-income white male can't say the N-word in the privacy of my own home, but black people are allowed to say whatever they want in public.

And they said Paula Dean was racist for admitting to using the N-word (and yes, it bothers me that I can't say it in the context of expressing the word she used and not the meaning behind it) 30 years ago.

Hussman
Hussman

Reading this description re: Harbaugh and the Browns, are you signaling the following pure speculation about the possible chain of events?


-Browns start losing streak, Lombardi/Banner start to lose confidence in Chud.  They have kept in touch with Harbaugh as friendly colleagues, and hear he is unhappy.

-Lombardi/Banner talk with Harbaugh and get some kind of feeling he would be receptive to Browns job.

-Lombardi/Banner tell Haslam they could get Harbaugh and request permission to boot Chud.

-Chud gets dumped, but the 49ers go far into playoffs and Harbaugh starts to think he can get the money he wants from York on a renegotiation.  He tells Lombardi/Banner that he has lost interest.

-Lombardi/Banner are now in trouble, they lost the coach that could have done more given more time, and they also lost their potential franchise changer.  They also lost every good candidate because they seem flighty and they took too long to make offers, and get Pettine (who may be good, who knows?)

-Haslam, frustrated at the events, talks with Farmer and sees he's the real deal, and tells Lombardi/Banner their services are no longer needed.


Possible or pure speculation?


DEJ1948
DEJ1948

Manziel should be black and blue from NFL teams touching him with ten-foot poles.  When multiple millions of dollars are in play, what sort of pre-draft behavior would you expect?  Anyone who's getting sucked in by the new personna Manziel and his handlers are hocking to the media and to anyone else who will listen would be well advised to proceed with extreme caution.   

ianlinross
ianlinross

"Costas said: “This is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria—and that’s just a partial list.”

I'm sure I can dig into some recent US history and current affairs and come with the same comment.

KristinDiggins
KristinDiggins

Kudos to Peter King for reporting on Sam's weak showing in the bench press.  I assumed he would ignore Mr. Sam's actual performance unless it was better than expected.

rckymtn4
rckymtn4

I really like the Russian coach's response to the writer. Not sure if he picked up on the double entendre, but really good.

number1mavsfan
number1mavsfan

If they're really going to police the 'n' word, can they at least penalize the idiots that dance around looking like a total idiot when they make a play? Last time I checked, it's their JOB! I understand 'emotions', but come on, most of us (too bad it's not all) could really care less how you DANCE, or make some stupid looking gesture, when all you did is make a play...

DamionMosher
DamionMosher

This is my problem with any gay intolerance, talk about gay players, or "benchmarks" for openly gay players: why the bleep does it matter? Will the play less hard, work less hard or be lesser players because they are gay? No! Is there some sort of connection to what happens in someone's bedroom and what happens on th field? Nope! Does having a gay player on your team make you feel uncomfortable? Who cares, how is it any different then having a guy with one blue eye and one green? How is it different from having a guy with really dark skin or one with pale white. None of these things have any baring on how the game is played, so get over it. What happens in any persons bedroom is between the and the other consenting adult in the room. As long as the other person isn't underage or somehow impaired, no one in John Q Public should give a fly Bleep, and if you do, you should take a long hard look at yourself and ask why!!!

apgoad21
apgoad21

Hey, where is the psychsports guy?


MarkPasquinelli
MarkPasquinelli

I remember a time long long ago when football talk was actually about football.  I'm fed up with liberal journalists hammering their social agenda down my throat (or else I'm a knuckle dragging, Neanderthal, hate mongering, bigot); the political correctness of the Redskins name; games in Europe  deny the true fans their rightful game; over-officiated games with no consistency of rules; the thug culture (it's not that hard to stay out of jail...really), and now legislating language.  I'm not leaving the NFL.  It's left me.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

again i'm getting sick and tired of the collins stuff last year 1.1 ppg 1.6 rpg, career 4.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg and his first stat line 11 minutes 0 points 1 rebound 5 fouls.


as for this n-word stuff it's bad enough the game is overofficated enough, now were trying to legislate language on the field.  i mean it's bad enough that you can't touch the qb's much anymore and we have seen qb's flop to get a penalty see andrew luck, see tom brady

PaulPage
PaulPage

And then to follow up with #6 - "Not sure how you can be one with the other."

UlisseP
UlisseP

@CoreyLivermore Yeah, poor you. White and male in America: the horror that your demographics has had to endure through the centuries. Every time someone calls you a "cracker", you must really feel the pressure of decades upon decades of oppression and derision.

Gfunk
Gfunk

You are beyond pathetic.

MartyJenkins
MartyJenkins

@ianlinross having people hostile to it vs a government that is against it are two different things

KristinDiggins
KristinDiggins

@ianlinross  I am just happy he mentioned abuses other than the gay-rights issue, especially Putin's continued support of Syria (a regime that killed hundreds of children via chemical weapons).  

Mike26
Mike26

@DamionMosher  No kidding Damion!  Now if the media folks would trying to tell us otherwise, we could just get back to talking about how many plays Clowney took off last year while on the field....

UlisseP
UlisseP

@MarkPasquinelliHow exactly are "games in Europe" and "over-officiated games" journalism's fault? Are you just randomly angry and have decided that blaming the media is the quickest way to vent your frustration?

scarbarough
scarbarough

@MarkPasquinelli  Right, because for some reason it's critical to your enjoyment of football that players be able to use the N word...and are you saying that players going to jail is a new thing? That's always happened, to a small number of players each year.

BARRYWINDHAM
BARRYWINDHAM

@MarkPasquinelli You don't want language by players regulated because that's too liberal but yet you think the NFL has a thug culure that I assume you think should be regulated or some how controlled?! Strange! You want a "Man's man league" where guys can say anything and a name like the Reskins is not questioned but if a player get's arested now you turn into the moral police and think the league is recruiting the wrong players?! Again, strange.

drudown
drudown

@MarkPasquinelli  


"I'm not leaving the NFL. It's left me."


As the teacher in 'A Christmas Story' once said: "poetry, sheer poetry." Wait. That too, a dream.


Since you seem inclined to mix politics and sports, why don't you cite a SINGLE GOP policy that has BENEFITED the People since 2000? I'm serious. 


“Truth fears no trial.” - Thomas Fuller, M.D.



Contrary to GOP promises, the alleged economic upside of the Bush Tax Cuts proved to be false and did not lead to a stronger Economy.


Contrary to GOP promises, the Patriot Act was not used for apprehending terrorists at all, but engaging in the largest, warrantless "dragnet" against LAW ABIDING, innocent US citizens with no connection to terrorism whatsoever. 

Contrary to GOP promises, there was no strategic benefit to the US in invading Iraq and Wolfowitz LIED when he said the "oil revenues alone will pay for the Iraq war."


So please. How does "the conservative wing" have any more credibility than "the liberal wing" when NONE of the GOP has any semblance of credibility- not just on the Economy (e.g., if the GOP economic model "works", the US would've been "stronger" after the W era…not so)- but just in terms of this FABRICATED, wholly disingenuous GOP "guiding precept" that the People "don't really want" the State to AFFIRMATIVELY take measures to IMPROVE our lives, Military, Diplomacy and JOB PROSPECTS…but that the ACA does anything OTHER than what the EVIDENCE shows:  a SLOWER rise in Health Care costs in 40 years. Notably, for all your GOP "paid for" Media blustering, the GOP cannot cite a SINGLE, reputable source to support such claims the ACA has increased Health Care costs. 



Res ipsa loquitur.

joeg
joeg

@MarkPasquinelli I know how you feel. The republican party left me, Ronald Reagan, Bush Sr, and lots of others.

MoeLarryJesus
MoeLarryJesus

@MarkPasquinelli Poor widdle Marky's upset because Angry Old White Racists like him don't control the culture any more.

Go sit in the corner and cry while you drool, you pathetic old dinosaur.

Wombat
Wombat

@MarkPasquinelli  While I don't agree with all you said your last statement rings true for me as well... "I'm not leaving the NFL... it's left me", well said.

coolperspective
coolperspective

@CobyPreimesberger The field is the workplace for these (supposed) professionals.  Do you advocate for different rules to govern their workplaces than are applicable to your own?  Go to work tomorrow and call the first person you see a "nigger".  See how that goes over.  Why should these highly paid men be allowed to act any differently than you or I do or get a free pass on their behavior because they are athletes?  They may play a game for a living but that doesn't justify them acting like children.  Conducting their business in a mature and responsible manner does nothing to diminish the game.  In fact it can only serve to improve it.

MartyJenkins
MartyJenkins

@UlisseP @CoreyLivermoreall you are as a human is what your life is now - stop pretending like the black males of today are somehow tortured by the terrors that their ancestors has to endure.  All you are is what YOU are right now, and nothing more.  All hes saying is that if you're going to bad a racial slur, ban all racial slurs.  


Its not a complicated concept, and its fair.

MartyJenkins
MartyJenkins

@drudown @MarkPasquinelli nobody wants to hear this hear, otherwise we'd be on a full on political site.... get off your high-horse

I just skimmed it and it was bad enough

Mike26
Mike26

@drudown @MarkPasquinelli  Don't engage this idiot.  He attempts to drag down every single column that he can.  Never feed the troll that goes by drudown!

rckymtn4
rckymtn4

@drudown @MarkPasquinelli If he walked along the shore of mixing politics and sports, you dove into the lake swam to the bottom and rolled in the mud. Way out of line. Get back to the MSNBC web site.

Wombat
Wombat

@MoeLarryJesus @MarkPasquinelli  You cretin. I just miss the old days of the NFL without all the issues... You sir are a sad soul that stirs up issues just to be seen. Sad really...

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@MoeLarryJesus @MarkPasquinelli Not sure what he said that you would deem to be "racist."  It was a baseless accusation.  Unfortunately that's become a tried and true tactic.  He wants to read football articles about football.  Not sure how that's racist. 

SemperFiDTM
SemperFiDTM

@Mike26 @drudown @MarkPasquinelli  Sure, Ill throw my hat in this ring....drudown, what your forgetting is that every single problem today can be traced back to President Rutherford B. Hayes' improper use of a bolo tie. And the lack of faith in both houses of congress started when members of the Whig party were caught without their toupee's. 


~ oureya nasay assinus.

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