“Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together.”
There is some conjecture on whether Johnny Manziel’s text message to the Cleveland Browns contained those exact words — wreck this league — but it doesn’t matter now. It’s on T-shirts. It’s been repeated so many times already that it will be a part of the legend of Johnny Football, if indeed any wreckage should ensue.
Nothing Manziel did this past weekend in his first minicamp assured he would become the starting quarterback for the Browns. But that will happen. You can drop a dollar or two in Vegas on which game will mark his first start and on the over-under of his starts as a rookie. The line right now is 9 ½. It’s a tricky number, which, of course, is the idea, but the best bet might be to take the over.
What the weekend did bring, adding up all the quotes, was a rather fascinating snapshot of the first night of the recent NFL draft, when the Browns traded up to No. 22 for their second pick of the first round and snagged Manziel.
First off, the text message was real. Coach Mike Pettine cleared that up. Manziel sent it to Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, who forwarded it to Pettine and owner Jimmy Haslam.
“I felt comfortable with and like coach Shanahan [offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan] and liked the situation here if they wanted to take me,” Manziel said. “I said ‘let’s do it.’ I don’t know what kind of influence that had or what exactly that did, but this was a place I wanted to be.”
That is rather refreshing on the surface.
A high-profile college player, the highest-profile guy in the draft, actually wanted to play in Cleveland. Of course, a cynic might suggest that Johnny F knew the Browns’ quarterback situation would ensure the fastest road to his starting as a rookie. Take your pick.
“There was a spot where we thought we might come off [the draft board],” Manziel said. “So the ‘hurry up’ was more ‘we’ve heard another team is going to come up and maybe you guys don’t know that.’”
Kansas City had the 23rd pick. Minnesota, which took QB Teddy Bridgewater with the last pick of the first round, was supposedly sending out trade-up feelers.
Whether either was truly interested in Manziel is just speculation.
But the Browns got the text, bought the message, and made the move.
“When Dowell sent me the text that [Manziel] wanted to come to Cleveland, I think that it just really added to the excitement in the room and [we] were fired up to turn the card in,” Pettine said.
Loggains, in his retelling, said the result of the text was Haslam giving the order to “pull the trigger.”
Since then, the Browns’ front office, including Haslam, has gone to great pains to paint general manager Ray Farmer as the architect of the trade and pick.
Farmer himself said: “At no point during the draft did Jimmy try to influence the decisions that were made.”
It doesn’t really matter. Haslam, who made all kind of mistakes during his first year as owner, may be trying to downplay his hands-on role. No owner wants to be portrayed as the next Dan Snyder. But I’m guessing it was indeed Haslam’s call. If so, fine. For this franchise at this time it was the proper call.
Manziel is saying the right things. He said getting “passed up 21 times” was humbling and that “nothing here needs to be handed to me.”
But he will merit having the job handed to him over the quasi-incumbent Brian Hoyer at some near point. Johnny F may not be the classic NFL quarterback, but Pettine agrees he already has the “it” factor, all the swagger and aura.
It doesn’t figure to be long before the wreckage begins.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.
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