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Cleveland Browns right to give backing to Johnny Manziel

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The dreaded vote of confidence, when you get one, you're probably doing a terrible job. Oh, hey Johnny Manziel!

The much-criticized Cleveland Browns quarterback yesterday received the backing of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam after Manziel checked himself into rehab following the conclusion of his first year in pro football.

And while it's fashionable to hammer Manziel for his shockingly poor rookie season in Ohio, Haslam is right on pretty much every level.

"I think it's way too early to give up on Johnny," Haslam told Cleveland beat writers as reported by ESPN. "We certainly haven't given up on him.

"I applaud him for raising his hand and saying 'I need help,'" continued the Browns owner. "We're going to do everything we can to support him. Our primary interest is making sure that he gets well, if you will. Fixes himself.

"However long that takes, we're going to stand beside him. We hope Johnny can get that straightened out because we feel he's a really good athlete and can help our team. But the first thing he's got to do is get himself fixed."

The Browns spent a first round pick on Manziel, so cutting him loose now would be crazy, never mind the fact they've barely given him an opportunity to show what he can do.

Granted, Manziel did about the worst thing you can do when he was given the chance - he failed to prepare.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

The young quarterback did little to shed the image that he's work-shy. His first start ended in a 30-0 defeat, he missed a meeting in the final week of the regular season, and was banished to the locker room for that week's game against the Ravens.

His work-hard, party-hard lifestyle was missing that crucial first ingredient that justifies the second. That didn't stop him from enjoying the delights of Miami, Aspen and Houston once he was off the clock in Cleveland.

But on the field, the Browns have not seen what Manziel is capable of, positive or otherwise. To write him off before that would be a criminal waste of a first round pick, a pick they stole from the Colts in the Trent Richardson trade.

Because Manziel has talent. That playmaking ability in Texas was destroyed by Manziel's own poor preparation once he reached the pros. By his own admission, he wasn't ready. 

There was one brief flash of A&M Johnny though.

When he subbed in against the Bills, arguably the NFL's best pass defense, he went 5-8 for 63 yards and a TD. It's a tiny sample, but it demonstrates the ability that made Manziel the hottest name leading into last year's draft.

Remember the Bills D held high powered offense led by Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Peyton Manning to less than 205 pass yards each.

His game against the Bengals two weeks later is best forgotten, but should a first round rookie quarterback really be cast aside after one glimpse of talent and one horror show?


Haslam's remarks come off the back of reports that Kevin O'Connell, the Browns quarterback coach to be next season, has been working out Marcus Mariota ahead of the Scouting Combine.

NFL rivals are not happy with O'Connell for obvious reasons, and draftniks immediately pondered Mariota to the Browns.

Cleveland isn't picking until 12, so they would almost certainly have to move up to claim the Heisman Trophy winner. Both Tampa Bay and Tennessee need QBs, and the latest NFL mock draft has the Oregon star heading to the Buccaneers first.

Trading up for Mariota makes no sense, espically as the Browns may lose a precious pick as a result of the Ray Farmer text investigation. They have invested in Manziel, to mortgage their future for another QB risks compounding what already may well be a mistake.

Needs time

Yes, Manziel may turn out to be a huge error from the Browns. But let's find out before giving up the farm to replace him after 35 pass attempts and one NFL start.

The off-the-field concerns will be forgotten if Manziel leads the Browns to wins - the NFL is full of teams that overlook flawed athletes because they deliver on the field.

Somehow, Haslam has already tried to pretend he wasn't aware of Manziel's lifestyle before his team selected him.

"I don't know how much of Johnny's personal life was known by everybody then," Haslam told the Akron Beacon-Journal. How very Cleveland.

If Manziel gets his priorities straight in rehab, and the signs are positive, then Cleveland can upgrade a young, talented roster in areas that need strengthening.

The Browns have made countless errors of judgement in their history, and drafting Manziel in the first round may turn out to be the latest.

But he at least deserves a real opportunity to prove it otherwise.

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Cleveland Browns
Johnny Manziel

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