Ron Cook: NFL teams would be wise to steer clear of 'Johnny Football'



Will Johnny Manziel be the next Russell Wilson or the next Tim Tebow?

Isn’t that the $50 million question as the NFL offseason heats up this weekend at the league’s scouting combine in Indianapolis?

Let me offer a quick answer:

Tebow.

I look at Manziel and see another overpublicized bust.

Manziel already is Tebow’s equal in one sense. I’m completely and totally sick of him. Sick of his many immaturity issues, which appear to be following him to the NFL from Texas A&M. Sick of his endless self-promotion. Sick of him trying to talk his way into being the No. 1 overall pick by the Houston Texans in the May 8 draft.

It’s to the point I’d almost rather watch 24 hours non-stop of Tebow in Super Bowl commercials.

I said almost.

It’s one of life’s great mysteries how Tebow became such a popular public figure. He will be remembered as one of the all-time worst first-round picks. He did nothing in his pro career.

Well, almost nothing. There was that surreal January 2012 day in Denver when he dismantled the Steelers. There still is no logical explanation.

But this is about the brazen Manziel.

“I want them to say absolutely, without a doubt, with 100 percent certainty, that I’m who they want,” Manziel said of the Texans. “I want everybody from the janitor at Reliant Stadium to the front office executive assistant all the way up to [owner] Bob McNair to say, ‘This kid is 100 percent, can’t miss’ ”

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Manziel went on to threaten the Texans if they let him slide to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 3 pick. “It would be the worst decision they ever made. I’d be in the same division playing against them twice a year. Sorry, but you just turned that chip on my shoulder from a Frito into a Dorito.”

Whatever the heck that means.

Manziel even talked of going to the Cleveland Browns at No. 4, saying, if picked by that miserable franchise, “I’m going to pour my heart out for the Dawg Pound and try to win a Super Bowl for Cleveland. I don’t care if they’ve had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I’m going to be the 21st and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl.”

That, right there, should be a hands-off warning for all 32 NFL clubs, including the Browns, who have to know that no one wants to play for such a dysfunctional organization. Don’t be surprised if Browns owner Jimmy Haslam fires another coach and general manager by the weekend. It’s only Friday, right?

Maybe Manziel’s intellect, at least for football, won’t be a problem. Maybe he will mature, although there has been no indication of that during the run-up to the combine. But there still is one big reason he isn’t worth the No. 1, No. 3 or No. 4 pick. He’s 6-foot, a size that usually gets a quarterback lost in the big trees that are NFL defensive linemen and linebackers.

Manziel points, of course, to Wilson, who, at 5-10, just led the Seattle Seahawks to a win in Super Bowl XLVIII. “I think he’s kicked the door wide open,” he told the Chronicle. “The game’s evolving. … You have to be able to create plays. I want to be a pocket passer, too, and be able to pick apart defenses and beat teams with my arm. But when a play breaks down, the scrambling and running ability [take over].”

That scrambling and running ability also tend to get a smallish quarterback injured. You might have noticed that, despite criticism of Roger Goodell’s so-called sissified NFL, they still hit pretty hard. Give me a Big Ben any day. Or even a Blake Bortles, the quarterback from Central Florida who has climbed up a lot of draft boards, has a big arm and is much more of a pocket passer.

It’s hard to predict Wilson will last long even though he knows the game and sees the field so much better than Manziel. When former NFL general manager Charley Casserly was asked his biggest concern about Manziel by NFL.com, he said, “Pocket discipline. When you watch tape on this guy, there are times I’m not sure what this guy sees. You’ve got guys wide open and, boom, he takes off and runs.”

This might come as a shock, but Manziel doesn’t share the opinion that his game lacks in any way.

“I’m going to put myself in [position] to win the Super Bowl every single year. I want to be the first rookie to win the Super Bowl.”

There is pressure in Houston for the Texans to take Manziel because he is a Texas kid who played his college ball at a Texas school. There are “Keep Johnny Football in Texas!” billboards all over town. There’s even a draftjohnnymanziel.com website.

It’s crazy.

But you know what’s even crazier? Drafting a player as much for public relations reasons as football reasons. Picking Manziel No. 1 will be popular in Texas only as long as he succeeds. Just watch the fans turn on him and Texans management if he does a Tebow and fails.

The Texans, Jaguars and Browns would be wise to pass on a quarterback in the first round. There is no Andrew Luck out there, as there was in the 2012 draft. There is no Jameis Winston, as there probably will be next spring. None of the three top prospects this year — Manziel, Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville — is considered can’t-miss.

Don’t worry too much about Manziel, though.

He’ll always have his Dorito commercials.


Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the “Cook and Poni” show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.

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