It seems like only a week ago that Johnny Manziel was named the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback for the rest of the season (because it was) but now Manziel is suddenly the Browns’ third-stringer, and the team may be ready to move on from him completely. The former Heisman winner went into the 2014 NFL Draft with some red flags surrounding his off-the-field lifestyle and, after a roller coaster few years since the Browns took him in the first round, it seems as though the team may be exhausted with those issues.
Manziel was recently demoted on the depth chart after partying during Cleveland’s bye week. The team’s coaching staff and front office asked Manziel, who went to rehab for alcohol abuse this past summer, to lay low and stay out of trouble during the week off, but the quarterback was spotted partying and drinking in a video posted online during the week.
The demotion means that the Browns might not have an opportunity to evaluate Manziel as their quarterback of the future. The whole point of naming him the starter for the final six games was to see if he could be their man heading into next year. Now, he might not play again this season, and they’ll likely head into the offseason prepared to draft another quarterback. They’ll probably have a top five pick, and a chance to select one of the top prospects such as Paxton Lynch of Memphis, Jared Goff of Californa, or Connor Cook of Michigan State.
The latest incident means the Browns may have reached the end of their rope with Manziel and are ready to sever ties. I don’t think they’ll cut him before the end of the season, but they’ll probably part ways sometime in the offseason. If Manziel can get himself together off-the-field, a team might be willing to surrender a draft pick for him.
But this decision tells me the Browns don’t trust him and probably don’t think he’s worth the trouble. He had one mandate: Go home for the bye weekend and don’t mess up. He promised he wouldn’t. And then he did. He can’t seem to help himself.
There are plenty of teams that will be in the market for a quarterback this offseason, so it’s possible that Manziel could be dealt…but the question is what – if anything – some other team would be willing to give up to take a flyer on the QB? Manziel has shown flashes of ability at the NFL level and – at the very least – he would be a competent young backup, but it really just comes down to whether or not teams are willing to open themselves up to his personal issues.
It’s also possible that a change of scenery could do Manziel some good. The Browns clearly don’t have a lot of faith in him, and a trade or release could provide a wake-up call for Johnny Football, who obviously still has some maturing to do. Maybe a fresh start would force him to focus more on football and living up to the immense hype he carried into the league. As painful as it would be to part ways with a potential franchise quarterback just a few years after spending a first round pick on him, it might be the best-case scenario for both sides in this situation.