I won’t — and haven’t really ever — hide the fact that I have never been a huge fan of Johnny Manziel. It started way back to when my Houston Texans had the first draft pick, and he started — well, being Johnny Football. This little quarterback with the big ego that could never stop running his mouth and was seemingly always hamming it up in the spotlight.
I was hoping he would fall flat on his face last night. I was hoping that I would be able to wake up this morning and tell you he was simply the worst quarterback I had ever seen. Once again, Johnny Football did the unexpected.
The Cincinnati Bengals are amid an amazing season. They are now the first of the undefeateds to reach eight wins, and the maturation of Andy Dalton is a large part of it. I — and a lot of people — thought the Bengals would smoke the Browns, and that we could all go to sleep early and rest up for MLB Free Agency Season (whoo hoo!) by half time.
But the Cleveland Browns played the Bengals tough in the first half. They came out guns a-blazing on defense and kept the Bengals in check. Especially A.J. Green who they eliminated from relevance for the entire game. They went into halftime trailing 14-10, and a large reason for that was Mr. Football himself.
Manziel went 11-for-18 in the first half while connecting for 128 yards. He was using his quickness and feet to create passes, as he only rushed twice in the first thirty. Duke Johnson was the recipient of two big Manziel passes that were largely created by Manziel himself. The first, he did a nice pump fake and scrambled to hit Johnson for a 25-yard gain. The second was the touchdown pass that Manziel made on the move. It wasn’t the prettiest throw, but he put it where Johnson could make the play.
The second half was another story, and Manziel looked like the quarterback I — and many — thought he was. You know, someone that would make people say, hey, maybe Tim Tebow wasn’t so bad afterall.
The Bengals turned up the pressure and Manziel changed from a mobile quarterback that used his feet to create opportunities, to a panicked man on the run. Manziel would finish the game 4-for-15 for 40 yards, and was taken down three times in the backfield.
To be fair, the Bengals really turned on their pass rush in the second half, and the fact that Manziel wasn’t sacked in the first half and under extreme duress in the second half had a lot to do with that. It was like a Rocky Balboa fight. The Bengals danced around the first half to see what Manziel was all about and then attacked once they had him on the ropes.
Another problem was the play calling. Why did the Browns only give Crowell the ball 10 times and Johnson the ball thrice ALL GAME? Don’t you think you would try to establish the run game more, take some of the pressure off of Manziel, and create havoc? It seems that an effective running game plus a mobile quarterback would keep a team on edge, yet the Browns play calling became a little predictable and allowed the Bengals attack to win.
Crowell has too much talent to touch the rock just ten times in a game. I will give you that Johnson looks much better as a wide receiver, but are you telling me that Browns OC John DeFilipo doesn’t have one two-back play set up to use both backs effectively. He looked like an OC that didn’t have an answer for having a QB like Manziel on his team. An OC that is used to the Browns being down and letting McNown chuck the ball and attempt an exciting comeback through the skies. Manziel isn’t that guy, and I think it was unfair that he was seemingly made to be.
There was a lot of the second half breakdown on Manziel’s shoulders as well, don’t get me wrong. That’s where the deficiencies of being a play maker and not necessarily a quarterback set in.
He was zoned in on his first target, and wouldn’t look anywhere else before he took off running, which was much different than his approach in the first half. I watched consecutive plays that had he looked right, he had Barn-kowski and Johnson for one or two-yard dump offs. Instead, he took off scrambling the opposite way and threw ducks that ended incomplete. Take the two yards, Johnny. Chip away. You don’t have to make every play yourself.
So what is my assessment of Manziel as an NFL quarterback? He showed he could play well against one of the NFL’s best teams… for a spurt. Which shows me that Manziel still hasn’t progressed anywhere near what a starting quarterback in the NFL needs to be. Last night proved that the Cleveland Browns are hoping McCown gets healthy… and healthy fast.