Texas A&M Football: Comparing Johnny Manziel to Russell Wilson

Michael TaglientiFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2012

Texas A&M Football: Comparing Johnny Manziel to Russell Wilson

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    The tremendous success that Texas A&M's freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has experienced early in his career has pundits scrambling for someone to compare him to.

    Analysts in the media and former players have compared him to everyone from Mike Vick to Doug Flutie. No one seems satisfied to let him simply be the best version of Johnny Manziel that he can be.

    While Manziel has been setting the college football world on fire, Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has played a surprising role in the Seahawks' run towards the playoffs.

    The third-round selection in the 2012 NFL draft has started all 15 games for the Seahawks and led them to a 9-5 record. Both Manziel and Wilson share many similarities.

    This is a look at the similarities between Manziel and Wilson.

Neither Were Expected to Start This Season

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    Neither Manziel nor Wilson were supposed to start for their respective teams heading into the season. Manziel was viewed by many as the second-team quarterback coming out of spring practice.

    Although the coaches swore that no decision had been made, most Aggie fans assumed that Jameill Showers would trot out on the field for the opening offensive snap in September.

    Seattle spent big in free agency to land Matt Flynn during the spring. He was supposed to lead the Seahawks into the playoffs. Instead, Wilson beat out Flynn during two-a-days and earned the starting spot.

    Manziel spent the summer working on his game and the Aggie coaches stayed true to their word and did not decide on a starter until the end of fall camp.

Both Are "Undersized"

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    Both Manziel and Wilson have consistently been questioned during their careers because of their lack of "ideal" height. Manziel is listed at 6'1" on the Aggie roster but is likely a little shorter than that. 

    Wilson is 5'11" which is why he was not selected until the 75th overall pick of the NFL draft. While the various experts and talking heads debate over whether a "short" quarterback can succeed, Manziel and Wilson simply go out and make plays on the field.

    With Drew Brees continuing to light up secondaries and Wilson's early success, expect more consideration to be given to quarterbacks without ideal height in the future.

Both Coaches Adjusted the System to Their Talents

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    Pete Carroll ran a West Coast offense before Wilson arrived in Seattle. With Wilson under center, the Seahawks have implemented a lot of spread concepts into their offense. They regularly line up with one running back in the backfield and spread the field to create space for Wilson to create. 

    When Kevin Sumlin was at Houston, the Cougars threw the ball 50-60 times per game with Case Keenum at quarterback. With Manziel under center at A&M, Sumlin tweaked his offense to include more option and zone reads in order to take advantage of Manziel's mobility.

    Both Manziel and Wilson have the advantage of playing for coaches who are willing to adjust their systems to the talent available, rather than insisting on finding the perfect talent to fit their system.

Uncommon Poise

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    Manziel and Wilson have both shown uncommon poise for first-year quarterbacks at their level. No player had ever won the Heisman as a freshman before Manziel accomplished the feat. He won the award mainly on his performance on the road in front of 100,000 Alabama fans in the Ags' 29-25 victory over then-No. 1 Alabama.

    Freshmen are not supposed to be able to go on the road and win in tough environments. Manziel found a way to get the job done.

    The past decade has proven that rookie quarterbacks can start in the NFL and win, but none of those quarterbacks have been the focal point of the offense like Wilson.

    It is one thing to ask Joe Flacco to come in and hand off the ball while letting the Baltimore Ravens defense win games. It is quite different to ask Wilson to go out there and make the plays to win the game like Seattle does with Wilson.

    Both quarterbacks have been able to win at a high level because they both possess an uncommon amount of poise.

Dynamic Runners

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    Both Manziel and Wilson are dynamic playmakers with the ball in their hands. They both are extremely elusive runners who possess tremendous balance.

    Manziel and Wilson use their mobility to extend plays and drives for the offense. They are both often able to buy enough time, inside and outside of the pocket, for a wide receiver to break open in the secondary to set up a big play.

    The nation has been exposed to Manziel's ability to create big plays because of his Heisman victory. Much of the nation is still in the dark about how dynamic Wilson is as a runner and playmaker. That situation will be remedied if the Seahawks make the playoffs.

Wilson Has the Better Arm

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    While there are many similarities between Wilson and Manziel, there are a couple of differences. Wilson definitely has the stronger arm of the two quarterbacks. When Wilson was in college he also played minor league baseball in the Colorado Rockies system. He has one of the stronger arms in the NFL.

    Manziel has good but not great arm strength. What Manziel has that Wilson does not is elite speed. "Johnny Football" is fast enough to consistently outrun the angles from Southeastern Conference defensive backs.

    He is a legit 4.3-4.4 guy which is rare to find in college, especially at quarterback.