Is Johnny Manziel Really an NFL Franchise Savior?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJanuary 10, 2014

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 09:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies waits near the bench late in the fourth quarter during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field on November 9, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Well, it's official. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has declared for the 2014 NFL draft.

And with that declaration, it began. Months before Manziel has been drafted, much less played a down, Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN wrote that the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner will "instantly become the league's biggest celebrity quarterback since Broadway Joe."

With the hype that surrounds Manziel comes pressure. Teddy Bridgewater or Jadeveon Clowney may be the first overall pick in this May's draft, but no player entering the league in 2013 is under as a big a microscope as "Johnny Football".

Bridgewater will be expected to be a franchise quarterback. Clowney will be expected to be a star.

Manziel will be expected to be both.

Fans of every team in the NFL that need a quarterback have taken to Twitter to clamor for their favorite team to draft the Aggies star.

In fact, fans of teams who need a quarterback, who just so happen to also be quarterbacks, are clamoring for Manziel.

With that said, however, there are also those who just don't see the steak meeting the sizzle with Manziel at the next level.

So who's right? Is Manziel a franchise savior or a bust waiting to happen?

Frankly, it depends.

In the opinion of this writer, the jury is 37 kinds of in on Manziel's ability to be a successful starting quarterback from a physical standpoint.

Guilty as charged.

Graphic Designed by Author

There just isn't a reason, physically speaking, why Manziel can't succeed in the National Football League.

Yes, he's relatively small. So are Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, who are playing one another in an NFC Divisional game this week. Enough about short quarterbacks. The little guys can play, too.

His arm strength is fine. His ability to improvise and extend plays with his legs, on the other hand, is slightly better than fine.

That play is just one example of Manziel doing something jaw-dropping. There are several.

Manziel also improved considerably as a pocket quarterback in 2013, posting increases in several statistical categories.

Johnny Manziel Passing Stats
2-Year Starter

It wasn't just on the stat sheet either. Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller and College Football Lead Writer Michael Felder saw that development watching Manziel's redshirt sophomore season on tape.

The tools are there for Manziel to electrify in the NFL just as he did in the SEC.

However, that's not to say it's a sure bet Manziel will be a superstar.

There are a couple of bumps along the road that could put the "Johnny Football" bandwagon in the ditch.

The first, and perhaps largest, is Manziel himself.

Say what you will about Manziel's partying and love for thumbing his nose at authority. Call it refreshing or immature. It's been pretty well established at this point that Manziel doesn't much care what other people think.

That's fine. He's a grown man. However, if Manziel thought the spotlight in college was harsh...

Might wanna invest in some Ray-Bans and Coppertone there, Johnny. It's gonna get warm.

Depending on where Manziel lands, the number of distractions and demands on his time are about go from staggering to somewhere between "holy crud" and "are you kidding me?".

The corporate feeding frenzy around Manziel at this moment is the endorsement equivalent of a Sharknado.

It's going to mean a lot of money for Manziel, whose rookie contract will probably look like cab fare by comparison.

That money could be another distraction. Yes, Manziel comes from a well-to-do family, but now all those zeroes will be his to do with as he pleases. For a young man with his affinity for the night life, that could mean trouble.

If Manziel becomes too wrapped up in his own hype, his preparation for the NFL could suffer, which would mean real trouble.

Talented though he may be, the NFL ain't the SEC.

Ask Brian Bosworth how believing your own press works out.

This is where the second factor comes in—Manziel's new home.

The coaching staff for Manziel's new team is going to have quite the balancing act on their hands. Rein the youngster in, but not to the point that you stifle what makes him great to begin with.

On one hand, they have to be realistic. The hype isn't going away, and how that affects the rest of the locker room (especially early on) is a real consideration. Feathers will be ruffled.

Then there's the matter of how best to incorporate Manziel into an NFL offense in a manner that continues to encourage his development in the pocket, while allowing him to still do what he does best.

There are going to be hiccups in that regard. Asking Manziel to stick to the script is somewhat akin to getting Robin Williams to do it back in the "Mork and Mindy" days. It's a maddening exercise in futility, at the end of which Manziel/Williams does something great and you're left wondering whether to strangle or hug him.

Kevin Sumlin walked that tightrope masterfully at Texas A&M (even the stranglehug), but if Manziel and his new coach clash, both could easily be set up to fail.

The expectations aren't helping either. Manziel's storied collegiate career set the bar high.

Quick turnarounds in recent years in places like Indianapolis set the bar higher still.

Add in the rookie seasons of players like Wilson and Andrew Luck two years ago, and the bar just whacked that Red Bull astronaut guy.

The thing is, success just isn't guaranteed in the NFL, especially at quarterback. For every Luck, there's a Ryan Leaf.

The tools were there with many of the busts like Leaf as well. However, Leaf couldn't keep his mouth shut and didn't spend the time on mental preparation that the NFL requires.

David Carr was sacked so many times his confidence was completely annihilated, so an offensive line would probably help.

That isn't to say that Manziel won't be light-years better than those players, insomuch to say that Russell Wilson thanks his lucky stars each and every day that he landed on a Seattle team with a great running game and defense.

Even if Manziel does everything the right way, there are any number of factors outside Manziel's control that will have a huge impact on his success in the NFL.

Because as Wilson and Brees themselves will tell you, it takes more than one guy to become a franchise savior.


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