In a report detailing the latest on the Cleveland Browns coaching search, CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora included this gem, presented with little fanfare as part of what could make the job more attractive to potential candidates:
"[T]hey are willing to trade up to land Johnny Manziel in the draft if need be, sources said..."
It was the only mention of Manziel, the quarterback who most recently played for Texas A&M before declaring eligible for the 2014 draft, but it was enough to set off a litany of speculation.
However, if the Browns indeed draft Manziel in May—either with their fourth-overall pick in the first round or as a result of moving up—the groundwork for such a move has not yet been laid, no matter what LaCanfora and his sources may purport.
The reason for this is simply because the Browns do not yet have a head coach. They don't even have an offensive or defensive coordinator, with Norv Turner headed to the Minnesota Vikings and Ray Horton to the Tennessee Titans.
While Browns CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi can dangle a trade up for Manziel on a stick to help attract the likes of Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase or Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to their head coaching vacancy, ultimately it's nothing more than a hypothetical. It's a calculated piece of information made public in an attempt to play up the attractiveness of the position.
But the truth is, it's still January. To assume the Browns have a partial, let alone complete, draft board in place prior to the Senior Bowl being played or the scouting combine getting underway all without a coaching staff would simply be wrong.
More than likely, the Browns are sending a message to any would-be head coaches that they have the willingness to be aggressive with the team's 10 2014 draft picks, of which they have seven in Rounds 1 through 4. And that aggressiveness could result in the Browns trading up for a quarterback, Manziel or otherwise, considering their glaring need at the position.
But it's ridiculous to think that the Browns' plans for their 2014 draft picks are mostly set in stone at this early date without even an offensive or defensive system in place to inform them. There's no way for the Browns to know, right now, that the head coach and offensive coordinator they eventually hire will specialize in a system that fits Manziel's playing style.
As late as April 17, 2012, the Browns were linked to wide receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback Ryan Tannehill with their first of two first-round picks; they moved up for running back Trent Richardson instead and took quarterback Brandon Weeden later in the round. And that was just over a week before the draft.
Exactly one year later, the Browns were thought to have cornerback Dee Milliner in their sights, before taking outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo with their sixth-overall pick in the first round. Pre-draft speculation is, at best, just that—speculation—and at worst, it's an in-house attempt at misdirection.
But when that speculation or misdirection comes in late January, swirling around a team that has yet to assemble a coaching staff, it's best not to pencil in Manziel's name next to the Browns on the draft chart or to assume they are willing to give up a number of their many draft picks to draft him.
It's just too soon. It's even too soon to guess what LaCanfora's report—or rather, the buried, almost throwaway line about Manziel—was trying to accomplish.
Yes, the Browns are likely to add another quarterback during the offseason, and it's safe to assume the draft will be the place they find this man. But to know, today, that Manziel is the unwavering object of their draft affections before even having a head coach in place presumes what is, at the moment, simply unknowable.
Just as there is a progression toward the draft that takes place every year—Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, scouting combine, pro days, in-house workouts with teams—there is also a progression that must take place before anyone can assume what the Browns' 2014 draft motives are. That begins with a head coach.
Until that happens, let's lay off saying that Manziel will be their first pick or that the Browns will trade up to get him. We're starting to get ahead of ourselves.